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Mark's Notebook

The receptive ability of the masses is very limited, their understanding small; on the other hand, they have a great power of forgetting.
- Adolf Hitler

Keyword : NOT New.

The old and the new

Monday 1 January 2007, 11:52 pm
(Link to this article alone)

OK, I finally decided that I will never have enough incentive to add comment capability to this blog. So I started a new blog on LiveJournal:


It may take me a little while to learn the ins and outs of the new system. And I may continue to post mixed-up site-related items here. But I hope you'll enjoy the new blog!


Bush Considers Up to 20,000 More Troops for Iraq

New York Times

Saturday 30 December 2006, 2:05 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By David S. Cloud and Jeff Zeleny; Published: December 29, 2006

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 - The Bush administration is considering an increase in troop levels in Iraq of 17,000 to 20,000, which would be accomplished in part by delaying the departure of two Marine regiments now deployed in Anbar Province, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The idea of extending the deployments of two Marine units has emerged in part because most of the marines in Iraq are on seven-month rotations and keeping them there longer is considered more palatable than holding over Army brigades, which are already serving tours of a year or longer, one official said.

Additional troops would come from sending into Iraq a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division headed for the region next month and possibly by speeding up the deployment of several Army brigades now scheduled to go to Iraq by next spring.

Other options remain under consideration, the officials said, noting that a decision to speed up deployment schedules would put more strain on Army and Marine equipment and personnel. But other options, like mobilizing reserve units, would take months, officials said.


Mark says: I'm really glad Matthew came home on schedule in October. His schedule has been approximately seven months on tour and five months at home. It appears later units will be taking longer rotations.

Merry!, uh, ... Happy! Oh, just have a nice day

Wisconsin State Journal

Thursday 7 December 2006, 8:06 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)


When Tom Flynn hears "Merry Christmas!," he hears an implied insult coming from conservative Christians reasserting their dominance at a time when America is growing more diverse. Flynn is waging "war on Christmas," and he says his side, the "Happy holidays!" crowd, is winning.

The right says we wreck the holiday when we don't acknowledge its Christian roots. Flynn says "Merry Christmas" has become "hate speech."

Flynn says demands that retailers such as Wal-Mart and Macy's include the word "Christmas" in their advertising are an affront to Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and everyone who doesn't spend December anticipating the birthday of Jesus Christ: "Merry Christmas is code for 'All you non-Christians get to the back of the bus.' This is a Christian country. We own the last two (months) of the calendar. We're No. 1! By the way, you're all going to hell!"


Mark sez: As a Christian I'm not supposed to use foul language. Let's just say this whole idea makes me want to hurl.

Presidents, Well Known or Not, Will Have Their Day on a Dollar

New York Times

Monday 20 November 2006, 11:53 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Thomas Jefferson on Obverse Side

By Matthew Healey; Published November 20, 2006

The United States Mint is unveiling four designs for one-dollar coins today, featuring likenesses of the first four presidents. They begin a series that is to last a decade and portray every deceased president.

The first coin, displaying George Washington on one side and the Statue of Liberty on the other, will go into circulation in mid-February, in time for Presidents' Day. After that, coins with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison will be issued at three-month intervals.

Four more will appear, in order of each president's service, every year until 2016. Designs are based on presidential medals made previously by the Mint and on portraits in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where today's unveiling takes place.

The size, color and metal content of the $1 coins will be identical to those of the current Sacagawea dollars, but their luster should last longer because of a new anti-tarnishing compound that will be applied to blank coins between the time they are annealed, or softened by heating, and struck with the design.

The date and some inscriptions will be stamped into the edge, airing out the designs.

Statue of Liberty on Reverse Side

The director of the Mint, Edmund C. Moy, said the number of each presidential dollar coin issued would depend on circulation demands forecast by the Federal Reserve, regardless of how well known a president was. "This could be a renaissance for some of our lesser-known presidents," Mr. Moy said in an interview.

There will also be four new designs for the penny in 2009, to commemorate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth.

Hopes are that the new dollars will be as popular as the state quarters, many of which have been taken out of circulation by collectors. The government has earned $4 billion to $5 billion on the state-quarter series since 1999.


See also the US Mint web site:


Christian charity bans Christmas themed children's gifts

Daily Mail

Tuesday 14 November 2006, 12:51 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Sam Greenhill

Christian charity Samaritan's Purse fears anything relating to Jesus may offend Muslims

Mark says: We have been putting together these shoeboxes for years. We are very surprised to hear this. We were never given such instructions; actually, we were asked to include tracts and Bibles in the boxes. Perhaps things are different in the UK than they are here in the US. Perhaps the boxes shipped from the UK go to different countries than those shipped from the US. More likely, some of the statements from Samaritan's Purse have been misinterpreted.

It is a Christian charity bringing Christmas cheer to needy children abroad.

So its decision to ban Jesus, God and anything else connected with its own faith has been greeted with little short of puzzlement.

Operation Christmas Child, run by the charity Samaritan's Purse, sends festive packages to deprived youngsters in countries ravaged by war and famine.

Donors are asked to pack shoeboxes with a cuddly toy, a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and flannel, notepads, colouring books and crayons - but nothing to do with Christmas.

Stories from the Bible, images of Jesus and any other Christian literature are expressely forbidden - in case Muslims are offended.

Last Christmas, Britons filled 1.13 million shoeboxes for Samaritan's Purse to send to children abroad.

But Barbara Hill, who works at the worldwide charity's UK headquarters in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, said: "Anything we find in the boxes which has a religious nature will be removed.

"If a box was opened by a Muslim child in a Muslim country they may be offended so we try to avoid religious images."

Yesterday the policy was condemned as "bizarre". John Midgley, cofounder of the Campaign Against Political Correctness, said: "It seems extraordinary that a Christian charity is so concerned about political correctness that it is banning itself from its own core values.

The appeal sends shoe boxes from Britain to children in countries including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Romania, Serbia, Sudan and Mozambique.

Although no Christian literature is included in the boxes, the charity does separately distribute Christmas stories from the Bible and encourages Bible study in areas where it gives toys out.

A spokesman for Samaritan's Purse, which was introduced to Britain by evangelist Billy Graham and is run internationally by his son Franklin, said: "Christianity motivates many of our supporters to help children in need. We are a Christian charity and that's about helping people.

"But it's our policy not to put religious, political or military items in boxes which go to areas of different cultures.

"All shoeboxes are checked in the UK warehouses in case someone has ignored the instruction and put such an item into a shoebox and, if found, any such item is removed."


Bible Saves Man's Life

First Coast News

Tuesday 14 November 2006, 12:43 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Ryan Duffy

A tiny Bible is being credited with saving a man's life.

A lot of people feel God's word will save their lives. And for Bill Henry it did.

He was taking trash to the dumpster when two men stepped out and fired two bullets in his direction.

Bill figured they missed him, but one round actually hit him square in the chest.

"We got to looking and that's when we noticed the two bibles in my shirt pocket were hit with a single round," says Henry.

The other bullet passed right through his hat.

The thing is, Henry doesn't usually carry a bible. But on this day, at this particular time, he was returning them to a friend.

"I know it was divine protection, can't think of any other reason for it."


Church challenges festive stamps

BBC News

Tuesday 14 November 2006, 11:34 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The Church of England has challenged the Royal Mail's move to issue festive stamps without a Christian theme.

Santa, a snowman and a reindeer are among the festive images on the Royal Mail's 40th set of Christmas stamps.

The church "regretted" Royal Mail's decision not to launch "Christian themed designs reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas".

The Royal Mail said it alternated its designs between religious and non-religious cards each year.


Wal-Mart brings Christmas back into stores

Los Angeles Times

Tuesday 14 November 2006, 11:32 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Alana Semuels, Times Staff Writer; November 10, 2006

The holiday season may not yet have arrived, but Christmas is back at Wal-Mart.

After being vilified by conservative critics last year for switching its holiday message from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays," the world's largest retailer changed its mind again.

The chain said Thursday that 60% more of its merchandise will be labeled "Christmas" compared with last year. And customers will hear Christmas carols as they shop.

"We certainly got some feedback last year," spokesman Nick Agarwal said. "We're hoping this will be more in tune with what customers want."

Last year, activists lambasted Wal-Mart. The American Family Assn. and Liberty Counsel organized boycotts of stores with "holiday" campaigns. More than 700,000 supporters signed a petition asking Wal-Mart to use the word "Christmas."

"Wal-Mart has seen the light," said Mathew Staver, founder of Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel. "The American people are tired of having Christmas censored or secularized."


The Christmas Wars Begin

USA Today

Tuesday 14 November 2006, 11:28 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Wal-Mart wishes you a Merry Christmas

By Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY

Wal-Mart will put "Christmas" back into the holidays this year, the retailer plans to announce Thursday.

A year after religious and other groups boycotted retailers, including Wal-Mart, for downplaying Christmas, the world's largest retail chain will have an in-your-face Christmas theme this year.

"We, quite frankly, have learned a lesson from last year," says Wal-Mart spokeswoman Linda Blakley. "We're not afraid to use the term 'Merry Christmas.' We'll use it early, and we'll use it often."

John Fleming, Wal-Mart's executive vice president of marketing, says the retailer, which recently lowered prices on toys and electronics, will be pitching Christmas almost as much as "value" to holiday shoppers.

A TV ad trumpeting Christmas will air for the first time next week.

The name of the department with Christmas decorating needs will change from The Holiday Shop, which it was for the past several years, to The Christmas Shop.

Store signs will count down the days until Christmas, and Christmas carols will be piped throughout the season.

About 60% more merchandise will be labeled "Christmas" rather than "holiday" this year over last.

The Christmas spirit is spreading. Macy's, the largest U.S. department store chain, plans to have "Merry Christmas" signs in all departments. All of Macy's window displays will have Christmas themes. At New York's Herald Square, the theme will be "Oh, Christmas Tree."

"Our intention is to make every customer feel welcomed and appreciated, whether they celebrate Christmas or other holidays," spokesman Jim Sluzewski says.


Slow Home Grants Stall Progress in New Orleans

New York Times

Saturday 11 November 2006, 1:38 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Leslie Eaton; Published November 11, 2006

NEW ORLEANS — The $7.5 billion program to rebuild Louisiana by helping residents repair or replace their flooded homes has gotten off to a slow start, frustrating government officials and outraging many homeowners who say they are still in limbo 14 months after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Though nearly 79,000 families have applied to the program, called the Road Home, only 1,721 have been told how much grant money they will receive. And just 22 have received access to the cash, which was provided by federal taxpayers and is being distributed by the state.

“I don’t know of anyone who has actually received any money,” said Cassandra D. Wall, who is active in a group of homeowners from the eastern part of New Orleans. Ms. Wall said she planned to attend a protest Nov. 17 in Baton Rouge, the state capital, “to go public with the outrage and the outcry.”

The city’s mayor, C. Ray Nagin, is so dissatisfied with the pace of the program that on Nov. 1 he announced that the city was developing a plan to lend money to people waiting for their Road Home grants.

Officials announced on Nov. 6 that Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco had ordered the contractor managing the program to calculate 10,000 awards by the end of the month.

“It’s time to kick into high gear,” said Walter Leger, a lawyer and a member of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which devised the federally financed Road Home program. “It’s time to forget the reasons and excuses” for the slow pace so far.

In some ways, the program’s low-speed beginning reflects an urgent need to avoid the kind of waste and fraud that plagued federal programs after the hurricane. The government, among other things, is demanding that applicants produce details of insurance policies and payouts, proof of title to a house, and, if possible, official assessments of a home’s prestorm value. Many New Orleans residents lost such paperwork in the flood, or never had it in the first place.


Harvest Crusade

Friday 20 October 2006, 4:16 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

We were in North Carolina last weekend visiting our son Matthew, who just returned from a seven-month tour in Iraq with the Marines. While we were away, Greg Laurie held the first-ever Harvest Crusade here in San Jose. The San Jose Mercury apparently did not run any articles after the fact, but I did find these other articles about the crusade.

Greg Laurie Embarks on Greater Silicon Valley Harvest Crusade

by Logan Mitchell, Christian Today, Saturday, October 14, 2006

Last night's crusade drew some 10,000 people, with 1,033 people making decisions to give their lives to Christ. 2,751 people joined the crusade via webcast.

This is the first time Harvest is hitting San Jose and only the second time the ministry held a crusade in northern California. Some 220 churches are working together to help bring Laurie's signature straightforward message of faith to the community.

Nearly ten years ago, “America’s pastor,” the Rev. Billy Graham, had visited the Bay Area at the invitation of local pastors. He held crusades in September and October of 1997 in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, where thousands committed themselves to Christ.


Greg Laurie Opens Crusade in a 'Pretty Secular Environment'

By Lillian Kwon, Christian Post Reporter, Sat, Oct. 14 2006

Preaching his well-known Harvest message for the first time in San Jose, Calif., Greg Laurie opened the way for 10,000 people Friday night in Silicon Valley - a region he had called a "pretty secular environment."

Laurie called them the "most responsive Friday night group" that he's ever had in any crusade with applause following the message of the gospel and laughter following his jokes. With a concerted effort of more than 270 churches, this is the first time the Harvest Crusade came to Silicon Valley where only 7 percent of the people attend church on a Sunday morning, which is far below the 25 percent seen in other communities, Laurie had noted. But he enjoys speaking to people who have no background in Christianity, he said in an interview with U.K.-based Christian Today.

The Harvest Crusades have visited 35 cities, 16 states and four different countries in the past 17 years. To date, the evangelistic events have seen more than 3.4 million people in attendance and over 276,000 public decisions for Christ.


Matthew is coming home soon!

Friday 13 October 2006, 9:26 am
(Link to this article alone)

Mary and I are in Jacksonville, North Carolina. We have been here since Tuesday night. Matthew called us around 2:00 pm NC time yesterday afternoon! He was in Kuwait at the time. I guess he had to ride in a convoy from Baghdad to Kuwait. At that time, he had several hours to wait before boarding a plane for Germany then home.

It is now about 12:30 pm here, and he is supposed to touch down here around 1:00 pm. Then it takes about one hour for them to unload, check in, and ride on busses to the base. We will be going over to the base in about one hour.

Thanks to all of you who have kept Matthew in prayer the past seven months!

Quads Hoedown

Thursday 5 October 2006, 10:48 am
Keywords: Square Dancing , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Mary and I went to the Stanford Quads Challenging Plus hoedown on September 23. There is a photo album from the hoedown. Someone took this photo of Mary and me round dancing. Cool!

Old Guys Rule

Wednesday 4 October 2006, 12:12 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Today is my birthday ... the big uh-oh. No, not that one, or that one. Yep, that one. Na na na na na na na na. They say it's your birthday. Na na na na na na na na. It's my birthday too yeah. (Beatles music playing in the background ...)

When it was Mary's birthday, I took her to Disneyland for the day. She promised she would take me to Disneyland for mine. We even bought a season pass when we were there earlier this year. But Mary is taking a class on resumés and job interviews this week (yeah, it's time for us to start looking for jobs again). So we took our Disneyland road trip last week.

Road Trip

On late Tuesday night and Wednesday, we drove from San Jose to San Diego. At 80 mph, and catching the LA traffic just right, it was a much shorter trip than I'd imagined. We left San Jose around 9:30 pm and arrived in the San Fernando Valley around 2:30 am, just five hours later. Next morning, one more hour to Anaheim, and two more hours to San Diego. Of course, after being up late the night before, we did have to take a nap. But a quick and enjoyable trip all around.

Quick summary: on Thursday, we went to the San Diego Zoo. On Friday, we hopped back on the freeway, and 90 minutes later we were checking into a hotel in Anaheim, ready to spend the rest of the day in Disneyland. On Saturday, Mary let me have my birthday wish and I spent much of the day at the Buena Park Coin Show while she took a tour of OC rubber stamp stores. On Sunday morning, we went to the Vatican Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and heard the Pope pastor Chuck Smith in person. Then we stopped at a few more rubber stamp stores, getting on the freeway around 3:30 pm and arriving back home around 9:30.

In the San Diego Zoo, we found a reptile building we don't remember having seen before, and a monitor lizard that is so huge he has his own building. The polar bears were not out, boo hoo! Their exhibit was being cleaned last week. We did see the pandas ... there are getting to be so many of them, only half are on exhibit at any one time. (This is partly because they are solitary animals and they don't get along when you put them all together.)

At Disneyland, we went on all our favorite rides in both parks, and a few new ones I don't remember going on before: Pinnochio and Snow White. I tried a new strategy on the Astro Blasters ride and I came within 100 points of Mary's score, but she always beats me. This is the first time I even came close, though. Space Mountain was very fast this time! On the Tower of Terror, people on both sides of me were screaming and grabbing the handles. leaving me nothing to hang on to. I still had lots of fun! The line for Haunted Mansion was very long, because they had just changed the theme to The Nightmare Before Christmas, and this was the first day open with the new theme. It was funny instead of scary. We liked it. They also changed the Pirate of the Caribbean to match the movie more. Mary liked it, but I'm not sure if I did. It seemed to have a few stretches with nothing going on, and the music doesn't play all the way through the ride.

At the coin show, I bought two Indian Head Cents, two Peace Dollars, one Walking Liberty Half Dollars, one coin from the Netherlands, a Dansco album, some Christmas presents, and about 50 inexpensive Buffalo Nickels, enough to jump-start a new set.

Before going to the coin show, I scouted out some local rubber stamp and scrapbooking stores and put up some Google maps on the laptop. Mary went to two of them while I was at the coin show. The next day, Sunday, we went to the rest of them, but several were closed on Sundays. I remarked to Mary that Orange County is reputed to have more Christians (and more Republicans, eh) than LA county or the San Francisco Bay Area. Anyway, one of the stores had just opened in its new location that very day, which lent extra excitement to the scene. It was a scrapbooking store but Mary found a mother lode of ribbon there.


We had really good success with eating on this trip, despite the fact that we have two strikes against us: in addition to avoiding gluten, we are both now on Weight Watchers (more about that later). We found that Denny's has a "Fit Fare" meal that is a tasty omelette made with Egg Beaters. I think we ate one every day while we were gone. It does come with toast, which we asked them to replace with sliced tomatoes. It does not come with hash browns, the Denny's dish that makes me gag because of the putrid oil they use. The eggs themselves don't seem to be done in any oil or butter, because they are not greasy at all.

In San Diego, we ate both nights at Anthony's Fish Grotto in La Mesa. They have a wonderful rare tuna served with pineapple salsa (which doesn't contain any vinegar). We counted up the Weight Watchers points and discovered we still had enough remaining to split a glass of wine, which they graciously split into two glasses for us both times. Both waiters knew just enough about gluten allergies to ask the right questions of us and the cooks, and thankfully both times they steered us away from choices unsuitable for us. (They also have a special "healthy dining" menu specifically useful for those people counting calories, but most of those menu items contain gluten.)

Eating gluten-free in Disneyland is very possible but always a chore. This time, we obtained the special gluten-free menu from City Hall on Main Street. It turns out that eating gluten-free in California Adventure really means manually eliminating the gluten yourself: that is, eating the hamburger without the bun, etc. We'd rather find a hamburger served on a gluten-free bun. To find that, you have to go into Disneyland park or to one of the outside restaurants. Here are the choices that particularly appealed to us inside the park:

  • Club Buzz will serve a hamburger on a gluten-free Kinnikinnick bun. We eat these every time now.
  • The Plaza Inn will serve gluten-free pancakes during breakfast hours. (We were never in the park during breakfast hours.)
  • Coke Corner will serve hot dogs on a gluten-free tapioca bun; but they were out of buns at the time we dropped by.
  • Pizza Port has two gluten-free selections: gluten-free pasta with your choice of sauces, and pizza served on a gluten-free crust (probably Kinnikinnick brand). At the time we dropped by, the line was so long we were unwilling to wait.

Instead of waiting in the long lines, we decided to wait while sitting on our bums in our favorite resort restaurant: Storyteller Cafe in the Grand Californian hotel. We've always had wonderful luck here finding gluten-free alternatives, and this time was no exception. The chef actually came out to chat with us several times. One of the waiters later told us that this particular chef had been with the restaurant since the hotel had opened, and that he had been the one to push for gluten-free alternatives on the menu. Anyway, he helped us eliminate questionable items from the grilled salmon meal, and he also made us gluten-free macaroni and cheese (Mary loves this), and, ta-dah, two different pizzas made on gluten-free Kinnikinnick crust. This is the first time we'd had gluten-free pizza since we found that restaurant in Sedona last April, and it was a real treat. We got one with ham and pineapple, and the other with sausage and pepperoni. The chef even discussed with us how he gets the Kinnikinnick crust to be tasty: defrost only part way in the microwave, but make the pizza with the crust still slightly frozen. Don't put any oil on the crust. Bake the pizza in a hot convection oven. We don't have a convection oven at home, so he suggested trying an oven hotter than usual, 375 or even 400 degrees. He also suggested putting the crust directly on the oven grates instead of on a stone.

Counting the Points

OK, so on September 1 we both signed up at the local chapter of Weight Watchers. Mary has been on it before and she found it effective. I had developed a "Buddha Belly" and we decided to bite the bullet at the same time. We're our own 24/7 support group! And it has worked well. After one month, we have each lost about 15 pounds. Our grand goal is about 40 pounds each, though, and we hope to get there by around Christmas.

We were both surprised that we lost a couple pounds even while we were away at Disneyland and San Diego. But there was a heck of a lot of walking in there ... too much maybe. We both came back sore.

One item that really bites me is Coke. Three points per can. I can't drink Diet Coke because the Aspartame messes up my kidneys. I discovered this when I went to the chiropractor complaining of back pain. No, not the back, but the kidneys. In the store, I found Pepsi One, which contains Sucralose but no Aspartame. There is a similar Coke product but it has smaller amounts of Aspartame and other sweeteners. I do have a case of regular Coke in the garage and I grab one every once in a while when I want "the real thing" and I have a few points to spare. In our local Nob Hill store, I also found a special line of Diet Rite Zero products that use Sucralose. One is a cola but it has no caffeine. The others are Raspberry and Peach. The Raspberry is good; I haven't tried the others yet.

Whither September?

Well, I didn't post to the blog much last month. I've been busy with lots of other things. There also hasn't been much news of interest to me. Being on Weight Watchers has left me with a little less energy than usual, but it will be worth it in the long run. Also, Mary and I were taking long walks of several miles early in the month.

On September 13, we drove to Yosemite for the day. We took Mary's mom and my Aunt Roe. We ate lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel, then we took the tram around the valley. Mary's mom and my aunt had not been to Yosemite for many years (decades). They appeared to have a great time. My aunt won the chatting contest hands down. (Mary's mom usually puts up a better fight.) In the evening, we drove down to Bass Lake where we met Paul Boston, Mary's nephew. We took him down to Oakhurst where we ate Mexican food. He had a great time with his grandmother and the rest of us. Our waitress was overly helpful and we think she was smitten with Paul, but he was oblivious. She was really jazzed to find out we are all Christians. We'll see if Paul goes back there again or if they should meet again ...

I spent much of September trying to complete a set of Indian Head Cents I started a few years ago. It was really a complete set minus only two coins, but when I started putting the set into a Capital holder, I found that many of the coins were pretty crummy and should be replaced. A few dates right around 1870 are difficult to find in nice condition. I visited five local coin dealers and one coin show in Fairfield, and I nervously placed a few bets bids on Ebay. At this point, I still have two coins I definitely want to replace, and four others I'm still not sure about. But the rest of the set is looking pretty nice.

Birthday Plans

Mary's son Aaron had a birthday one week ago, and his wife Sherrellee had a birthday recently, and their first anniversary was also a couple of weeks ago. So they are coming over tonight so we can celebrate their birthdays. Eh? Something's wrong with this picture. We're going to barbeque some hamburgers if we can get the gas grill started up. Mary's making me a flourless chocolate roll cake, and we bought some extrememly lo-cal Breyers ice cream that looks promising.

We've been barbecuing our own hamburgers lately, using some recipes and advice we found in a recent Sunset magazine. We did make one important discovery, though: don't lace your meat with pineapple! We did this once, and the meat wouldn't hold together afterward. It all feel through the grates on the grill! Oh, well, it was way overdue that I clean that thing anyway. Mary put the remainders in a skillet, but it still fell apart and served more like sloppy joes than like hamburgers.

It's noon now, and we still haven't left for my birthday lunch yet. I think we'll go to Casa Azteca because we can have a great lunch and still count the calories.

Uh oh ... Mary's brand new Black and Decker mixer just broke! Now we need to go out and buy another one so she can finish the birthday cake. But that also means it's lunch time!

When we get back, I have to clean the bathrooms and the kitchen floor for our guests. What's up with that? It's my birthday!

Traveling the globe to see Mickey

San Jose Mercury News

Monday 2 October 2006, 1:27 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Fan Club Visits All The Parks In One Trip

By Sylvia Hui, Associated Press

Keith Simpson and his six friends from Sydney -- all Disney fanatics sporting matching polo shirts that show Mickey ears over Australia's map -- couldn't be happier.

The group was in Hong Kong on the second leg of its Disney-themed round-the-world tour, realizing months of planning for a 32-day trip that takes them to every Disney park in the world -- from Tokyo to Hong Kong to Paris, to the U.S. flagships, Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla.

The world trip cost about $4,661, including discounted rates for hotels, transfers and passes to the parks, Godfrey said. The Tokyo leg cost an extra $526, because the air miles went over the prescribed mileage limit in the round-the-world air fare.


UC Berkeley course ontent available online

San Jose Mercury News

Monday 2 October 2006, 1:21 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

More than 250 hours of UC-Berkeley content is now available online.



Look, Mum, I've bought a car on eBay for £9,000

Telegraph UK

Tuesday 26 September 2006, 12:46 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A three-year-old boy used his mother's computer to buy a £9,000 car on the internet auction site eBay.

Jack Neal's parents only discovered their son's successful bid when they received a congratulations message from the website about the Barbie pink Nissan Figaro.

"So we checked and saw it was a Barbie pink car which we'd bought for £8,999. We flew into a panic."

The next morning Jack woke and told his parents: "I've bought a car."

Mrs Neal, of Sleaford, Lincs, said she thought she had left her eBay password in her computer.

She said: "Jack's a whizz on the PC and just pressed all the right buttons."


Disappearing square dance clubs

Wednesday 30 August 2006, 3:34 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)


I've been updating the page of California square and round dance clubs. In late July I sent out requests for updates, and I worked feverishly on the database until August 6, when we left for Paraguay. I even worked on the site one lazy day while we were in Asuncion.

I was tidying up the last of it yesterday when I went over quota on the account and I lost the database file. (I had gone over quota because lots of cue sheets got posted on the site while I was away.)

Anyway, my most recent backup is dated August 5, and I haven't received any more recent backups from the server administrator. So now it looks like I have to input again all the changes since August 5. Right now, there is nothing there! This doesn't mean all the clubs in California have gone dark; really only about ten of them are out of business since last fall. But I do have a fair bit of work ahead of me to fix this mess.

Happy anniversary to us

Wednesday 30 August 2006, 3:28 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Monday was our seventh wedding anniversary. Mary and I celebrated by going to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Our favorite rides are the Giant Dipper (roller coaster) and the Space Race (bumper cars mounted on large inner tubes so they really bounce). We also went on the Haunted House ride, and we played a round of miniature golf, which Mary said she really hates, but only when it becomes competitive. So we didn't even keep score, which is probably just as well because she would have beat my pants off.

Then we went to Logos, my favorite Santa Cruz used bookstore. We didn't find any books, but I did buy a relaxing CD of Laurence Juber playing Beatles tunes, and another CD by Martin Simpson, which I haven't listened to yet.

We ended our day at the Crow's Nest, our favorite restaurant in Santa Cruz. They always do a fantastic job of accomodating our food allergies. And they have creme brulee for dessert, which meant we had no room left to make our usual stop at Marianne's for ice cream on the way out of town.

Oh, well. I think Mary is going to sign us both up for Weight Watchers soon anyway ...

Missouri church ministers to skaters

Lawrence Journal World

Thursday 24 August 2006, 2:33 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
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By Lisa Horn - St. Joseph News-Press

Calvary Chapel is the only place in Maryville where skaters can ride their boards legally. It provides an option for young people who otherwise would face a summer of boredom in the small northwest Missouri town.

Of the 20 to 30 skaters who show up every night between 4 and 8 p.m., the majority of them don’t go to church.

Chance Allen, 11, started coming to the skate park when it opened about a year and a half ago. He and his family attended their first Bible study at the church, and have since found it a home. “We liked it a lot better than our own church,” he said, adding there’s no reason that skateboarders can’t be good Christians.

“When we first opened (the kids) wouldn’t even look at me,” the Rev. Dirks said. “But every once in a while, they’d land a good move, I’d catch them glancing at me, like ‘Did you see that? Did you catch that?’ And I’d look at them and smile and say, ‘Good.”’


Anaheim Harvest Crusade

Orange County Register

Thursday 24 August 2006, 2:28 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
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by Scott Martindale

Increasing turmoil in the Middle East is just one sign that the world could be coming to an end, evangelical Pastor Greg Laurie told a crowd of 35,000 packed into the stands of Angel Stadium on Sunday night.

Other signs include disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the Southeast Asian tsunami, earthquakes and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those disasters and their frequency were the topic of the last day of Laurie's three-day Harvest Crusade sermon, sponsored by the nondenominational Harvest Christian Fellowship church.

Laurie, who delivered the keynote address all three days, stressed that God gave meaning and purpose to people's lives. On Friday, he discussed the biblical reasons for human existence in a sermon called "What's your question?" The following day, Laurie discussed the meaning of life, a talk aimed at young people, whom he called upon to turn to God for direction.

Each night of the event, Laurie estimated that he converted about 10 percent of his audience.

Laurie, 53, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle rider and an occasional surfer, is known for his straight-talk sermons that resonate with 21st-century audiences. He sprinkles his messages with pop-culture references, and his sermons can be downloaded onto MP3 players.

The Harvest Crusades began during the summer of 1990, when Laurie teamed up with Pastor Chuck Smith of Costa Mesa's Calvary Chapel for a series of sermons inside Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa.

Laurie, who was raised without religion, dabbled in drugs as a teenager. At age 17, he stumbled across a high school Bible study group, transforming his life. Two years later, he founded Harvest Christian Fellowship, a Riverside-based ministry that has become one of the 15 largest churches in the United States.


Santiago Airport

Wednesday 23 August 2006, 4:25 pm
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Santiago, Chile has a really nice airport. We had layovers of eight hours both times we passed through this airport. On our way out to Chile, we stayed in the LAN Chile VIP lounge at Brenda's suggestion. At that time, we had been on a plane for 12 hours, and it was early in the morning so we were very tired. The VIP lounge cost us $18 each but we were able to stretch out on a couch and catch up on sleep. They also provided drinks of orange juice and soda (even alcohol, which we didn't touch), and some snacks that we could not eat because of our gluten sensitivity, but which others would enjoy.

Brenda suggested a restaurant, Gatsby, where we were able to find a salad with smoked salmon. Yum!

There are many jewelry stores in the airport, and in the one across from Gate 16 I saw some stuff I thought Mary might like, but she would not let me even check the prices.

On our return trip, Robert and two other pastors, Daniel and Jorge, were with us on their way to a CMA conference in Lima, Peru. So we did not go into the lounge; instead, I bought two decks of cards for $10 (ouch!) in the duty-free store, and we taught progressive rummy to Daniel and Jorge. We all had a great time laying out cards on the airport floor, and the time passed quickly.

We all ate again at Gatsby, which is coincidentally right under the LAN lounge so I was able to retrieve our email using their wireless.

After lunch, Robert took us on a walk around the international secure area of the airport, and we had missed a whole other section around a corner. They even had a Ruby Tuesday, a nice burger place where Mary and I had been able to eat several times while on our road trip earlier this year. I did find a cap I liked, but it was a youth model and would not fit on my fat head. Why is it that all my favorite caps are the ones for kids?

Mary let me check out the prices on the jewelry this time, and they were reasonable so I got her a necklace and earrings for our anniversary next week. The necklaces grabbed my attention because they have blue and green stones, Lapis Lazuli and Malachite, and Mary wears a lot of both green and blue. We got the ones in a silver setting because the gold costs thousands of $$$. Maybe she'll be wearing them the next time you see her ...


Wednesday 23 August 2006, 3:37 pm
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While we were in Paraguay, Robert and/or Brenda took us walking several times. They like to walk a three-mile track around a safe park near the airport in Asuncion.

Robert and Brenda claim that this is great for their health even if they aren't able to do it enough to actually lose weight. (They walked at least half the days we were there, but maybe having us around gave them motivation to walk more than they would have otherwise.)

Mary has decided that we should walk at home. We were going to get up early this morning and do it like Robert and Brenda do, at 6 am. That didn't happen, of course, but starting at 11 am we did go out for a couple of hours.

We walked from here to Starbucks, about 1-1/2 miles away, where we sat and drank coffee. Then we walked another half mile to the new Milpitas Town Center, which is under construction, where we tried to see all they new buildings. We did lollygag for a while in the new Staples store. All the new back-to-school stuff just amazes me. When I was a kid I never spent a dime on school supplies ... just raided the trash cans on the last day of school to claim enough to last me the following year.

Anyway, after walking home a different way, we figure we did somewhere between 3-1/2 and 5 miles. (I lean toward the lower end, Mary toward the higher.) Next time we might take a pedometer; I though Mary had one, but she tells me she dropped hers in the toilet a couple years ago and was too grossed out to fish it back out. Women! (sigh) So I guess we'll have to spring for another one.

We are home

Wednesday 23 August 2006, 3:29 pm
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We left Paraguay at 11 am on Monday, which was 8 am California time. We arrived in San Jose Airport at 2 pm on Tuesday afternoon. Altogether we spent 30 hours traveling, roughly 15 hours in the air and 15 hours waiting in the airports.

Customs and immigration were a breeze everywhere we went. We did not have to give up any liquids (all were stored in our checked luggage); none of our luggage was overweight, even though we did not have any reliable way to weigh it before we left Paraguay; the US customs forms were easy to understand and fill out.

David Brandt picked us up at the airport and brought us home. Thanks, David!

The little bit of food we had left in our house was spoiled, so we went out to Casa Azteca for dinner (and brought home leftovers).

Correction on flight times

Sunday 20 August 2006, 8:39 pm
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For those who might be concerned, we actually leave LA on Southwest at 1 pm, and we arrive in San Jose at 2:15 pm. Kathleen and David Brandt are picking us up at the airport on Tuesday.

We have lots of gluten-free snacks from Paraguay to eat on the plane. We are interested to see what they will let us carry onto the plane: I have a laptop, iPod, and Palm pilot, and Mary has some wet tuna in a foil package. Hopefully they won't make us check all that stuff.

Last Days in Paraguay

Sunday 20 August 2006, 8:32 pm
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On Thursday I slept most of the day because I was tired. Mary went with Brenda to pick up pottery and Mary's ring that she had ordered made for her, and they were also shopping for a house the next missionaries will live in. I had the opportunity to chat with Matthew, our son who is serving with the Marines in Iraq. He is very busy right now, and he doesn't even always have time to chat, but does usually have time blocked out on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday afternoons. In the evening Mary, Brenda and Robert went out for ice cream while I rested.


On Friday I helped Robert work on a Powerpoint presentation for his upcoming Sunday sermon. Mary and Brenda did some more house shopping, and I think they had their nails done too. Early in the evening, Robert and I went to the mall to run some errands and find a DVD-R on which I could copy one of his DVDs. Most of the stores here carry only DVD+R which is great for PCs, but the drive on my Mac Powerbook seems to like only the -R versions. We finally found a store that had one to sell.


Early Saturday morning Mary, Robert and I did our three-mile walk in the park. Later Mary taught Brenda some rubber stamping techniques. In the late afternoon we had Bible study at a neighbor's house. We went to this same Bible study last Saturday afternoon, so we already knew everybody there. Mary and Brenda had a smaller group of kids and their rubber stamping project (greeting cards) went more smoothly than last week, when they had more than a dozen kids. Robert taught the adults a nice lesson about the words we speak and that kind of lesson always points out our failures, since as the book of James says, the tongue is the hardest part of our lives to "tame."


Today we went to lunch at a nice restaurant with a Chinese buffet and a Mongolian Barbecue. Mary and I found quite a few things we could eat.

Before and after lunch Mary and I packed almost everything because we are leaving tomorrow to come home.

In the afternoon Mary was able to chat with Matthew again while I read.

While I was reading the family room, the bird Julio started talking to me. She (yes, Julio is a girl) kept saying "Hello," which is sort of strange because up until now I have only heard her say "Hola." (Mary says she has also said "Hi, Bob!") Anyway, I gave her a tortilla chip every time she spoke. We have been trying to get her to speak more. She spoke to me about eight times, which is more than I have heard her speak in the entire previous week. We think rewarding her with food when she speaks is working.

In the evening we went to the San Lorenzo church where Robert taught out of Zechariah 12-14 and Daniel 8 about the role of Israel in the prelude to Christ's second coming. I understood a lot of it because I had helped Robert with the Powerpoint presentation, but my involvement was mostly in gathering the graphics, so I hadn't really paid a lot of attention to the words. The sermons in Spanish are really hard for me to understand because they go so fast, but I can understand lots of words on the screen, especially the Bible passages which remind me of the same ones in English.


I don't expect to have time to post for a couple of days. We are leaving tomorrow morning to head back to California. If all goes well, we are supposed to fly out of Asuncion around 11 am and arrive in Santiago three hours later, or 2 pm. Then we have a layover for a while, but eventually we take off again and we arrive in Lima, Peru around 11 pm. Robert and two other pastors are coming with us this far ... not because they want to be with us or are worried about us, but because they are going to a pastor's conference in Lima.

When we leave Lima we head straight to Los Angeles, and that leg is about eight hours long. We arrive at about 8 am California time. Then we have to go through customs with all the wonderful gifts we bought for everyone (and for ourselves), and the gifts Robert and Brenda sent back with us. Our Southwest flight leaves some time around 2:30 pm (it's now Tuesday) and we arrive back home around 3:30 pm.


Wednesday 16 August 2006, 7:02 pm
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Sorry for not posting the past few days. On Sunday we were busy with church most of the day, yesterday and today we took a trip to Brazil, and on Monday we were getting ready for the trip (I think).

Sunday morning we attended another CMA church, the one in downtown Asuncion, where a new pastor was being ordained. Then we went out to lunch at a very nice restaurant where you make your own salad, and they bring various meats to your table on a spit. We had a grand time.

In the late afternoon Brenda brought us to an internet cafe where we were able to chat with Matthew on Yahoo Messenger. Ordinarily we would have done this from the house, except that Robert and Brenda had to be at the church, so we had to be in that neighborhood. Mary had a nice chat with Matt for about 1-1/2 hours while I tried to find some gluten-free snacks in the supermarket downstairs.

In the early evening we went to church at Robert and Brenda's church in San Lorenzo. They did a puppet show for the children and the church was packed. They had not had so many people in the church in years. All the children in the audience, and about a dozen adults, responded to the altar call. Robert wrote the script for the puppet show and it was very funny. It was all in Spanish and we did not understand much of it, but the children laughed a lot. And a lot of things like Jonah being swallowed and/or regurgitated by the whale were done in visually funny ways.


On Monday we got up early to go walking. Then later in the morning, Mary and Brenda went shopping for pottery for the house, while Robert and I took the car to get little things fixed ... a tired with a slow leak, headlight out, windshield wipers.

Brenda made a wonderful meal of beans, sausage, and meat later in the day. We went to bed early because on Tuesday we have to get up very early.


On Tuesday we went to Brazil. It takes about five hours to get there from Asuncion. We got up at 4:30 am to be on the road by 5:00 am. We wanted to be to the border before 10:00 am because we wanted to tour the dam, which closes at 10:00 am for siesta. We had no problem getting on the road early.

The countryside between Asuncion and Ciudad del Este looks a lot like California, especially the part along Highway 101 near San Luis Obispo. It's green fields with rolling hills.

At the border, we had to cross from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, into Foz, Brazil. Just before the border you can tour the dam, and we just barely caught the last bus through. This was the largest dam in the world until the new one was built in China. It serves 25% of the power needs of Brazil (which is the most populous country in South America) and 75% of the power needs of Paraguay.

At the border we had to cross over a bridge. Traffic moves very slowly because several streets converge, and immigration can handle only a few cars at a time. We waited in line for 1-1/2 hours. Meanwhile, vendors walked the streets trying to catch our attention to sell us something, anything. We did buy some Pringles chips, and it was fun watching Brenda barter for them. But it's a little unnerving to sit in stopped traffic for so long surrounded by such shady characters.

We got over the bridge in time for lunch and a stop down the street at a bargain shoe store. Mary bought a pair of shoes and I bought two pairs of nice comfortable dress shoes. They were not inexpensive, but they seem to be very fine quality, made in Brazil.

Then Robert and Brenda took us to the waterfalls and let us off while they went to do other things. They have been to the waterfalls many times before. We found a friendly guide who spoke English and he helped us figure out what to do. There is a drought this year and the water is very low. Ordinarily we would be able to ride a boat out to the falls, but right now the water is so low the boat cannot get in that close. So we just walked along the edge instead. At one point you can walk out along a boardwalk into the center of the falls and we did get a little mist on us even thought the water volume is lower than usual. The falls were impressive but we can imagine what they are like in another year or at another time of year. We did see lots of pictures and some video; Mary bought a few post cards.

On Monday evening, we went to a nice restaurant that has a dinner show. The show consists of native dancing from almost all the countries of South America and Mexico. It included everything from a Mexican kind of Polka to the Argentine Tango. The native costumes were wonderful.


First thing today we did Robert and Brenda's favorite; we went to the Bird Park. We went early in the morning because the birds are more active before they are fed. We've been to the National Aviary and other zoos that have birds, but this was something else. They have lots of colorful parrots, loros, and toucans. And in the early morning, they can make quite a racket! The loros didn't just talk to us, they laughed! And that made us laugh, which made them laugh more! Mary took lots of pictures and hopefully I can post some.

It rained last night and some this morning, so the trip home was wetter and slower. It took less than one half hour to cross back over the border. I prayed that the crossing would be short and smooth, because Mary and I had really spent too much time shopping at the bird park. We stopped at a Mennonite dairy for ice cream, and again later at a restaurant we'd been to before, the one that serves hamburgers with ham, egg, and cheese on top. Some of us had seconds on ice cream there also.

We're back at Robert and Brenda's home now and we will be here until we come home next Monday. I'm not too sure what's happening from here on out, but I think some of us will go walking early tomorrow morning, and I think Mary and Brenda still have some more girl stuff planned.

Judge Rules for Insurers in Katrina

New York Times

Wednesday 16 August 2006, 6:05 pm
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by Joseph B. Treaster

A federal judge in Mississippi sided with home insurance companies yesterday and ruled that they did not have to pay for the flooding that destroyed tens of thousands of homes in Hurricane Katrina.

Insurers have already paid $17.6 billion for damage to homes from Katrina that was attributed to wind only. But this was a victory for the companies, because they could have been forced to pay out untold billions more if they had been required to cover damage from flooding caused by the storm. Several hundred thousand homes were damaged or destroyed by Katrina.

The insurers had claimed their policies ruled out coverage for flooding. Lawyers representing homeowners argued that in selling home insurance with many references to windstorms and hurricanes, the insurance companies led customers to believe that any hurricane damage — from wind or water — would be covered.

The ruling therefore upholds a longstanding practice of insurers of not covering flood damage, which is typically insured through the federal government.


Powerpoint Guru?

Saturday 12 August 2006, 6:48 pm
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Today we got up early again to walk at the park. All four of us went this time. I was definitely the slowest. Really should eat a little something before walking 5 km. So when we got back I took a little nap. Two early mornings in a row takes a lot out of me. Mary and Brenda went out to buy some paintings they'd seen yesterday.

Later I helped Robert work on a Powerpoint presentation of the gospel directed at kids. We used a lot of cartoon-style clip art to make something a little hokey but effective for youth. Brenda had to correct all our Spanish grammar and spelling afterward. Apparently Powerpoint has a Spanish mode that we'd neglected to use.

In the late afternoon we went to a Bible study at a local home. There were lots of children, and Brenda and Mary taught them to make bookmarks using rubber stamping techniques. The adults met in another room with Robert teaching, and I joined them. Robert asked both me and Mary to give our testimonies. Neither of us had ever done so before. That was an interesting experience for both of us. Mary told a little bit about Matthew in Iraq.

Anyway, Robert led the Bible study in Spanish and I understood a little of what was going on, maybe 20 percent. They did ask me to read a passage from Isaiah 55:9, which I recognized as soon as I started pronouncing it. The topic was "suffering" and I understood all of Robert's points, but few of his stories. He explained a little to me afterward what those stories were about. I met a lot of very nice people. I'm not sure how much Mary enjoyed being with the kids, but Brenda did say a few of them were uncooperative.

Right now Mary is watching episodes of "Dog Whisperer" on tape. It is a funny show. I wish my sister Susan could see the segment where they tamed a vicious chihuahua.

Even though we go to church tomorrow, we don't have to get up extremely early. Robert's church has their service on Sunday evenings, but we are going to another church in the morning because a new pastor is being ordained.


Friday 11 August 2006, 8:20 pm
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I spent the last 20 minutes typing a long entry, then I lost it. Barf! OK, I'll give a quick summary of our day.

Brenda got me and Mary up early to do a 5-km (3 mile) walk in the park near the airport. We saw the sun rise as we walked.

Robert brought us downtown to see two museums and a coin store. One of the museums was closed for no apparent reason, but the other was interesting. Casa de la Independencia is the place where Paraguay plotted independence from Spain in 1811. It is similar to our Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Paraguay was the first nation in South America to declare independence. The rest followed closely after in 1811.

In the coin store, I put together a small set of current Paraguay coins by hand, since the government does not issue mint sets. It included one each 1 Guarani, 5 G, 10 G, 50 G, 100 G, and 500 G. Actually, I bought two different 100 G coins because the older ones have a different color and thickness and a reeded edge. I also got an older 4 centesimo coin from 1870 that I like a lot. It is about the size of the old US silver dollar and it has two wreathes plus a five-pointed star with rays.

In the afternoon Robert and I joined a friend, Jens, to see X-Men 3. It was good but not as good as X-Men 2. I never really knew anything about X-Men but it was interesting. The ladies had their nails done and did some shopping. They found some paintings to cover the house's bare walls.

In the evening we went to Garfo's for a quick dinner. They seem to specialize in garlic. We split several small items among us, and it was quite affordable.

Tomorrow we are supposed to go walking early again, so I'd better get to bed soon. (I'ts about 11:20 pm here now.) The most of our day is free until a Bible study in the late afternoon. And Robert volunteered us to help finish painting the Jonah whale story puppet stages in the evening. I might also help Robert with a Powerpoint presentation some time tomorrow.

We've made hotel reservations for our two-day trip to waterfalls in Brazil next week ...

Puppet show

Thursday 10 August 2006, 8:27 pm
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Today Mary and I slept in while Robert and Brenda had early morning meetings with other pastors.

In the afternoon, we went to the church to prepare for a puppet show to take place in this Sunday's service. They are going to dramatize the story of Jonah and the big fish. First I helped Robert set up some scaffolding while Mary drew some city scenes. Then we all got together with several church members and children to paint the scenes. We also painted a mural of a large boat from which Jonah will get tossed.

We met lots of very nice people, who practiced their English on us, and we practiced our Spanish on them. We picked up Martin, who is working on a Powerpoint presentation for Pastor Bob. At age 16, he is the local Powerpoint and Excel guru. We twisted the arm of his sister Pamela to help us with the painting. She is in 8th grade and plays basketball. She reminded us a lot of Mary's niece Melanie. The other main person who worked on the puppet show was Anna, who is an actor in the show and also designed the scenes that Mary drew. We also saw some people we'd already met: Marcos, the youth pastor and worship leader, who lives at the church and was practicing music; Patricia and Rory dropped in for a few minutes; George, who I think is another pastor at the church; and probably a few others I am forgetting right now.

Tomorrow Robert is taking Mary and me to a museum in the morning. Then the "girls" are going to have their nails done while Robert, I, and another friend are going to see Xmen 3. I'm not sure if I mentioned before that Robert made me watch Xmen 2 on DVD last night just so I would understand the characters and the premise. I thought it was a pretty good movie. The movie in the theater tomorrow is supposed to be in English with Spanish subtitles. We'll see.

On Saturday we are supposed to go to a Bible study at someone's home; Mary might do some rubber stamping projects with the youth group there.

On Sunday we will be busy all day: church at another church in the morning (I think it's the ordination of a new CMA pastor at another CMA church), church at Robert and Brenda's church in the evening, and something else I can't remember in the afternoon.

Next week we are supposed to go to Brazil to see some huge waterfalls ...

La Virgen de Caacupe

Thursday 10 August 2006, 8:53 am
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Yesterday, we went to the Mirador de El Santuario de la Virgen de Caacupe. It is a church built around a statue of the virgin Mary. The church is huge, and it has a large courtyard. Robert called it the "St Peters of Paraguay." The catholics have long pilgrimages that end there. They can conduct huge services with many thousands of people, and they broadcast on TV.

Anyway, several hundred years ago an indian man was saved from cannibals and he promised to carve two statues to the virgin Mary. One of them ended up in this church. The church has a long stairway with beautiful murals that represent the story of how the padres came here, evangelised the indians, this one man got saved and carved a statue, he was lost in a flood but the statue was saved, and it eventually ended up here.

The church itself is not that nice looking, but there was a nice view from the top. And the inside of the church is nice. Like most catholic churches, it has stained glass murals showing various scenes from the life of Christ. And you can walk up pretty close to the statue, which is painted nicely.

This church is located about 23 km outside of Asuncion, and it took the good part of an hour to get here. We traveled on the main Paraugay cross-country highway, but it did go through several small towns.

On the way back we stopped at a hamburger and ice cream stand run by the wife of a pastor who wants to join the CMA. Robert had a business meeting with this man while Brenda, Mary and I had funky burgers and ice cream. We had the burger with ham, egg, and cheese. It was like eating breakfast and lunch together. For dessert we had a concoction with strawberry pulp at the bottom, and soft serve ice cream on top. The ice cream is hand made in the store. Yummy!

Robert and Brenda bought some small plants for the house at a Chinese nursery. Mary and I bought a hammock to replace the one our neighbor's cat tore up. And we bought some strawberries at a roadside stand ... ooh, it's time to go down and eat those for breakfast.

Later in the afternoon, we went to a jewelry store where Mary is going to have a ring made. She has an aquamarine stone and she wants a ring made for it.

Today we are supposed to help paint some props for a children's play happening this weekend.

First day in San Lorenzo

Tuesday 8 August 2006, 8:34 pm
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We spent our first full day in Asuncion today. We were going to take an early morning walk with Robert and Brenda but we had trouble getting up so early our first day.

Robert had to prepare for a funeral in the morning. The founder of his church in San Lorenzo passed away yesterday. They had to have the funeral right away because they don't embalm here.

Brenda, Mary and I went to a shopping mall that has a farmers market on Tuesdays. We found two booths that sell gluten free items. Yay! We bought some bread things and some empenadas (beef and eggs in a corn pastry). We also got lots of fresh fruit. And I bought a cap with the Paraguay flag. So I later gave my "Jesus said Go Fishing" cap to Robert. Robert joined us at the mall for lunch. The mall has a food court but the food is real food, not like the fast food at home.

In the afternoon we went to the funeral. Most of the family are not Christians. Robert gave a great gospel message. At the cemetery another CMA pastor also gave a spirited message. We met lots of people who put up with my rusty Spanish, and they in turn tried their shaky English on me ... I think they won. We met one girl who grew up here and lives here now, but she went to a community college in Redding for a year. She's now going to the seminary here.

The funeral was typical in flavor compared to others we've been to recently, but it had a few oddities like the casket being welded shut in the front of the church, in front of all the congregation.

After the funeral we went back to the house and they taught us Progressive Rummy, a fun card game we'd never played before. Then Robert had to leave for pastor duties, but the rest of us watched the Tom Hanks movie "Ladykillers" on DVD. It was very funny. It was about a batch of master criminals who were outwitted by an elderly southern baptist lady and her cat.

Tomorrow we are supposed to visit a beautiful and huge Catholic church. It's probably the closest thing to a real tourist attraction in Asuncion.

Oh, Asuncion is the capital of Paraguay and the city where our plane landed. The church is in San Lorenzo, a short way outside Asuncion. And the house is in Fernando de la Mora, which is between Asuncion and San Lorezno. Through the grace of God, Robert and Brenda found a beautiful huge house with several bedrooms that can be guest rooms. We are the only guests here right now. This is much better than the best room we stayed at while on our road trip around the US. Sitting on the porch playing cards, or watching a DVD upstairs, it's hard to imagine there's a third world country just outside your walls. But when you drive around the city, it's more evident. But we haven't seen anything really bad yet.


Monday 7 August 2006, 4:43 am
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We are in Santiago, Chile, on an 8-hour layover while we wait for our flight to Asuncion, Paraguay.

Yesterday we boarded a Southwest flight from San Jose to LAX just before 8:00 am. After an easy walk to the international terminal at LAX, and a wait of about three hours, we boarded a flight for Santiago with one stop in Lima, Peru. The flight from LAX to Lima took eight hours. After waiting in Lima for about 1-1/2 hours, it took three more hours to get to Santiago.

The time in Lima is two hours ahead of San Jose, and the time in Santiago is three hours ahead. I believe the time in Asuncion will be three hours ahead also. But I think there are more time zones than that, and it's only three hours difference because maybe there is no daylight savings time in South America.

What are we doing here? We will visit Mary's brother Robert and his wife Brenda, who are missionaries with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in a suburb just outside Asuncion.

We are very tired, so that's all for right now ... more later ...

Stanford Scholars use x-rays to read hidden text in Archimedes manuscript

San Jose Mercury News

Thursday 3 August 2006, 2:13 pm
Keywords: News Articles
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After more than 1,000 years in obscurity, the last unreadable pages of the works of mathematician Archimedes are being deciphered, thanks to the X-ray vision at Stanford University's Linear Accelerator Center.

Letter by letter, ancient Greek that was hidden for centuries by neglect, damage and abuse is being revealed by a powerful X-ray light emitted by the synchrotron at SLAC, then transmitted to computer screens for analysis by an international team of scholars.

The discovery is giving researchers the most complete record since the Middle Ages of the works of the legendary mathematician, who famously exclaimed "Eureka!" upon discovering how to measure volume while sitting in his bathtub.

Only faint outlines of Archimedes' words and diagrams can be seen by the unaided eye. First copied in 975 A.D. by a Christian monk onto goatskin parchment, the work has barely survived fire, water, acid, mold, wax, glue and even forgery.

But the synchrotron's X-ray is able to detect the iron in the ancient ink, causing it to fluoresce. In work guided by Stanford physicist Uwe Bergmann, the X-ray creates patterns of electronic signals, which are converted by computer into shades of gray, readily recognizable as Greek characters.

Preliminary interpretation of the text offers several new insights into the mind of Archimedes, who lived in the 3rd century B.C.

For instance, it suggests that he understood and set rules for infinity, previously considered a problem too difficult for ancient Greek mathematicians. It also contains a treatise on combinatorics, a field of problem-solving now used in computer science.


In a Ruined Copper Works, Evidence That Bolsters a Doubted Biblical Tale

New York Times

Friday 28 July 2006, 2:12 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

by John Noble Wilford

Exactly when did the nomadic tribes of Edom become an organized society with the might to threaten Israel? Were David and Solomon really kings of a state with growing power in the 10th century B.C.? Had writers of the Bible magnified the stature of the two societies at such an early time in history?

An international team of archaeologists has recorded radiocarbon dates that they say show the tribes of Edom may have indeed come together in a cohesive society as early as the 12th century B.C., certainly by the 10th. The evidence was found in the ruins of a large copper-processing center and fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas, in the lowlands of what was Edom and is now part of Jordan.

The findings, Dr. Levy and Dr. Najjar added, lend credence to biblical accounts of the rivalry between Edom and the Israelites in what was then known as Judah. By extension, they said, this supported the tradition that Judah itself had by the time of David and Solomon, in the early 10th century, emerged as a kingdom with ambition and the means of fighting off the Edomites.

Historians and archaeologists who generally endorse the new findings welcomed the more precise dating of ruins in the under-explored region and the attention focused on copper production in Edomite history. But they cautioned against interpretations that might encourage uncritical reliance on the Bible as a source of early history.

Most criticism has come from advocates of a "low chronology" or "minimalist" school of early biblical history. They contend that in David's time Edom was a pastoral society, and Judah not much more advanced. In this view, ancient Israel did not develop into a true state until the eighth century B.C., a century and a half after David.


A different kind of road trip: Iceland's Ring Road

New York Times

Friday 28 July 2006, 1:49 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

By Mark Sundeen

We lived for many years in a remote nook of the Utah desert where we developed a taste for isolated places and geological oddities. So Iceland was the perfect place for us.

Speeding across the black rock desert in our rented Corolla, we would occasionally pull to the shoulder, running fingers across the bulbous lava figurines or testing the sponginess of the mossy tundra. Iceland's Highway 1 — the roughly 830-mile Ring Road — is the only route that circles the island, and it feels like someone put the American West in a blender: California's poetic central coast, the Nevada desert's barren expanses, Alaska's glaciers and Yellowstone's geysers. They're all crammed onto this island, and if you don't like one natural phenomenon you're just a few hours from the next.

Driving in Iceland is not for the efficient. Highway 1 is a narrow affair that doubles back into the fiords, like driving up and down each tooth of a comb. Most bridges have just one lane, and many stretches are unpaved.

We wound toward Lake Myvatn in the northeast, finally approaching a landscape straight from Middle Earth: a volcanic crater ringed in moss; outcroppings of lava dotted across the hills. Here we were even closer to the Arctic Circle, and the sun shone an extra hour. At a guesthouse in the tiny village of Vogar, we encountered the same sorts of pilgrims I've met in the American Southwest, drawn to a bizarre and inhospitable landscape.

A short walk from the house is Grotagia, a giant fissure splitting the shelf of volcanic rock. I scrambled down into the chasm and found a clear pool steaming at about 120 degrees, then followed a footpath for a mile across a field of tundra and lava. The trail leads up one flank of a symmetrical volcanic crater called Hverfell before dropping off the other side into Dimmuborgir, a hobbit's paradise of towering lava castles, natural arches and countless unexplored grottos. Next we hurried to the gurgling purple and yellow sulfur cauldrons at Namafjall and to the steaming lava heap at Leirhnjukur, an active volcano itching to blow at any minute.


Suggestions for Kids in LA without Disneyland

New York Times

Friday 28 July 2006, 1:35 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Sharon Waxman

Consider, just for a moment, a weekend on the left coast without the prefabricated pleasures of Disneyland or Universal Studios.

  • There are few civic gifts that equal the delights of the Getty Center, located off Sepulveda Boulevard not far from Westwood. 1200 Getty Center Drive, 310-440-7300; parking $7, admission free.

  • Don't miss the spectacular architecture of Frank Gehry downtown at the Walt Disney Hall Concert Hall. 111 South Grand Avenue, 323-850-2000.

  • Then, take a stroll about a block and a half to the recently completed Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where the interior is a tribute to California history. 555 West Temple Street, 213-680-5200.

  • Hike among the huge eucalyptus trees in Laurel Canyon Park. 8260 Mulholland Drive, 818-769-4415. Free.

  • Will Rogers State Historic Park, on Sunset Boulevard a few miles from the ocean, has acres of rolling lawn. 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, off Sunset, Pacific Palisades, 310-454-8212; parking $7.

  • Try Will Rogers State Beach for a quiet, contemplative moment. Enter along the Pacific Coast Highway near Temescal Canyon Boulevard. Parking $5 to $10. Or head for the Santa Monica Pier, at Colorado and Ocean Avenues. Keep an eye peeled for dolphins and seals; they swim close in to shore.

  • Eat at Mel's Drive-In on the Sunset Strip. Open 24 hours, 8585 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, 310-854-7200. Or La Serenata de Garibaldi, a reasonably priced, gourmet fish restaurant, in Santa Monica at 1416 Fourth Street, 310-656-7017.


A Legacy of the Storm: Depression and Suicide

New York Times

Friday 28 July 2006, 10:38 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Susan Saulny. Published: June 21, 2006

NEW ORLEANS, June 20 — Sgt. Ben Glaudi, the commander of the Police Department's Mobile Crisis Unit here, spends much of each workday on this city's flood-ravaged streets trying to persuade people not to kill themselves.

New Orleans is experiencing what appears to be a near epidemic of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders, one that mental health experts say is of an intensity rarely seen in this country. It is contributing to a suicide rate that state and local officials describe as close to triple what it was before Hurricane Katrina struck and the levees broke 10 months ago.

Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, the deputy New Orleans coroner dealing with psychiatric cases, said the suicide rate in the city was less than nine a year per 100,000 residents before the storm and increased to an annualized rate of more than 26 per 100,000 in the four months afterward, to the end of 2005.

At the end of each day, Sergeant Glaudi returns to his own wrecked neighborhood and sleeps in a government-issued trailer outside what used to be home. "You ride around and all you see is debris, debris, debris," he said.

And that is a major part of the problem, experts agree: the people of New Orleans are traumatized again every time they look around.


Where attending church at Easter is itself a test of faith

Times Online

Thursday 27 July 2006, 3:57 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

(Still catching up ... Mark)

From Daniel McGrory in Baghdad

TO REACH her church to celebrate Good Friday today, Sameera Girgis will be smuggled on to a bus at a secret location, walk through a chicane of razor wire, and submit to a body search by gunmen guarding the Evangelical Protestant Church in central Baghdad. Security teams will check even her Bible to ensure that there is no bomb inside. “In Baghdad you pray watched over by Kalashnikovs, not angels,” she says with a shrug of her shoulders.

Dr Girgis realises that she will risk her life attending services this Easter, but the 42-year-old university lecturer insists that the insurgents will not scare her away as they have thousands of her fellow Christians in Iraq.

A neighbour and university colleague from the suburb of Azamiyah, north of Baghdad, was shot dead on his doorstep three months ago for organising the clandestine Sunday ten-mile bus trips to church.

Eight months ago insurgents bombed ten churches in Baghdad and others in Mosul, killing a dozen worshippers during Sunday services.

Religious leaders say that barely half of Iraq’s 700,000 Christians, who were protected under Saddam Hussein, remain in the country as militias linked to some of the ruling parties try to impose Islam by force.


One Church's Easter Gift to Another

Washington Post

Thursday 27 July 2006, 3:49 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

(Mark says: I'm still catching up on reading from April thru June.)

Ashburn Worshipers Send Pews to Hurricane-Struck Miss. Congregation

By Arianne Aryanpur, Washington Post Staff Writer; Sunday, April 16, 2006; Page LZ01

In February, the membership of Crossroads United Methodist Church in Ashburn (Virginia) decided that its sanctuary needed an extreme makeover. It would become a more flexible space, allowing the church to use the sanctuary for more purposes than Sunday-morning services. The altar and pulpit would be moved forward and made level with the rest of the room, and the rigid wooden pews would be replaced with padded, stackable chairs

But what was Crossroads to do with those pews? They were barely more than a decade old, too new to chuck into the trash dump.

They heard about a congregation in a Mississippi town, Escatawpa, population 3,566 in 2000, that had been dealt a cruel blow by Hurricane Katrina. The Rev. Willie Hill estimated that 90 percent of his congregation at Summerville United Methodist Church lost homes or businesses because of the hurricane.

In the months afterward, Summerville managed to restore most of what the wind and water had destroyed. But it did not have the $12,000 needed to replace the rotting pews.

Crossroads' unneeded pews, church members quickly decided, should go to Summerville. The plan was to have them installed in time for Easter services. The maroon cushions and wood frames arrived in Escatawpa just as crews finished painting the walls (maroon and white, to match the new cushions) and laying new red carpet.

Crossroads also sent along a surprise: Bibles, hymnals and choir robes to replace those ruined in the storm surge.


URDC 2006 Cue Sheets

Thursday 27 July 2006, 1:02 am
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Mark Prow kindly sent me cue sheets for the 15 dances taught at URDC last week. You will find them in the "recently posted" section of the cue sheet site.


Men welcome here: Churches tackle persistent problem of low male attendance

Kansas City Star

Wednesday 26 July 2006, 12:30 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

by Helen T. Gray, The Kansas City Star

In his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, author David Murrow says the one place you won’t find the majority of Christian men on Sunday morning is church.

“Women comprise more than 60 percent of the typical adult congregation on any given Sunday,” he says. “At least one-fifth of married women regularly attend worship without their husbands.”

Among Murrow’s conclusions:

  • Many men see the church as “a ladies club.”

  • Sermons, volunteer opportunities and ministries are geared more toward women. Many churches operate on a feminine model, such as nurturing, verbal expression and gentleness, which is a lot harder for most men to achieve.

  • Churches are not challenging men to live out their faith.

  • Churches need to recover the masculinity of Jesus, who was bold and aggressive, “but we have turned him into a wimp, and men don’t follow wimps. They follow leaders.”

Men don’t share very well, so it’s important to ask the right questions that focus on putting into action the things they have heard, said Deacon Monte Giddings, head of St. Michael’s men’s ministry. Then there are activities like a river trip that includes camping, being out in nature, a male-oriented way to create a band of brothers. Men also volunteer to take food and clothing to the homeless.

“Some churches are not challenging men to live out their faith boldly,” Giddings said. “Men need that call to action; that appeals to men. Most of us are not called to be contemplatives.”

If men believe Christianity is too submissive, he said, that’s because no one has explained it to them.

Some men may have a misconception of what a Christian man is supposed to be, said Chuck Wolfe. “They think, ‘If I come to church on a regular basis, I’m more apt to be more passive and less aggressive in what I do. I’m going to sit in church and behave and be a good boy.’?”

Men also want to be empowered to do something, such as teaching, working in the multimedia ministry, going on mission trips, evangelizing and working in the prison ministry and the street ministry.


Has the prevalence of air conditioning turned us into heat weenies?

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 26 July 2006, 10:48 am
(Link to this article alone)

By L.A. Chung, Mercury News

I know it's hot. But do we have to whine so much about it?

Over the past few days, air conditioners flew off the shelves. Hotels were mobbed by locals who couldn't sleep. Tempers were a bit short. The call of the Great Outdoors, a.k.a. our back yards, was louder than the suffocating heat of our bedrooms.

So what? Suck it up and deal.

I've snapped into coping mode, pointing the box fan out the window to blow out the hot air and suck in the cool air in the evenings, wearing loose clothing and simply acclimating myself. We survived all those family road trips when I was a kid without the luxury of air conditioning, so now I roll the car windows all the way down, let the air whip through and turn up the radio.

Still, I had to think: What did we do before air conditioning?

We used fans, got wet a lot and slept outside or on sleeping porches. Homes were designed with wide eaves and natural cooling. AC changed everything, from building design to entertainment. If you don't believe me, ask the curators at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., which once ran an exhibit on the history of air conditioning.

Any longtime valley resident can tell you how things have changed. ``We expect more now, because of air conditioning,'' said Ken Nelson, owner of Rural Supply Hardware in Los Gatos, an old-line valley store that still sells horse and goat feed. Nelson's store doesn't have air conditioning, but he does have a cooling system similar to a ``whole house'' fan that makes people think he's got AC on. Fans in front pump in cold air at night, and hot air rises out through the attic.


Among Elderly Evacuees, a Strong Desire to Return Home, but Nowhere to Go

New York Times

Monday 24 July 2006, 3:00 pm
(Link to this article alone)

by Rick Lyman

Thousands of elderly evacuees like the Lindseys still struggle every day to get by in cities hundreds of miles from their homes in New Orleans. But it is the elderly who want most to return, say social service workers, and who have the hardest time doing so.

“There is simply no place for them to go in New Orleans,” said Walter L. Jones, director of community-based initiatives for Neighborhood Centers of Houston, which has worked with about 2,200 families displaced by last year’s hurricanes.

“There are no nursing homes — none,” Mr. Jones said. “There are no plans to rebuild the public housing where many of them lived. And those apartments that are available are priced way, way beyond the means of anyone on a low, fixed income.”


Landis completes comeback

San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times

Monday 24 July 2006, 2:45 pm
(Link to this article alone)

by Claire Rocher

PARIS - Floyd Landis sped down a sun-baked Boulevard Champs-Elysees to victory Sunday in the Tour de France, extending to eight years the U.S. domination of the venerable race after seven consecutive triumphs by Lance Armstrong.

Landis became the third American to win the 93-year-old race, joining Armstrong, with whom he supported as a teammate for two Tour victories, and Greg LeMond. Landis' achievement was all the more impressive because he overcame an arthritic hip that will require surgery.

This year opened a new era with the absence of Armstrong. The indomitable Texan developed a kind of aura during his seven years at the top. His talents and his inspiring victory against cancer made him, and the Tour, known to an audience beyond cycling fans.

(emphasis by me - Mark B)


Final map

Sunday 23 July 2006, 9:17 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

I have updated the "road trip 2006" map to correct mistakes, bring everything up to date, and assign web pages to everything where possible.


Heard the one about the vicar who was allergic to wafers?

Leeds Evening Post

Friday 21 July 2006, 11:25 pm
Keywords: Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Vicki Robinson, Health Reporter

Rev Clive Barrett was convinced he had cancer after years of ill health saw his weight plummet and left him unable to digest food. Then tests finally showed the real root of the trouble ... he was allergic to his Communion wafers.

Rev Barrett was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, a digestive disorder which meant he was severely allergic to gluten – a key ingredient of the holy biscuits.

Rev Barrett, priest in charge of St Cross Church in Middleton, first became ill around 10 years ago, but it was several years until he went to his GP for help. By then his weight had dropped to less than 9st, extremely underweight for a man standing almost 6ft tall.

Doctors suspected colon cancer and Rev Barrett underwent a year of painful and invasive tests like endoscopies to try to find the cause of his digestive problems. Tests ruled out most illnesses, however, and medics could find no trace of a tumour. After almost a year of examinations, in a last-ditch effort his GP ordered his blood to be screened for allergies – and his intolerance to gluten was immediately picked up.

Since then Rev Barrett has cut all wheat, barley and rye from his diet, including the offending Communion wafers.

Factfile: Coeliac Disease

Coeliac disease is a lifelong illness caused by a chronic intolerance to gluten. It can only be treated and the symptoms alleviated by sticking to a gluten-free diet for life.

Around one in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, which can make people seriously ill and even prove fatal, but only one in five has actually been diagnosed.

Symptoms can include tiredness, anaemia, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, vomiting, and mouth ulcers. Coeliac disease in children can result in stunted growth and impact on a child's overall development.

Diagnosis is made by a blood test, followed by a visit to a gastroenterologist who will perform a biopsy of the small intestine lining.


Listening for God in the silence

Cincinnati Post

Friday 21 July 2006, 8:23 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

by Kevin Eigelbach

When Quakers get together for worship, you hear something you don't hear in most contemporary worship services.


Members of the Society of Friends, the formal name for the Quakers, spend at least some worship time just listening for "the inward light" of God.

Imagine between 20 and 30 people in a sanctuary, all of them silent. Once in a while, you might hear someone say a few words or request a hymn.

Initially, it's an odd feeling, but it quickly becomes very comforting, said Jeff Mays, a White Oak resident who's attended the congregation's weekly services for about a year.

Perhaps it's a sign of our entertainment-oriented times, but I rarely hear extended periods of silence in worship services. In the Presbyterian Church I grew up in, the minister sometimes gave us a few moments to reflect on our sins, but not for long.

No one wants to spend too much time reflecting on his sins. If you think about that sort of thing too long, you might feel the need to do something about it.

I like silence, but I think it terrifies many of us. Perhaps it's the thought that we might actually hear God speaking, or have to confront issues within ourselves that we'd rather not face.

"The teachings of Jesus are not difficult to understand," Mays said. "Too many people are spending so much energy trying to avoid what those teachings say.


Mark says: We visited a Quaker church in Philadelphia, the Arch Street House. The attendant was a member of another Quaker church in another city. He told us how things function in a Quaker church. It was fascinating talking to him.

Prince of Peace's Hometown Bombarded

Christianity Today

Friday 21 July 2006, 7:45 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Botrus Mansour. lawyer and general director of Nazareth Baptist School

On Wednesday afternoon I was working on my laptop in my office on the ground floor of our home. Three more missiles hit Nazareth. The third fell about half a mile from my home on undeveloped land.

We hold a Bible study in the Baptist church on Wednesday evenings. Should we cancel it because of the shock and dismay in Nazareth? No way. We decided to convert the Bible study to a prayer meeting. We had prayed the day before for peace, too.

Such terrifying experiences like missiles raining on your neighborhood have a tendency to raise "purpose-driven" questions: Did Jesus put us here in his hometown without a purpose?

Our calling as the remnant of Christians in the birthplace of our faith is to pray for the people of this broken land.

Less than a mile from where a Hezbollah missile hit the empty garage in Nazareth, the Prince of Peace declared: "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

It was realized 2,000 years ago when God sent his son to give hope. He was the anointed who said:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19)

Will his followers rise to the challenge of reflecting this message of compassion, love, care, justice, and mercy to the nations in this troubled area?


Star Trek Sings Knights of the Round Table

Friday 21 July 2006, 1:44 pm
(Link to this article alone)



Calvary Chapel Bay St. Louis updates

Thursday 20 July 2006, 9:09 pm
(Link to this article alone)

I found this page for the fledgling Calvary Chapel in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

It appears they have bought a property and they are moving into the new quarters soon.

The site also has lots of photos of the flood damage and the camp setup. It looks like they have new quanset huts to live in for now.


Goodbye Klondike! and good riddance!

Thursday 20 July 2006, 7:52 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

On about the third night out on our road trip, we spent the night at the Klondike Hotel in Las Vegas. We're not particularly enamored of Las Vegas; about the only thing we like about it is that when you're leaving California, you'll see your last In-N-Out hamburger stand for thousands of miles. And after having visited Death Valley on a Saturday, we wanted to make sure that on Sunday morning we would be in a city where there might be a Calvary Chapel or some other Bible-teaching church we can attend.

I've already briefly told the story about our experience at the Klondike. I don't intend to rehash it. Suffice to say that we found the place disgusting in almost every way.

Anyway, today I found this nice little article about the Klondike's demise. The place closed down at the end of June, 2006, about three months after we stayed there, and nine months after the property was acquired by Royal Palm Las Vegas last September. Perhaps after the acquisition, the hotel just stopped taking care of anything at all. Maybe they were just biding their time until the wrecking ball hit.

Apparently the new owners plan to build 1200 condos, 900 hotel rooms, and a huge casino there. "Definitely five star," they say. As they all say.


Come One, Come All, Join the Terror Target List

New York Times

Thursday 13 July 2006, 2:21 pm
(Link to this article alone)

by Eric Lipton

It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street.”

The National Asset Database is used by the Homeland Security Department to help divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars in antiterrorism grants each year, including the program announced in May that cut money to New York City and Washington by 40 percent, while significantly increasing spending for cities including Louisville, Ky., and Omaha.

In addition to the petting zoo, in Woodville, Ala., and the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tenn., the entries include “Nix’s Check Cashing,” “Mall at Sears,” “Ice Cream Parlor,” “Tackle Shop,” “Donut Shop,” “Anti-Cruelty Society” and “Bean Fest.”

New York City officials, who have questioned the rationale for the reduction in this year’s antiterrorism grants, were similarly blunt.

“Now we know why the Homeland Security grant formula came out as wacky as it was,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Tuesday. “This report is the smoking gun that thoroughly indicts the system.”

New York, for example, lists only 2 percent of the nation’s banking and finance sector assets, which ranks it between North Dakota and Missouri. Washington State lists nearly twice as many national monuments and icons as the District of Columbia.



Sunday 9 July 2006, 10:05 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

An email from a so-called "friend:"

Hi Mark & Mary,

Do you realize that if you get back in your truck right now, you can still make it to North Carolina for the URDC dance?


Thanks, pal! I haven't started up the truck since we got home, and I'm not looking forward to starting it up tomorrow to take in into the shop. (Minor adjustments, I hope)

I've been so tired and so busy ... I need to rest from this vacation.

How fast can you type?

Saturday 8 July 2006, 7:30 pm
(Link to this article alone)


I scored 88 words per minute with one mistake.


San Jose Mercury News

Saturday 8 July 2006, 6:11 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

In the movie Cars, Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter incorporates his family's cross-country adventure, including toe dips in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

After directing three films, and getting an Oscar nomination, and then becoming an executive producer of others, Lasseter heard his wife express her fears. She suggested he'd look up one day and his sons would be off at college "and you will have missed it."

So, in summer 2002, they toured the United States in a recreational vehicle. They started at the Pacific "and turned east. We had one goal -- to put our feet in the Atlantic." Most thought they'd drive each other nuts. Instead, he said, "we got so close as a family. I came back changed. This is what I wanted with 'Cars.' "

In it, a hot-shot racer named Lightning McQueen gets sidetracked on his way to the big race in California in the forgotten Route 66 town of Radiator Spring. His time there changes him, convincing him of the importance of friends, experiences, slowing down.


Coast to Coast

Saturday 8 July 2006, 6:04 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

I forgot to mention that on Wednesday, July 5, we dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean at a "wayside" in Ophir, Oregon.

In case you missed it, we dipped our toes in the Atlantic Ocean at Fort Popham State Historic Park in Maine, on June 20.

It took us from April 5 until June 20 to reach the Atlantic Ocean (75 days). It took us only 15 days to make it back to the Pacific Ocean. We were really racing the last few days to make it home quickly.

Intel grant gives Second Harvest $100K in technology

San Jose Mercury News

Saturday 8 July 2006, 4:00 pm
(Link to this article alone)

With a $100,000 grant from Intel, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties will install a food-tracking system that will let the agency distribute more than 4 million additional pounds of food annually.

Intel's inspiration for the makeover grant was a 2005 Community Foundation Silicon Valley study that showed non-profits struggling to afford major technology, Pettinger said. The company held workshops to help non-profit officials evaluate their hardware, software, Web services and other needs. About 22 organizations submitted proposals, and Second Harvest was awarded the grant this week.


We are home !!

Thursday 6 July 2006, 11:47 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

We got home about one hour ago. We have unloaded almost everything except the camping equipment. We have not really unpacked anything yet. Right now I am sorting out the mail.

We had a really nice last day of vacation, in Mendocino, Fort Bragg, and Napa. More about all that soon ...

Escape from the commies

Thursday 6 July 2006, 1:57 am
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Wednesday, July 5

Today we drove from Coos Bay, Oregon only as far as Fort Bragg, along the northern California coast. We are still about four hours from home. Seven years ago we spent our honeymoon here in Mendocino, and we haven't been back since. We hope to spend a few hours there tomorrow afternoon. Mary still isn't feeling too well, but hopefully she'll feel better tomorrow and she'll be able to enjoy a few hours of a second honeymoon. We hope to get home tomorrow evening.

Wildlife Jam - One highlight today was seeing several groups of elk right along the highway between Crescent City and Eureka. There is a national park and state park where they keep "Roosevelt elk." I don't know the difference between one variety of elk and another. We did see three different groups. I slowed down for the first, right along highway 101, because I noticed lots of cars by the side of the road. The first thing I said was "wildlife jam" - this is the term they use in Yellowstone park when traffic stops right in the middle of the road to view wildlife. There was a group of about nine males together in a little field. I thought it was strange that the males should hang out together. But rutting season isn't until the fall, so maybe right now they're all getting along together just fine. On a side road, we found another group, about a dozen females, with what appeared to be one adult male and one young male. Even farther down the highway, Mary spotted another large group as I whizzed by unaware. Mary caught several good photos of the first group of males, and I tried to get a few close-ups through the binoculars; we'll see if those turn out. It really wasn't necessary because the animals were practically close enough to reach out and touch; but I aimed to get some close-ups of their facial features and antlers.

Farther south, we drove along the "Avenue of the Giants," a side road through dense redwood groves, until we came to a drive-through tree at Myers Flat. Mary insists this was the "real one" that used to be right along the highway in our childhood days. But farther on down the road we spotted another in Leggett, and this is where I remember the "real" tree being in times past. Unfortunately, this second tree was in a park that had already closed for the day, so we could not confirm anything. It was still a lot of fun. We never did find a postcard. My big truck just barely made it through the one tree that was open ... we had to fold in the mirrors.

Highway 101 between Myers Flat and Leggett is treacherous, and at one point a semi truck was following so close behind me that I had to pull off the road at high speed to avoid being flattened by him. I pulled off at a bad spot right into a pothole; we may have to inspect the truck for damage later. Highway 1 between Leggett and Fort Bragg is way too windy for me. But the views were awesome, even as it got dark. One mama deer and two tiny fawns did cross the road in front of us, and that was a real treat. We both think these were about the smallest fawns we had ever seen.

We drove through the north side of Oregon on one tank of gas that we bought in Walla Walla, Washington, and we drove through the ocean side of Oregon on one tank of gas that we bought in Vancouver, Washington. I really hate buying gas in the commie state of Oregon. They insist on pumping it for you, they refuse to let you pump it yourself, and they take their sweet time getting it all done. It really irks me. But after we got into California, I really wish I had got one last fill-up while still in Oregon. Their gas was running around $2.75 even in the small towns along the coast, while the lowest we've seen so far in California is $3.25. That costs me $13 extra when I fill my 26-gallon tank. Yikes! We hadn't seen prices this high since we were in Canada, and not this high in the US our whole trip, since we left California three months ago. Hopefully prices will be lower than that when we get home to the bay area.


Wednesday 5 July 2006, 12:26 am
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Sunday, July 2

Today we had another good long drive. Mary woke up with a fever, and she was not up to going to church. This is the first time this trip we have missed going to church on Sunday.

Our day basically consisted of driving US Highway 2 from Missoula, Montana straight across the narrow part of Idaho to Walla Walla, Washington. We did visit a nice health food store in Missoula before we left town. We think our health problems are due to poor nutrition, so we picked up a few healthy things to eat.

We also stopped at the visitor center at Lolo Pass, at the border between Montana and Idaho, where I bought a nice cap with a moose figure on it. Mary stayed in the car. She slept most of the day.

We stopped at an old-time burger place in Clarkston, Washington, just over the border from Idaho. By dinner time, Mary was starting to feel a lot better.

Monday, July 3

This morning we ate a nice breakfast at Elmer's in Walla Walla. After breakfast, Mary decided she is feeling well enough today that we can visit her father, who lives near Portland.

We headed down toward the Columbia River scenic area. We stopped at the Bonneville Dam, but since we had got a late start and the speed limits in Oregon are painfully slow, we got to the dam just after they closed up the last tours. The fish hatchery was also closed, but there are some ponds outside we could still see, including lots of trout and a few large sturgeon.

Somehow we managed to buy lots of stuff at the Bonneville Dam gift shop, even though everything else was closed. How do we always manage to do that?

Getting closer to Portland, we turned onto the side road that goes down to several waterfalls including Multnomah Falls. Mary had never seen these before, and I had not been there since I was a child. Mary took lots of photos. We also took photos of others, and they in turn took photos of us, so we have some neat photos with the two of us and huge waterfalls in the background.

To finish off the day, we visited Mary's dad and his wife in Vancouver, Washington, just across the river from Portland. It was a beautiful night as we sat in the swing on their porch, visiting with them for a couple of hours. The kids next door were setting off fireworks, but this was no match for the lightning storm taking place simultaneously over the Columbia River. We got to watch man's fireworks and God's fireworks at the same time. We all agreed that God's fireworks won out.

OK, I lied, we're not finished yet. After leaving Vancouver, we went through Portland to find a road to the coast. We ended up very late, around 1:00 am, in the little town of Tillamook on the Oregon coast.

Tuesday, July 4

If the town of Tillamook sounds familiar, think cheese. Yes, this is where they make our favorite cheese. (You can get a great price on it at Costco.) Somehow we both thought Tillamook was made in Wisconsin. Not so.

But I get ahead of myself. After a very late morning breakfast at the hotel, we sat in the hotel lobby and fired up Yahoo Messenger. At about 1:30 pm, we were able to connect with Matthew. Our son is serving with the Marines in Iraq, and his unit just recently got access to this chat software. We have not really "talked" with him in this way for several months; he has been in Iraq since March, but our only communication with him has been the infrequent email message. We're really jazzed that we'll be able to "talk" to him a couple of times a week, just as we were able to during his first deployment.

After they put Matthew back to work and we had to sign off, we were able to visit the Tillamook Creamery "factory" just north of town. I did not know that they make butter, milk, and ice cream in addition to cheese. The factory was mostly not working because their production was ahead of schedule and today was a holiday. But there were short videos that showed the normal daily activities of all the inactive equipment we could see below us. The "factory" is mostly really a gift shop, where you can buy ice cream, cheese, and fudge. I tried the wonderful huckleberry ice cream, and we bought a little fudge for the road, but we haven't tried it yet because Mary is starting to feel lousy again.

We headed down the Oregon coast, which we've never travelled before. In the past, we've driven the length of Highway 5 through the Willamette Valley, the length of Highway 97 through the edge of the desert, and some of the eastern area around Lakeview. But the coast is by far the loveliest drive we've ever experienced here. Lincoln City is the cutest town, and some of the larger towns have a bit of a rough edge to them. But the road is relatively straight and fun to drive, and the road crosses up and down from mountain forests to the beach and back up again. There are several "historic" bridges and at least one lighthouse that we've seen so far.

We made it only as far as Coos Bay by nightfall; we had hoped to make it all the way down to Crescent City in California, but at a fruit stand I heard about a fireworks show to be held over the water in Coos Bay at 10 pm, so we decided to stay here tonight, see the fireworks, and let Mary get a good night's sleep, since her cold seems to be coming back again.

We are a good ten to twelve hours from home, and while we hope to make it home by tomorrow night (exactly three months on the road), we also want to take it easy. Today was very relaxing and we want to arrive home in that condition, not frazzled. So I'm hoping we might make it as far as Mendocino, where we spent part of our honeymoon seven years ago. Then we would arrive home on Thursday.

The Big Sky

Saturday 1 July 2006, 9:43 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Sorry I haven't posted much this week. Both of us have been ill, and we've also been cobbling the trail end of our trip together differently than we'd planned.

By the way, I've got the map mostly up to date:

Wednesday, June 28

Today I wasn't feeling well, so I let Mary do a fair amount of the driving again. We drove pretty much straight through from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota to Belfield, North Dakota.

Belfield is about ten miles east of the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where we plan to visit tomorrow.

We did stop for a few minutes to drive through Barnesville, Minnesota. Why? Back around 1985, I installed some electrical equipment here. I wanted to see if it still looked the same, or if I even remembered it at all. In all those years I've often told the story how I was trying to put some tiny screws into a terminal block in an electrical cabinet outside as it snowed around us. I had lots of trouble because my hands were so cold! The screws were small enough that I could not wear gloves. I looked across the street to see a bank sign that read 19 degrees. I commented that I didn't think I had ever been in 19 degree weather before; that perhaps it didn't even get that cold in sunny California! My co-workers from the local community remarked how 19 degrees was a beautiful spring day in Minnesota, because in the winter it got down to 40 below! Anyway, today I did find that electrical substation on the north side of town, and across the street was a Wells Fargo Bank, although now the temperature sign was gone.

I've also many times told how Minnesota had the friendliest people I had ever met. In those mid-1980's trips, one co-worker from the local community had me to his house for lunch (which he called "supper") including fresh corn from his farm. I got to meet his wife. Also, in the laundromat I met a cute gal and asked her out. We went to a modern music concert at one of the local universities (both Fargo and Moorhead have state universities). I went to her Lutheran church that Sunday, which happened to be Reformation Sunday, so they held a potluck that included Lutefisk, a Norwegian special that some say is not to be missed, others never to be eaten. The church welcomed me like a long-lost family member even though I came to the potluck empty-handed. Afterward, this same gal's family invited me to their house, where I played piano for them and she played piano for me.

This time, we stopped at several places in Minnesota and the people weren't nearly as friendly as I remembered them. But I guess the people you meet at the truck stops are not the same as the people you meet in the local Lutheran church. Or perhaps we just didn't pass close enough to Lake Wobegon.

Thursday, June 29

Today, as promised, we visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is a smallish park that includes badlands geology and a good assortment of wildlife. We saw wild horses and buffalo among other things.

Before entering the park, we shopped around the little town of Medora, where we found some small binoculars that we liked. We've looked at several pairs before, including expensive ones in the "discount" shops in New York, but until now we've never found any that we both liked. These were inexpensive enough that we bought two pairs, one for each of us.

Anyway, by chance, it is possible to shove our camera into one eye of the binoculars to get close-up photos. I got close-ups of some buffalo calves nursing. We'll find out later how the photos came out.

After finishing up at this park, we wanted to put as much distance behind us as possible. I wanted to make it to Great Falls, Montana, but we only got as far as Lewistown before we ran out of steam. At the Yogo Inn, we stayed in a very strange inside room that had no windows. They said this would be our "budget" option. Nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Friday, June 30

Today Mary is getting a cold. It's probably the same cold I've already had for several days. Fortunately I'm starting to feel better, so I can do the driving. I want to visit Great Falls because it is the Great Falls of the Missouri River, where Lewis and Clark took almost a month to portage 18 miles around five waterfalls. We've been getting a lot of Lewis and Clark on our trip, starting with the Expansion Memorial (arch) in St. Louis, and continuing through the museums in Washington and elsewhere. We heard about these Great Falls before and I wanted to see them.

In the city of Great Falls, we found the Lewis & Clark National Interpretive Center, yet another museum devoted to their trip. Mary braved it for most of the day despite not feeling well, just because it is so well done. The volunteers there were very helpful, and they drew us maps to the actual falls, and also to the path L&C took over the Bitterroot range.

The largest falls are about ten miles out of town, and I found them a little disappointing. First of all, there is a dam, built either in 1913 or 1930 ... I didn't quite understand. Also, they are apparently much more impressive earlier in the Spring, with the as the snow melts. But there is a nice island there in the middle of the river downstream from the falls, and Mary took a few photos.

We drove up to Shelby, Montana, about 70 miles from the east entrance to Glacier National Park.

Saturday, July 1

Today was difficult. Mary was very ill and she slept most of the day while I drove through Glacier National Park. The only glacier we saw was the Jackson Glacier, and it was disappointing, even viewed through the binoculars. It's hard for me to distinguish between a glacier and simple snow pack. In the photographs, they can be distinguished by some "squiggles" on top of the glaciers, caused by the stresses of their extreme weight. But I saw similar "squiggles" on the surrounding snow pack also. Or I was confused. Probably the latter.

I really enjoyed the many narrow waterfalls that dot the road. There is even a section called the "wailing wall" where there are many small waterfalls in a row. But the one I liked the best was a high waterfall that came over several rectangular rocks, through a pipe under the road, then down farther into the gorge. It was very tall even though not very wide.

Tonight we are in Missoula, where we hope to go to a Calvary Chapel or a Vineyard Church tomorrow morning. (There are both in this town.) We're not sure where we'll go from here, but the Lolo Pass is nearby, and this is where Lewis and Clark crossed the Bitterroot Mountains into Idaho. We may follow them, then head down toward the Snake River Canyon in eastern Oregon. Once we get that far, we'll be home in pretty short order ... on the 4th or 5th of July.

Da Yoopers

Tuesday 27 June 2006, 10:19 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Tuesday, June 27

Last night we stayed in Newberry, Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula. The folks here call themselves "yoopers," probably a play on the words "UP-ers." There are books in the store about learning to talk Yoopers, sort of like the books on learning to talk Southern or Redneck. There is a little something different about the accent here.

We have no stops today; we just want to cover as much ground as possible. Our next possible outing is in Duluth, where they have a fresh-water aquarium. To get there, we have to go all the way through Michigan then all the way through Wisconsin.

I got the first symptoms of a cold last night, and I took some medication. So I was in no shape to drive this morning. Mary drove while I slept in the truck. She took us to halfway through Wisconsin before I took over. We decided to pass on Duluth, and I drove to Brainerd, almost half the way through Minnesota. Then Mary took over again and drove us to Detroit Lakes, where we are staying now.

Tomorrow, we hope to make it to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota, about 6-1/2 hours away from here.

We had lunch on the upper peninsula at Ma's Place, in Wakefield, Michigan. The waitress was friendly and understood food allergies. The locals congregated in the smoking room didn't look very friendly, though; maybe they thought it was funny that we sat alone in the non-smoking room in the back.

O Canada

Monday 26 June 2006, 10:28 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Our checkout time is early in the morning, so here are just the highlights from the past few days.

I'm also working on updating the maps but there is just not enough time to work on it.

Friday, June 23

Today we visited Niagara Falls. We took a tour that visits both the Canada side and the US side. The Canada side is much more built up with tourist stops and restaurants. Tour highlights included:

Skylon Tower - a 500 foot tower on the Canada side, giving a view of both parts of the falls.

Goat Island - an island in the middle of the falls, where you can walk out to the very edge of the American Falls and Bridalveil Fall.

Promenade - that's just a name I made up for the shoreline along the Canada side, where you can walk for quite a ways.

Maid of the Mist - a boat ride that takes you out right under the Horseshoe Falls.

The falls are split by Goat Island into the straight falls on the "American" side, and the Horseshoe Falls on the "Canada" side. In addition, the straight falls are split by smaller rocks into the American Falls and the Bridalveil Fall. The Horseshoe falls are wider and more impressive, sending up a spray that is visible for miles away and feels like rain when you walk near the falls. It is not possible to walk behind any of the falls, despite the misnamed attractions that seem to promise that.

We had lunch at the Misty Dog Grill, just across from the Rainbow Bridge over into Canada. It was recommended by the tour operator. They have burgers made from beef, buffalo, kobe beef, lamb, and venison. They take a long time but they are worth it. The sweet potato fries were not cooked enough to make them crispy.

In the evening we headed into Toronto. It took us five hours to wade through the Friday night traffic to the north side of town where we stayed.

Saturday, June 24

Today we took the subway into downtown Toronto. We started at the Royal Ontario Museum, which has six million artifacts from all over the world. First off, we took a guided tour through the first floor, which includes two wings. The first wing was First Peoples, which is what Canada calls the native Indians and Eskimo peoples. The second wing included artwork from Japan, China, and Korea. We were really more interested in the First Peoples exhibits, because you can't find that stuff anywhere else. But it was all fascinating. After the tour was over, we wandered through the third floor by ourselves. It had exhibits devoted to Bronze Age Greece, Ancient Egypt, and Ancient Cyprus. But my favorite was the exhibit devoted to the history of European art. It discussed Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classical, and Deco art.

Then we bought a picnic lunch at the Richtree Market near the waterfront, and we took a ferry to the Toronto Island. Mary wasn't feeling well so we didn't walk around the island, but we did enjoy a nice lunch in peace and quiet.

After lunch, we took the ferry back and walked around the corner to the CN Tower, billed as the tallest building in the world at over 1800 feet. Some dispute that because it is a tower and not an office building. But even after having visited the St. Louis Arch, the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, and the Empire State Building, we have to admit that the view here was mighty impressive.

Sunday, June 25

This morning we visited Thornhill Vineyard Church on the north side of Toronto. This was a very friendly church. They introduced us to all and they clapped for us ... and for other newcomers also. We talked to the Pastor, Dale, and also to another gentleman, Jim. We felt at home here even though we didn't know many of their worship songs. They did give us good advice on what to visit ... particularly their suggestion to visit Algonquin Provincial Park if we wanted to see moose.

After church, we headed the three hours north to Algonquin Provincial Park. The park is quite large, but most of it is accessible only via canoe or hiking. There is one road along the southern edge of the park. The road is about 55 km long (about 35-40 miles) from the west gate to the east gate. We got there around 5:00 pm and we figured that might be a good time to see moose. At the visitor center we were told that moose are seen here every day, but there were no posted sightings yet for that day. We drove through the park slowly, scanning every marshy area for the elusive animals. We took about 1 hour 15 mintues to traverse the park, but no luck. At the east gate visitor center we inquired again. We were told that there had been a sighting only about 15 km back earlier that day. We were also told that the opportunity is better nearest dusk. We decided to nap for an hour and head out around 7:30. Sure enough, at the 40 km marker we found a "wildlife jam" (a traffic jam caused by cars stopping to see wildlife). There was a mama moose and one cub. They were in a marshy area behind some trees. The mama was dark in color, while the cub was more a "caramel" color (as Mary the color expert described it).

We were so glad God answered our prayers to see a moose. We did take some pictures but the focus wasn't working right so the pics are probably not the best.

We drove farther north to North Bay for the night. The bugs were out like an Egyptian plague and when we got to North Bay we almost couldn't see out the windshield.

(Next morning, we almost couldn't see the white truck or its chrome underneath the dense blanket of bugs.)

Monday, June 26

We started about five or six hours from the border crossing at Sault Ste Marie, which takes you over Lake Superior into Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It was a pretty boring drive. We did note that the terrain changed gradually from evergreens to grass plains to rolling hills and back to grass plains again. We did stop at the library in North Bay to check email, and we also went shopping at a local drug store. When we got to the Michigan border, we went shopping again at the Duty Free Store. The border crossing itself was pretty painless but the border guard seemed pretty gruff.

Once back on US soil, we headed west until we've ended up here in Newberry. Since we've taken a more northerly route, we've given up on visiting Detroit, Toledo, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Our next stop will probably be Duluth ... I think there is a fresh water museum there. After that comes Fargo, the largest city in North Dakota, which isn't saying much. (It's actually a nice little university town.) After that, maybe Roosevelt National Park, then Glacier NP in Montana. Mary wants to see the Grand Tetons again, because we didn't get to see much two years ago (too rushed) and we know there are moose there. Finally, we'll end up in Washington State to visit Mary's dad. Almost home!

MoMA art we saw

Thursday 22 June 2006, 7:21 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

I had no internet access when I posted about visiting MoMA.

The MoMA web site is here.

Some of the works we saw:

Abandoning Moose for Buffalo

Thursday 22 June 2006, 7:07 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Yes, today, Thursday 22nd - I drove quite a long ways through the Adirondack Mountains today. There was an Adirondacks Museum that is supposed to be quite good, but it is several buildings and they suggest allowing three hours to tour it. We don't have that long ... we want to be in Niagara Falls by tonight. The Adirondacks are still beautiful just to drive through.

Eventually we got lost in Utica and stuck in a long line of traffic (miles long) at a construction site. We're just trying to find the Turnpike. Once we find the pike, we're only on there one exit when we find an exit for Oneida. (How do you pronounce it?) I've heard that the original commune is still here, and they still manufacture the silverware here. We have two sets at home (Mary's set is American Colonial and mine is Colonial Boston) but there are a few pieces missing after serving at too many church functions.

It took us quite a while, including stopping to ask several strangers on the street for directions, until we found the factory outlet; by the time we found it we had only 20 minutes left to shop. Both our patterns are discontinued, but they have been replaced with a newer cheaper pattern, 1620. But we were able to find a couple "server sets" in American Colonial, plus a few sugar spoons, replacement spoons, and repolacement knives in the "bins" at only 75 cents each. We lost a serving spoon at church, but we bought several in the new 1620 pattern to replace it. All this cost us only about $50; everything was discounted quite a bit.

Maybe I should look for the discontinued patterns on ebay; although I've heard they are expensive even there.

Mary likes driving on the freeway, so I let her do the three-hour leg along the turnpike to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The hotel manager arranged a tour for us tomorrow ... it starts real early for us (8:30 am) but it includes four hours on both the American side and the Canadian side, the island, and several different falls (shows what I know ... I thought there was only one.)

After the tour tomorrow, we hope to make it up to Toronto where we will spend Saturday and Sunday. On Monday we'll drive down to Chicago where we hope to take in a Cubs home game on Monday night in historic Wrigley Field.

The Elusive Moose

Thursday 22 June 2006, 6:55 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Wednesday, June 21

Today was factory tour day. We started with the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, Vermont. It looks just a B&J scoop shop, but more so ... more signs, bigger signs, lots of posters, brightly colored buildings. The tour costs only $3, so the price is right, and even though the tour is short, it is interesting. It includes a humorous movie that talks about the history of the company, and the founder's current social-improvement activities. The tour itself is really just one room, but you do get to see a lot, and the whole process and the big machines are fascinating. We were told not to take any pictures so as not to let out any trade secrets! As if we weren't spies from the evil HD empire anyway ... he he. So you expect that after seeing this, I'm now ready to duplicate the process at home! Fat chance. Speaking of which, my favorite hat in their store says "Body by Ben & Jerry's," and I resemble that remark, which coincidentally we heard again later in the day.

If you go, don't miss the "flavor graveyard," where all the discontinued flavors have gravestones and poetic epitaphs.

Back to Burlington and a little beyond, we found little Shelburne and the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. This is the place where you can call and order a custom teddy bear with custom clothing. You can also grab a teddy bear "skin" and fill it yourself ... in person only, not via the mail. The tour is again just one large room, and very tongue-in-cheek. At one point he showed what happens if you overstuff the bear ... body by Ben & Jerry's. Twice in one day. Anyway, the way they construct these things is pretty clever, and the way they cut the fur into pieces is impressive ... a huge Sizzix-like stamping machine that can cut out dozens of bears in one cut, through eight layers of material.

We got a bear for Mary's mom, who has been in the hospital. The bear is shipped UPS via in a brightly-colored box that includes an air hole so the bear can breathe, some candy so the bear has something to eat on the trip, and the inside of the box is printed with board games in case the bear gets bored while in transit. We got the "hero bear;" when you buy that one, another gets sent to an organization that hands out bears to kids who are going though disasters. (Mary's mom got the bear on Thursday and she loved it.)

We took a relaxing ferry across the lake into New York. The ferry driver suggested we go to Lake Placid, where some Winter Olympics were held. He even gave us a map, but I got lost anyway. Well, not exactly lost, but we went the wrong way, a longer way, but we got there eventually. A tourist trap town but not much activity. Down the road past another lake we found a grocery store to get some meat, and we found a nice room with a rustic theme and a photo of a moose in the stairway.

We have been looking everywhere for moose, even asking for suggestions on where to look, and praying to see one. But not a glimpse yet. One guy in the teddy bear factory said a moose wandered into his back yard some time back, but he's only seen two in his life, both years ago. I guess the trick is having both patience and time; we're short on both. We did buy a stuffed moose in Maine for a gift. Who wants a stuffed moose for Christmas?

(On Thursday, as I'm writing this, we saw a store called the Elusive Moose, which summed it all up.)

The Maine Thing

Thursday 22 June 2006, 6:48 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Tuesday, June 20

We are in Maine, but by tonight we want to get to the Ben & Jerry's factory in Vermont. Vermont and New Hampshire are not large, but Maine is larger than you might expect. We have a fair amount of driving to do.

First, we went to the beach at Fort Popham on the Maine coast. They wanted to charge us $8 to get into Popham Point State Beach, so we opted for the fort instead, since it is free. All we want to do is dip our toes in the Atlantic Ocean, so we can truly say this is a "coast-to-coast" trip. The water was cold, but the beach was nice. Lots of little kids playing on the beach and in this dark stone fort. The parents suggested we bring flashlights "next time."

Of course, we didn't make it through the town of Bath without Mary wanting to go shopping in the cute boutiques there. I found us a couple of Maine lobster baseball caps - mine blue, hers pink.

We drove north on 201 to Showhegan, then headed west on highway 2, which will take us all the way to Montpelier. It took hours to make this back-roads drive, but it was beautiful. Mary did some of the driving through one section where it rained a lot and there were storm warnings on the radio, but that lasted only about an hour. We got to Waterbury after dark, only to find that there is only one hotel in town, and only the VIP room is available. Beyond our budget, but tempting. There are lots of B and B's but it's a bit late to come in without a reservation. We found a nice room near Burlington, about 25 miles further up the road. We'll have to backtrack tomorrow but we saved a lot of $$$ staying farther away.

Brooklyn Bridge

Thursday 22 June 2006, 6:43 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Right now we are on the New York Thruway driving from Utica to Buffalo. Mary has volunteered to drive so I can catch up on the blog.

Friday Again - June 16

Today Steve and Sydelle dropped us off at the Brooklyn Bridge so we could walk across into Manhattan. I've always wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I don't remember why! Maybe I read one of those travel articles in the AAA magazine. Anyway, it's free to walk across the bridge. It takes about 30 minutes, so we really wanted to go only one way, and walking into Manhattan lets you see the Manhattan skyline as you approach.

The bridge is about 6000 feet long. I don't know whether that includes the approaches or not. It was an excellent day for walking across. The weather was sunny but not too hot ... but not windy either. I was afraid it might be too cold, like when you walk across the Golden Gate bridge. But it was definitely comfortable. The walkway is above the traffic, in the middle, unlike most other bridges where the walking lanes are along the sides of the bridge. There are two beautiful towers with two gothic arches each, one for each lane of traffic? Anyway, as you walk over, near the towers there are plaques that commemorate and describe the construction of the bridge. It was like being in a museum, which is good because there is also a Brooklyn Bridge Museum but we forgot to go there.

When we came off the bridge at the other end, we found ourselves near City Hall Park and I knew there was something nearby ... yes, J&R, the one found in the back of your computer, music, and photo magazines. It takes up almost a full city block and it is divided into several older buildings, so it doesn't look like a computer store and it's not easy to see if you don't know where to look. They did not have anything we needed, and their prices were not any better than we could find at home anyway.

We bought a couple baseball hats for presents, and the cart-keeper spoke English (!) and he gave us directions to the World Trade Center site only a couple of blocks away. At the WTC site there is sort of an observation deck where you can overlook each of the holes. They aren't really holes, like deep in the ground or anything, just holes in the sense that there are no buildings there. It looks like they are just cleaning up in order to build other stuff there, and if you didn't know any better you'd never know that anything extraordinary had ever happened there.

There is a kiosk that describes several different projects that will be built here. It looked to me like they were alternative projects and the choice had not been made yet. Mary understood that they would build all the projects here in different places or on different levels. So I'm really not sure. One project is a beautiful tower that starts out square on ground level but assumes an octagonal cross-section as it gets higher; it is supposed to be at least as tall as the original towers were. A second project is a transportation hub that includes a structure that looks like the guy wires for a suspension bridge, but I don't think there is any bridge there. Note that there are already several subway stations underneath the site, and all except one of them are currently operating. The intention is to add terminals for other transportation systems, notably PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson, which operates ferries). I think the third project was some kind of park, pool, or fountain that would serve as a memorial.

Down some stairs, on the way to the subway station, there is artwork that appears to have been drawn by children of the people who lost their lives here ... many tributes to "daddy" ... and they were moving.

We were able to catch a subway right here heading uptown, where we got off to see the Museum of Modern Art. We had tickets to see it free, but many of the museums are open late on Fridays and they are free after 4:00 pm anyway. Actually, we also had tickets for the Natural History Museum and the Guggenheim. We solicited suggestions and everyone said Natural History was the best, but we saw Natural History in Washington and we were burned out on that. Of the two remaining, most thought the MoMA was better. So that's where we headed.

MoMA has many of the modern classics ... Andy Warhol's Campbell soup cans, Salvador Dali's melting clocks, Monet's reflections of clouds in a lily pond, Van Gogh's "Starry Night," Picasso's woman's reflection in a mirror. (Sorry, I don't remember the real names of the works.) There was also the guy who draws the blocks, but I don't remember his name. There was a room devoted to him, and if you go through his stuff in chronological order you see how he arrives at the masterpiece that looks like a map of the New York subway system. And they also had several by the other guy, I also don't remember his name right now, but he threw or dripped the paint onto his canvas. The whole concept makes a lot of sense when you hear it described. It also helped on a lot of these works to listen to the audio tracks targeted at children. They explain the works in a way that anyone can understand.

After the museums close, if you don't want to see a Broadway show, go to a bar, or spend all evening in an expensive restaurant, I hate to say it but there is not much to do in New York except people watch, shop, and go to a rock 'n 'roll concert. We found ourselves in the Burger Joint again since was not too far from MoMA and we were hungry. Other patrons there told us about a jazz concert at Carnegie Hall, and it's probably not sold out, but when we walked around the corner we found that they will not let us in without advance tickets ... the box office is closed. Does that make any sense? To turn paying customers away when the show is not sold out? One subway stop away, nothing going on at Radio City Music Hall either. This is a Friday night! What are we supposed to do? We head back to Brooklyn to get some shut-eye. We will be leaving NYC tomorrow.


Thursday 22 June 2006, 6:41 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Right now we are on the New York Thruway driving from Utica to Buffalo. Mary has volunteered to drive so I can catch up on the blog.

Thursday Again - June 15

Today we went into Brooklyn to visit our friends Steve and Sydelle Gansl. We started the day on the wrong foot by oversleeping, then continued awry as we got lost on city streets in Newark on the way to Staten Island. (I think the easiest way to get to Brooklyn without hitting a lot of traffic is over the Verrizanno Narrows Bridge, but I didn't count on getting lost.) (This is the last time I will look for directions on Google Maps ... Mapquest has always served me well.)

Sydelle was still able to show us lots of stuff in Brooklyn. We started by going to Coney Island to have lunch at the original Nathan's. We didn't walk around Coney Island at all; we just ate at some tables next to the street. I got a good photo that I hope to post later.

Sydelle told us lots of stories about "Little Russia." Apparently Russian immigrants settled in the neighborhoods around Coney Island and kicked out the bad guys that had been there previously. So now that area is pretty safe.

She brought us to two special places for views. The Promenade is a beautiful walkway on top of two levels of freeway along the Hudson River. Sydelle says it appears in the first scene of most Woddy Allen movies, and it did look very familiar even though we'd never been there before. There are great views of Manhattan and walking there with Mary was very romantic. Sydelle also brought us to the River Cafe, a restaurant underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We had seen this previously when the guide of our Circle Line cruise pointed it out from the water. Since it is right underneath the bridge, the views of the bridge are pretty amazing. It's not just the underside of the bridge, but the smaller cables on top stand out in relief when viewed from underneath. There is also a dock there with plaques that describe and commemorate the bridge. There is also some poetry in the fencing around the dock.

Sydelle drove us past all the beautiful brownstones in Brooklyn Heights. Mary reminds me that we also saw some houses that were converted carriage houses.

We finished up the afternoon at a store called Amazing Savings" It is sort of like a Big Lots on steroids. Mary stocked up on lots of rubber stamps, paper punches, and crafty stuff.

Late in the evening they took us to the Sahara Mediterranean Restaurant. The owner is Greek, and our waitress seemed to speak mostly Greek. We were able to get by and order a large appetizer plate and chicken skewers.

We've heard New York described as a city of immigrants over and over since we've been here. Truly, we've found that the only people we can converse with here are other tourists. By and large, the shopkeepers and restaurant workers do not speak much English at all. It seems everyone just takes all this in stride. Our experience at the Sahara restaurant did not faze us at all.

Intrepid Museum

Monday 19 June 2006, 10:01 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Wednesday again

Today we visited the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum on the Hudson River in New York City. It is an aircraft carrier that was used in World War II and survived five kamikaze attacks, two on the same day. She was used in the 1960s to pick up Mercury and Gemini capsules, and in the 1970s she became part of the "Gulf of Tonkin Yacht Club" as she served in Vietnam.

The Museum also includes a Concorde airplane that was disappointing because, while you could go inside, you can't actually go down the aisle or sit down in the nice leather seats. It also includes a submarine, the "Growler," that we didn't tour because we would have had to wait for the next guided tour and we were too tired.

There are also, on the flight deck and in the hangar deck, about two dozen aircraft of the type launched from here over a 30-year period. You could look at the outsides of the planes and read about the distincitve features of each, but you can't really see inside them or get that close to them.

We were tired today after having got up so early yesterday, been sick, etc. so we gave up early today.

Statue of Liberty

Monday 19 June 2006, 9:51 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Tuesday again

We had to get up very early to see the Statue of Liberty. We called on Monday, and we were told about the ticket situation. Anyone can take the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island if they pay the fare. But you need a special free "timed ticket" to get inside the Statue of Liberty. This is similar to the situation at the Washington Monument and the US Capitol building, so we were familiar with the routine. Anyway, we were told the doors would open at 8:30 am and we should be there possibly as early as 7:30 am. In order to be there are 7:30 am, we'd need to catch the subway at 7:00 am, catch the train at 6:00 am, leave the hotel at 5:30 am, and get up at 5:00 am.

This must have been our earliest day yet. But everything timed out very well, and we were in line by 7:30 to 7:45. There were only a dozen people in line ahead of us, so we weren't worried. But a lot of people had reserved tickets ahead of time. I don't know how they did that, because the NPS web page would not let me do that. But apparently there is an 800 number you can call to reserve the tickets, and I had missed that. Anyway, the whole procedure was painless for us but not for others. We just walked up to the window and asked for a timed ticket, and we had ferry tickets and "inside tour" tickets for the first time block this morning. But another family who was actually in line ahead of us came back empty-handed because they went to a different ticket window. I don't understand that at all! Worse yet, this family had come down early three times and never got a tour ticket.

The construction of the SOL is fascinating, but the inside tour didn't really allow you to see that much of it. In the past, you could actually go inside the SOL up to the crown, but now you can just go up to the top of the pedestal. The view from there is much better than the view from below. But I had hoped to see more of the inside of the statue.

Ellis Island was overwhelming. We got an audio tour, saw a play, and saw a movie. After all that, we didn't really have the energy to tour the insides of all the buildings. So we got in a long line to head back to Manhattan; it was so long we had to wait for the second ferry. The ferry service should anticipate that outbound trips would be busy in the morning, inbound trips busy in the afternoon, and adjust schedules accordingly; but they did not.

After landing back in Manhattan we had just a few minutes to view the Fire Department Museum on Spring Street. We wouldn't know about this otherwise, but a friend back home told us about it. They do have an excellent 9/11 memorial that includes a tile structure with one tile for every lost firefighter, with his photograph on the tile.

Meanwhile, I was getting a small headache. All that time in the sun on the islands and ferries had got me dehydrated. Pretty soon we were in a restaurant but I couldn't eat. Eventually I got sick in their restroom, but they were gracious about it. We took our meals "to go" and when I felt better a few hours later in the hotel room, their meal of spanish rice with sausage, chicken, scallops, and clams tasted wonderful. Having learned my lesson, tomorrow I will take an extra bottle of water into town in case we can't find any.

New England

Monday 19 June 2006, 9:35 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Sunday, June 18

Today we went to church at South Coast Vineyard in New Bedford, Massachusetts. We had been staying in Newport, Rhode Island, and this is the closest church we found. It was about 45 minutes away so we had to leave earlier than usual. It was worth it. This was a very small church. They had lots of chairs set up, but really only about eight families were there, including us and the pastors. We met pastors Ruth and Richard, and another couple, Glen and Mary. They were all very helpful trying to help us find our way around. They also were full of the joy of the Lord which they shared with everyone.

We did laundry this afternoon. We found a run-down "laundrette" in a poor side of town, but we got our clothes clean. After we left there, we found several other nicer laundromats in better parts of town. But we did get to spend a few minutes talking to the owner of this one. It seemed she might need someone to talk to.

We drove around the coast area of New Bedford, where there were some nice beaches. But we didn't really see too much interesting in this town, even though we'd been told about whaling museums and other fun stuff. Since we're way behind schedule, we decided to beat feet toward Boston. We'd been warned that traffic on Cape Cod would be heavy after 6 pm on Sunday, so we headed for Plymouth instead. Plymouth was a disappointment. "Plymouth Rock" is just a large rock with the date "1620" added centuries later. We took a trolley tour around the town and decided we'd seen enough. We're interested in the Pilgrims and all, but we can learn plenty about that without having to be in a tourist trap. So we headed north around 6 pm.

We have seen lots of Boston before, and since we spent so much time in NYC and Washington on this trip, we decided to skip Boston altogether. We did go straight through the town, though, and we went through a long tunnel I don't remember being there before. Was this the "big dig?" I think so. It is certainly a lot easier to get through the center of town now.

One of our favorite restaurants is Warren's Lobster House just inside Maine. We made it there by 8:30 pm, just in time to get some lobster before they closed. Even the salad bar was wonderful, which is unusual anywhere on the east coast.

We found a nice Econo Lodge in Kittery, Maine, but they didn't have internet access so I couldn't post anything last night.

Monday, June 19

Today we "took a vacation from our vacation." I've been reading Europe through the Back Door by Rick Steves, and he recommends doing this every couple of weeks when on a long trip. Anyway, we had lots of errands to run: Mary and I both needed work on our hair, my truck hadn't had an oil change since we left California 9000 miles ago, and we had a care package to put in the mail to Matthew in Iraq.

After dinner in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, we headed up the Maine coast, and tonight we are in Brunswick, Maine.

Tomorrow, we plan to go to some point clearly on the Atlantic coast (not on any bay or inlet), and dip our toes in the ocean. Then we'll truly be able to call this a "coast-to-coast" trip. After that, we need to turn back. Not counting the two weeks on the Mississippi coast, we have spent eight weeks to get to this point, and we have only two weeks to get back. In the next two weeks, we hope to do this:

  • Travel through northern Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont to end up at the Ben & Jerry's factory.
  • Head north into Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and see if we can order anything at Wendy's in French.
  • Head across Quebec and Ontario to the Canada side of Niagara Falls.
  • Detroit, Michigan to see Greenfield Village.
  • Chicago, Illinois to see a Cubs game.

Quick update from New York

Saturday 17 June 2006, 6:53 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Right now I'm way too tired to tell everything we've done this week, but I'll try to give you a quick summary.

Tuesday, June 13 - we visited the Statue of Liberty, and we were lucky enough to get tickets to go inside. That is a story in itself, and I'll tell that story later. The ferry ride to the SOL also includes a trip to Ellis Island, and there is so much there we were overwhelmed and we just watched a play and a movie. Back in Manhattan, we were able to see the Fire Department Museum on Spring Street, which was recommended by Monica Bellizi of Holy Cross Lutheran Church. It includes a couple of 9/11 memorial rooms. We ate at a Mexican restaurant in the Village but I got sick (not because of the food, but because of dehydration from being out in the sun on the islands all day). I was able to eat my dinner later when I felt better.

Wednesday, June 14 - We visited the USS Intrepid, a WWII aircraft carrier that has been converted to a museum. It has a fascinating story that I'll tell later.

Thursday, June 15 - Today we visited Steve and Sydelle Gansl at their house in Brooklyn. It's the first time we've been to Brooklyn. Sydelle took us on the grand tour - Nathan's at Coney Island, Little Russia, the Promenade, the fruit streets, the brownstones, etc. We had a Turkish dinner at Sahara on Coney Island Blvd. Steve showed me his collection of antique peanut jars and other stuff while Sydelle and Mary talked rubber stamping.

Friday, June 16 - Today Steve and Sydelle took us to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge so we could walk across. We went from Brooklyn into Manhattan, so you can see the Manhattan skyline as you go across. On the other side, we went to J&R Music and the 9/11 "holes" before heading uptown to MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art. It has all the classic stuff by Picasso, Monet, Warhol, etc. We loved the top two floors. It comes with a free audio tour; I highly reccommend listening to the tracks intended for children.

Saturday, June 17 - We have been on our feet all week. Time to get out of the city and drive a little. It took us four hours to get from Brooklyn to New Haven, Connecticut, where we had a hamburger at Louis Lunch. We were disappointed. More about that later. We made it to Newport, Rhode Island, where we will stay tonight. I'm too tired to drive on.

Tomorrow we hope to make it to Cape Cod or Plymouth before we head up to Boston. Since we have to be home in about two weeks, we'll probably just spend a day in Boston, then hit only the highlights on the way home, particularly Niagara Falls, Chicago, maybe Minneapolis, and hopefully Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

Clueless in Manhattan

Tuesday 13 June 2006, 7:07 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

More Sunday, June 11

After the show, we figured there must be something else we could do late on a Sunday night, because the last trains don't run until almost 2:00 am. We somehow decided the Empire State Building was nearby so we'd try that.

Of course, you can't go up for free. We bought the City Pass, which includes the ESB and several other attractions: a cruise on the Hudson, the Intrepid aircraft carrier museum, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Modern Art. It is supposed to be a great value. You roughly break even if you see only three of those attractions. The ESB ticket comes with the audio by Tony the Cab Driver. Mary and I have found the audio tours to be well worthwhile, starting with Carlsbad Caverns when we first went there last year.

At night, you can't see everything they're describing, but you sure do see a lot of pretty lights. We'd like to go back up there during the daylight, but we'll have to pay for another ticket. We'll see if we finish up all this other stuff first.

We finished up at ESB when they closed at 11:00 pm. By the time we wound our way back to Penn Station, found our train, waited for it to arrive, rode 70 minutes back out to the 'burbs, got lost because we forgot where we parked the truck, wandered around several Morristown streets until we found something that looked familiar, found the truck, and drove 20 minutes back to the hotel, it was almost 3:00 am.

We are going to sleep in tomorrow.

Monday, June 12

We were up real late last night and we wanted to sleep in today. So we didn't actually make it into town until about 2 or 3 pm. Well, actually, we got into Morristown and had a heck of a time finding a parking space. There are lots of reserved spaces but no daily spaces ... they were all taken by the commuters early in the morning. Finally, we ended up in the police department parking lot (after asking politely first). By the time we found a parking place and walked down the hill to the train station, we'd probably lost the good part of an hour.

What are we going to do today? Well, we don't know. We have signed up to go to the Letterman show, but our chances in the lottery are only 50/50 and they have not called us yet.

Our first stop was the east side again, this time to J G Melon on Third Avenue, which many consider to serve the best burger in town. Our verdict: a good burger, perhaps, but not nearly as friendly or as quirky a restaurant as the Burger Joint, where we ate yesterday.

What to do the rest of our day? We are wandering around clueless. I think we're just tired from being up so late last night. I look at the map to see if there is anything nearby worth seeing. Of course, there is lots, but at 4:00 pm all the museums are getting ready to close up. We walked to Grand Central Station. It is really something else! We tried walking around the balcony, but we went somewhere we weren't supposed to, and an employee politely but firmly shooed us away. GCS has this really weird thing I can't understand. There is a highway that goes over an overpass into the building on the seconnd floor! But if you go inside the building, there is no highway there! Where did it go? I can't figure it out. This is no joke. The building is beautiful, anyway, and Mary took lots of photos of the late afternoon sun coming through the windows in various ways. There is also a mall here and whatnot but we didn't really find it; what we did find was a nice grocery store somewhat like a Whole Foods or a Cosentino's. People can run through the store to pick up something quick to make for dinner when they get home, when they get on or off the train.

(By the way, we're told it's not Grand Central Station but Grand Central Terminal. The difference is that a terminal is at the end of the line, while a station is in the middle of the line. Even my map says Grand Central Terminal, and I was concerned that we might be going to the wrong place. No, just wrong words in our vocabulary.)

We have a ticket for a river cruise around the lower end of Manhattan. It's part of the City Pass packet. We still have time to do our choice of rides today: 6:00 pm "Beast" speedboat ride, or 7:00 pm "twilight" ride. We choose the slower ride. It's timed so that on the return trip you see the sun setting over the New Jersey skyline. We also went past the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

I've called to get information about the Statue of Liberty. You can take a ferry from the lower tip of Manhattan, Battery Park. Like the Washington Monument and some other sights we've seen, there are special tours inside but the number of tickets is limited. We've been advised that we need to get there very early in the morning, before 8:00 am, in order to get a ticket. Deja vu. We determine to wake up tomorrow at 5 am to catch the 6 am train, catch the subway downtown around 7:15 am to arrive at Battery Park before 7:45 am. Stay tuned for the story how that worked out.

Well, Mary wants to use the computer now, so you'll have to check back later to find out what happened to us on Tuesday, what we plan for Wednesday, and the special friend we will be visiting on Thursday.

New York, Day One, Part One

Monday 12 June 2006, 8:39 am
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Sunday, June 11

This morning we went to The Vineyard Church in Morristown, New Jersey. They were finishing up a series on the Da Vinci Code. The sermon was excellent, a lot of meat, lots of information about the development of the New Testament canon. It was a lot of the same kind of information you can find in Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible. Pastor Craig is as energetic as he appears to be on the web page.

We got to speak to several people after the service, including Pastor Craig, Carolyn, Suzanne, and at least one or two other gentlemen whose names I can't remember. They all offered excellent advice on how to get into the city. We are about 30 miles out. We were thinking of driving down to Newark, then getting on the train there. But they told us there would be little parking in Newark, and the truck wouldn't be as safe there anyway. They suggested instead using the Morristown station, right here, and parking for free on the street nearby. It takes about one hour to get into the city from here. One person even drew us a map how to get to the train station.

Getting into the city was a snap. Once in Penn Station, we were at a loss how to find the right subway. Penn Station is a central location for NJ Transit, Amtrak, Long Island Railroad, the subway, and other local trains. But everyone there was helpful, and soon we were on the E train headed for the middle east side.

In the Parker Meridien Hotel, there is a recommended hamburger at the Burger Joint. It is a dive hidden away behind the hotel lobby. The hamburgers were wonderful but not distinctive. The fries were OK. The shakes are made from Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Yum!

Not too far away from there, we found Carnegie Hall. No interesting concerts today or this week even. Tours cost $9 but no tours today. We might try to get back here tomorrow.

Walking down Broadway. Mary says this feels like San Francisco but more crowded. I think it feels like San Francisco but just taller (buildings). We look at lots of shows but none grabs us. Ticket prices seem pretty uniform, about $111 per ticket for full view seats. But nothing much seems to be playing tonight ... most of the Sunday shows are 3:00 pm matinees. Someone at church had told us about a place that sells half price tickets. We called Bill T, who we met at church and he actually gave us his phone number. He tells us the half price tickets are at 47th and Broadway. It was really wonderful having someone like Bill to help us out. He really went out of his way to make himself available to us. Pretty soon we had in hand tickets for a 7:00 pm showing of "Chicago" (of "All That Jazz" fame or vice versa). They were $59 each including service charges.

We wandered back up Broadway, stopped at a Starbucks, and went into a few trinket stores and electronics stores. Didn't buy anything, but we're going to buy some gifts tomorrow. (Trinkets, not electronics, so don't get y'all hopes up, now.)

The show was good. We don't go to lots of musicals, so we're not really in a place to judge. I liked the excellent orchestra and the funny story line. Mary had a really good time. We both got to talk to the people sitting near us, and we had nice conversations.

There is more, but we have to go now. We learned how to ride the subway, we went to the Empire State Building. But that will have to wait until later.

Where's the beef?

Saturday 10 June 2006, 7:40 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Saturday, June 10

Today we decided to take it easy and not necessarily go into New York City yet.

One of the 20 best hamburgers is in Hackensack, so we decide to try it. We spent most of the early afternoon getting lost trying to find the New Jersey Turnpike. "Turnpike turn right here" ... then no more signs for five miles, while you're passing shady neighborhoods and abandoned buildings. Yuck. That was in the New Brunswick area, or was it Wood-something or Something-wood? Woodbridge?

Anyway, once in downtown Hackensack it wasn't too difficult to find. It's called "White Manna" and the burgers are small, sort of like White Castle's (from what we've heard, never eaten them ourselves) and made from scratch. The protocol is pretty strange. The small place was full, with every seat occupied and many of us standing, but almost no one eating. The cook would take orders whenever space freed up on the grill, yelling "next!" They said he could keep track of what order everyone came in. We felt bad placing a special order (neither of us can eat the bun, and Mary can't have pickles either) but others in line told us to give it a try. After about ten minutes, others in line ahead of us were gone, and we had four small cheeseburgers with onions drenched in grease, fries, and cokes. We both thought it well worth spending the morning lost to find this place.

White Manna is a typical New Jersey diner, and you can see photographs here and here.

Oh, while searching for these photos, I came across this list of the 20 best hamburgers with addresses and maps. (Search the page for "GQ", about two-thirds of the way down.)

Motels in Hackensack and Paramus are more expensive than we would like, so we've ended up farther west in East Hanover, near Parsippany and Morristown. This is about 30 minutes out from Newark, New Jersey. We hope to take a test run tomorrow: drive out to Newark and park in the park and ride lot, then take the PATH train across into New York City, which should only take a few minutes. We'll see how it works out. If easy, then we might stay here for a few days. Otherwise, we might move to a hotel closer to NYC. The tradeoff is that as you get closer in, the opportunities for free (and safe) parking diminish. I found two affordable hotels in Brooklyn and Queens, but in both cases you have to park a couple blocks away, and we with all the "valuables" in the truck. No, sir.

There is a Vineyard Church in Morristown, about ten miles from here, and we'll check it out tomorrow morning.

Oh ... we went out to Wendy's a few minutes ago. Three hamburger meals in the last 26 hours. There are two more to try in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and Mary says she might like to go back to White Manna again as long as we're staying nearby.

In the city of brotherly religious freedom

Saturday 10 June 2006, 7:13 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Friday, June 9

Today was a great day. We made a few wrong turns again in the morning, including at least two that took us over bridges into New Jersey, each requiring that we pay a toll to return to Pennsylvania ... but eventually we got wrong-turn-itis out of our system.

In Philadelphia, we were able to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the first US Capitol, two different Quaker houses, Benjamin Franklin's grave, a memorial to the unknown soldiers of the revolutionary war, and probably a few other things that I don't remember right now.

Philadelphia advertises a four-by-five-block stretch of downtown as "America's most historic mile," and it certainly is.

We learned a lot about William Penn, his ideal of religious tolerance, and his contributions to the Pennsylvania constitution, which formed the basis for our own Bill of Rights. We learned most of this not in Independence Park, but in one of the Quaker houses, which had a very friendly guide that we caught at a quite time. He is a member of a Quaker meeting in New Jersey, and he explained to us a bit about the Quaker meetings and the beliefs of the various different Quaker groups.

Everything here is well worth seeing. The Liberty Bell is the real one, not a replica. Being really just a very old bell with a big crack in it, it was a bit ugly despite its historical significance.

At both the first US Capitol and Independence Hall, we were fortunate enough to get the same very enthusiastic guide. Learning about these buildings would have been a very different experience without a guide or with a different guide.

After everything here closed at 6:00 pm, we got the car out of hock and cruised on down to Rittenhouse Square. Parking is expensive in Philadelphia! It cost us $16 to park near Independence Hall for six hours, then another $14 to park near Rittenhouse Square for just two hours to eat dinner. Traffic was pretty bad getting to the Square during 6 pm rush hour, but not so bad when we left there at 8 pm.

We ate at Rouge on 18th, just across from the Square. Their "Rouge Burger" was considered one of the "20 hamburgers you must eat before you die" by GQ magazine. We both had ours bunless, since we are allergic to wheat gluten. The burger itself must be a half pound, and it's not flat, but almost more like meat ball shape because it's so tall. Our medium requests came out mildly crunchy on the outside while pink in the very center. They come with carmelized onions and gruyere cheese, plus lettuce, tomato and pickle if you want them. They also come with "pommes frites" which is I guess how they say "french fries" in Philadelphia's French Quarter. We had a side order of grilled asparagus that seemed barely warmed, but was very tasty. To top it all off, they had two different flavors of our favorite dessert, creme brule, and a flourless chocolate cake to boot. But the cook suggested the flourless cake might still have a trace of flour from the baking process, where it is used to remove the cake from the pan. We did try both the vanilla and the chocolate creme brules. I let Mary have most of the chocolate one, although it was the better of the two, because it was so rich.

We will be on the lookout for more "burgers to die for" as we get into New Jersey and New York, where there are four more.

Tonight we've ended up in the middle of New Jersey near Princeton, because I ran out of steam. We hope to get into NYC tomorrow, but we still don't even know yet where to catch the train or where we can park the truck safely.

Escape from Washington

Saturday 10 June 2006, 6:48 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Thursday, June 8

And now for something completely different. We have been walking around in Washington for four full days. Mary's feet are killing her. I decided we can try something else today.

We started by going to the Marine Veteran's Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. We were almost there when we took one wrong turn, and we ended up going many miles out of our way before we found our way back. Today was definitely our day for making wrong turns. Eventually we got there and after the busload of kids left, we were left alone with the ranger, who was a volunteer and a Marine veteran of Lebanon 1958, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic. We learned a lot about the memorial and the crowds from him.

Next, we saw the Teddy Roosevelt Memorial. In fashion true to his reputation as a conservationist, his memorial is on an island without roads, accessible only via a footbridge. The island is peaceful except when the planes land at nearby Reagan National Airport just across the river; this happens only about every five minutes or so. Grrr.

Next came the most comedic stretch of wrong turns in our whole trip. I wanted to go across one of the 14th street bridges to the Jefferson Memorial. We went back and forth past the Pentagon on one freeway, then another, then surface streets, then into the back lot of a business, then into a dead end, then back up the GW Parkway ten miles into another county before we found a place to turn around, then back past the Pentagon again, without ever being in the right lane to exit onto any bridge at all. Finally, we ended up on the Key Bridge at 4:30 pm, which is really crazy. Key Bridge is the one farthest from where we wanted to be, it was rush hour, and we were heading right into downtown. We eventually made it down to the Lincoln Memorial and I tried to go around it, but confound it, that road goes back across the river and pretty soon we were back across where we started, near Arlington Cemetery again. We found another circle where we could turn around and come right back across the bridge to the Lincoln Memorial. Then we found the back road down the island where the Jefferson Memorial is. It was worth going "out of the way" to get too; even Mary agreed. It is a beautiful building with a rounded dome that looks like a bald head; no spire on top like the Capitol has.

OK; we've had it. We have been in Washington six days and we have barely made it halfway through two Smithsonian museums; we could stay here another week and not get through it all. At some point you've got to take up stakes and get moving. Only problem was, we're not done making wrong turns yet. I wanted to take the Anacostia Freeway out of town to the east, but going over the river I took a wrong turn, and we ended up in Anacostia Park instead of the freeway. We had to ride along the shoreline for quite a while before we found our way back to the freeway. I have been lost in Anacostia before, at night in the dark, and I was very afraid. Anacostia is a neighborhood across the Anacostia River from downtown, and it is a slum. I figured we'd be safe in the daylight, in the park, but I wanted to find my way out quickly.

As we headed up through Baltimore, we found a few sections of road that required tolls. We temporarily mislaid the small change jar, we've spent all our bills except one dollar, and we don't have enough in the car to pay the next toll. We found an exit just shy of the next toll and we found an ATM.

As we passed Baltimore, the weather started turning bad. Eventually the rain got to the point that I could not see very well. We got off in a place called Havre de Grace or something like that, to slurp a chocolate shake at McDonald's and wait out the storm. In 20 minutes, the storm let up a little and we left armed with directions from the locals how to get into Delaware paying the least possible in tolls.

Eventually we made our way to the north side of Philadelphia, where we will visit downtown tomorrow.

The early bird and the monument ... battle of the wills part two

Saturday 10 June 2006, 6:48 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Wednesday, June 7

Yesterday we saw part of the Air and Space Museum. Did I mention that they have actual capsules that have been in space? At Rocket Park in Houston, we saw rockets and capsules that were intended for space use but never actually deployed. At the NASM, they have the actual Mercury 7, Gemini IV or VI (I have dyslexia when it comes to roman numerals), and Apollo 11 ... the one Neil Armstrong rode to the first moon landing. Mary thought it was real cool to see real artifacts from the space program. We saw a space suit that had actual "moon dust" on it. We didn't get to touch anything, though.

We were quite disappointed that we didn't get Washington Monument tickets yesterday. We were mostly disappointed that (1) we would have to get up early again, and (2) we would have to get up even earlier than we did on Tuesday. Grrr. We set the alarm for 6:00 am and we got up as soon as the alarm went off, instead of dawdling.

The story about Washington Monument tickets is that they start handing them out at 8:30 am, and they usually run out around 9:00 am. Some people start lining up as early as 8:00 am just to make sure they get one. The tickets don't cost anything. The tickets are timed ... you come back at a designated time slot. Mary thinks it's like the fast passes you can get at Disneyland. The real purpose here is to insure the security lines are not overloaded ... they let only a few people through security at a time.

Anyway, we got into town around 7:45 and rushed up to the already-forming line. By the time we got to the front, we got the last tickets for the 3:30 pm time slot, and there were only a couple of time slots with any remaining tickets at all. You are allowed a choice of time slots, but as they run out your choices dwindle.

After the early-morning rush of getting the tickets, this turned out to be one of the more fun days we had. We left the mall area to see sights elsewhere. We decided to see the International Spy Museum. But on the way there, we accidentally came across Ford's Theater and the house where Lincoln died. Ford's Theater has been reconstructed internally to its 1865 state. I was disappointed to find that almost nothing original was there; but the experience was still educational. They fill up the theater with as many as want to see the presentation, which takes about 20 minutes. It is just a ranger talk. But you get to hear every detail of what happened all day in the theater on the fateful day when Lincoln was shot. School is still in session and there are lots of kids doing field trips, so our presentation was full of people. We noticed later in the afternoon that the lines were a lot shorter and the crowds smaller.

Did you know that Lincoln was shot on a Good Friday? I didn't know that. Turns out that fact was instrumental in the assassination coming together that day ... which is another story altogether. But it shows that you can really learn a lot at these ranger presentations.

Most of these museums and other sights are part of the Smithsonian Museums or the National Park Service, so they are free. Personally, we think they are all much better than the sights we have paid to see on this trip.

The bottom floor of the theater is turned into a museum about Lincoln, the civil war, the politics of the day, and the group who conspired to kill Lincoln.

After Lincoln was shot, he was taken across the street to a boarding house, where he died the next day in the room of a Union soldier who happened to be out of town that weekend. You can view three rooms of that house. It's not really that interesting, but the wait was short so it was worthwhile.

We eventually got to the International Spy Museum, one of the few museums in DC we've paid to get into. We had about two hours before we had to head back down to the Washington Monument. They suggested you allow two hours to view the museum. After two hours, we'd finished not quite half the museum! They were nice enough to let us come back later and enter a second time to finish up. It's a fascinating place about the science of spying and the lives of spies. It discusses tools of the trade like lock picks, bugs, tiny cameras, and hidden weapons. It shows in rudimentary fashion how spies are trained to do what they do. It tells the stories of a great many US, Soviet, and German spies who were caught. It tells about the deceptions regarding the Normandy invasion and how spies led the Germans astray about Allied plans. It tells about the atomic bomb and those who leaked secrets to the Soviets.

We finally got to see the inside of the Washington Monument at 3:30 pm. Anyone can walk up to the monument, see the outside of it, take photos, talk to a ranger, etc. But you need a special ticket to take the elevator to the top. It's really quite a view. The monument faces directly north, south, east, and west, and it is in a central location on the mall. You can see the Capitol, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the WWII Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the reflecting pools, the Pentagon, the Smithsonian Castle, and many other familiar landmarks. You can come down one floor from the top to visit a small museum about Washington and a bookstore. On the way back down, the you can see various special stones that were donated by the states for use during the construction. Some of them are quite elaborate. We were told that on some days when there is enough staff on hand, you can ride the elevator to the top (500 feet), then walk down with a ranger who will show you all the special stones. There are over 100 of them.

At the end of our very long day, since this is our last night here, I insisted we take a stroll through Georgetown. We found a restaurant there that was very helpful with our food allergies. After dinner, we even got to go into one store (Urban Outfitters) that was still open after 9:00 pm.

The early bird and the monument ... battle of the wills part one

Thursday 8 June 2006, 8:43 am
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Tuesday, June 6

Were there elections in California today? We have our home phone forwarded to our cell phone, and every day I've been getting recorded messages, campaign workers calling me, and surveys. It's really annoying, and you probably agree. I hope we stop getting these calls after today.

OK, so today we really did get up early. 7:00 am is really early for us. But by the time we worked our way through commute traffic to the train station, we were already way late. We got to the Washington Monument just after they gave away the last ticket. We were disappointed.

Did I mention that we are staying at the south end of Alexandria, near Van Dorn, but I didn't like the train station there so we are driving up to the West Falls Church station instead? That station is in a much nicer neighborhood. It's around the corner from where Calvary Chapel meets. It's right next to a university (I don't remember which one). That station is about twelve miles away from us by freeway. Late at night, it takes only fifteen minutes to drive. But in the commute, it's more like 45 minutes. Taking surface streets instead also takes about 45 minutes. So this does cost us some extra time at each end of the commute. But I think it's safer to park the car at the Falls Church station with the laptop inside.

Anyway, we trudged on up to the Capitol instead. We were able to get a 2:30 ticket to tour the Capitol. In the meantime, we went to the Air and Space Museum again. We got through quite a bit of it, but when we left there we had still finished only one floor of two. The place is huge and very interesting. We might try to get back there to finish more of it.

The basic Capitol tour takes you to the Rotunda (inside the dome), the old House room, and the basement below the Rotunda. Our tour guide was a character. He rolled his eyes a lot while talking about the lawmakers, past and present. Anyway, the basic tour was pretty short. The only reason it took more than half an hour is because there were 50 other tour groups in the same room at the same time, and you had to force your way through one group to get to your next stop.

In order to see more, specifically, the galleries (upstairs in the actual house or senate chambers), you must get a ticket from your congressman's or senator's office. I don't even know who our house representative is, but I told Mary I know who our California senators are (snicker). She said she did not want to see them. I said, you go to the office, the senator is busy, a staffer gives you the ticket. Anyway, a couple nearby us overheard our conversation and gave us two tickets to the House gallery. Someone had just handed them a handful of tickets; they kept enough for their family and gave us the last two. So we didn't even have to walk across the street to the congressional offices.

The house chambers were beautiful but disappointing. We went in around 4:00 pm. The House was in session but they had just finished an appropriations bill when they realized some last-minute paperwork was missing, so they took a recess to fetch it. They would not return from recess until 5:15 pm. We did not want to wait that long. I counted the seats and came up with more than 360. (There are about 450 congressman.) A guard told us about the statues and moldingsj around the room. There are 22 famous lawgivers around the ceiling. We were sitting under Moses, my favorite. The guard told us we could find more information at the Architect of the Capitol web site.

By the time we finished here, the Air and Space Museum was near closing time and had lost its appeal for today. We wandered next door to the Hirschhorn Museum, which houses relatively modern art (mostly apparently collected during the 1960's). We got through one floor of four before closing time. We are not real fans of art, modern or otherwise, but it was relaxing.

OK, got to take my shower and check out of the room ... will try to post more later tonight.

National Museum of National Museums

Monday 5 June 2006, 9:34 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Monday, June 5

Today we really slept in, but we both needed the sleep. We intended to start seeing the Smithsonian museums. We ended up at the Capitol building. But again, you need tickets that are issued first-come first-served early the morning. The tickets are free, but there will still be a line even if we manage to get up early.

So we started at the National Air and Space Museum. We got through only about one-fourth of the museum before it closed at 5:30 pm. We got through the the section on the history of aviation before WWII and the section on jet aviation.

The Museum of National History stays open later so we went there next. Again, in two hours we got through only about one-fourth of the exhibits. We saw an exhibit about mammals, a short movie about evolution, an exhibit about Sikhs, and an exhibit about Lewis and Clark. The mammal exhibit was like a zoo except that all the animals were stuffed. We will try to get back to this museum to finish it, but we might skip the animals unless the exhibits offer something we didn't already see at the zoo.

Oh, I forgot, we also saw the Ulysses S. Grant memorial and the US Botanic Garden, which Mary loved. She took lots of photos there.

After all this, we found a nice sidewalk restaurant and they really helped us find food we could eat.

Tomorrow, we will set the alarm early and see if we can see some of the sights that require tickets. Before we're done here, we really hope to see:

  • The inside of the Washington Monument.
  • The inside of the Capitol building.
  • The remainder of the Air and Space Museum.
  • The remainder of the Natural History Museum.
  • The Museum of American History and Technology.

The Holocaust Museum and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving also require advance tickets, but they are lower priority. We've also been told that the Thomas Jefferson building and the Library of Congress are the most beautiful buildings in the city, and we should try to see them.

There is also the National Gallery of Art, but neither of us is into fine art that much. But if tomorrow goes well, we might stay here a few more days and see a lot more.

Memorial Day

Monday 5 June 2006, 9:33 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Sunday, June 4

Today we went to church at Calvary Chapel DC Metro, which is not actually in DC but in Falls Church, Virginia. The church service was wonderful. They had a guest speaker from New Jersey and he spoke very well. He spoke out of 2 Peter 1 about the progression from faith to virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly love, and agape love. He gave good examples of each.

The church had a group of guests from an orphanage in Haiti. They sang for us and it was beautiful.

We parked in the Metro station right next to the church and we went into DC. We saw the Washington Monument, the the World War II memorial, the Vietnam Veterans memorial, the Lincoln memorial, and the Korean War Veterans memorial. Then we went to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, but we didn't see much.

Each memorial has its own unique qualities. We both thought the World War II memorial had the most compelling design. It has a central fountain surrounded by pillars. There is a pillar for each state, and each pillar has a green-copper wreath. The pillars present each state in chronological order, but they alternate sides of the circle, so that, for example, Delaware (the first state) and Alaska (the 49th state) are on one side of the fountain, while Pennsylvania (the second state) and Hawaii (the 50th state) are on the other side of the circle. There is also a small "waterfall" from the large reflecting pool into a smaller pool on the edge of the monument.

The Washington Monument has elevators that take you to the top, but you need to get tickets early in the day. Mary and I are not morning people, and we were disappointed. It will take some effort for us to get up early, but we hope to make it happen one day while we are here.

We went into the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, but again, you must get tickets early in the day in order to see the bulk of the exhibits.

We were hungry at the end of the day but we couldn't find any food. Probably because it's Sunday after hours. We finally found a Hard Rock Cafe near 12th and E, and Mary said although she's never been to one, she knows we can find good food there. Well, it turns out almost everything they make has gluten in it. Every salad dressing, every sauce, BBQ sauce, baked potatoes, even the vegetables have a seasoning that has gluten. The manager was very helpful. We ended up with bacon cheeseburgers and huge salads without dressing. Unfortunately, this meant we totally missed out on the Hard Rock Cafe "experience" (except for watching the videos on the wall). But the food was good and we were hungry.


Monday 5 June 2006, 9:32 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Saturday, June 3

I like the College Park area because it is much nicer than Silver Spring, and not as far out as Laurel. Just inside the Beltway there is a Metro station for UMD. But the Holiday Inn here is overpriced and not that comfortable. Also, Mary was not feeling well today, and when either of us gets worse I like to get us out into a new motel just in case. So we left College Park not knowing exactly where we will end up tonight.

I got Mary to a clinic where we could get medications for her minor infection. The clinic is right next to a Rite Aid where we could fill the prescriptions right away, and as soon as she took them, Mary started feeling better.

We tried to find a less expensive room up in Laurel, and I did have a few coupons. (Before this trip, I thought those books of traveler's coupons were useless; now we use them almost every night. The hotel manager our very first night out in El Monte, California suggested that we use them.) Anyway, there is some kind of jazz festival going on here this weekend, and every room in the Laurel area is sold out. We still have a couple of choices: find something up in the Rockville area, and hop on the train in Bethesda in order to ride into town. Bethesda is a real nice area but the hotels are expensive and we have no coupons for that town. But we have some coupons for Rockville. I also found some coupons for Alexandria on the Virginia side. We ended up at a mediocre but passable motel in Alexandria, where we will stay for a few days.

We used the evening to rest up instead of going into DC. Late in the evening Mary felt well enough to go out and look for a Cold Stone Creamery. This is the best she has felt in a couple of weeks. Looks like the day of rest paid off.

Can you help me find this address in Gettysburg?

Monday 5 June 2006, 9:31 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Friday, June 2

Today we went to Gettysburg National Park. I never really knew what Gettysburg was about, except that there is a cemetery there and there was a battle, and President Lincoln gave a speech there.

The park itself is huge. There are supposedly 26 miles of streets in the park, and it takes two full hours just to drive them without even stopping to see the sights. The town of Gettysburg is right in the middle of the park, and some of the sights take you right into town or through town.

A battle took place here July 1-3, 1863. There were separate battles each of the three days, and each was staged in a different place: on the north side of town, on the west side of town, and on the south side of town. This is one reason the park is so big.

There are lots of official and unofficial tours of the park. One of the official tours costs only about $40 and a private guide comes along with you in your own car. I thought that was a great deal pricewise, but of course we don't have room for a third person to ride with us in the truck. We found another option in the bookstore: a set of two audio CDs with a guidebook. You play the CDs in your car and it tells you where to go, where to stop, what to see, and the historical significance of what you are seeing. You can see the park at your own pace, spend more time at the sights that interest you more, take a break to rest or eat, or skip something that seems dull. The CDs cost $20 for the set, and the bookstore clerk said it is the absolute best way to see the park. We took about four to five hours to see pretty much everything except the cemetery.

After finishing up at Gettysburg, we headed on down to Washington DC, only about an hour and a half away. We drove over the bridge into downtown just to see what the monuments look like at night, without intending to get out. Mary did get a few photos of the Washington Monument all lit up, but it was impossible to drive past the front of the Lincoln Memorial. We might try this again before we leave, since we now have Metro passes. There is a night tour but all we really want to do is to get photos of the monuments all lit up at night.

I tried to drive us into Georgetown, but I made a wrong turn or got dis-oriented and we headed north from the mall instead of west. We ended up on Georgia Ave near Walter Reed hospital; then I knew I'd gone terribly wrong. But for a good 30 to 45 minutes, I was just totally lost and I was just trying to keep driving until I passed a familiar-sounding name or a freeway entrance.

We settled into a hotel in College Park, Maryland, on the east side of Washington, around 9:00 pm.

What? No Laptops?

Thursday 1 June 2006, 7:56 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Thursday, June 1

Today we traveled all over the Lancaster area. We started by visiting a quilt store on the west side of town. I left the papers in the car so right now I don't remember the name of it. The store is run by Mennonites and their quilts were beautiful. One difference between the Amish and the Mennonites is that the Mennonites will use electricity. The quilts we saw today were pieced by machine, but quilted by hand. We bought some fabric at a great price, and we bought some trinkets for gifts. If you're on our Christmas gift list, look forward to some fun stuff this year!

We took a 25-minute ride with Amish Barn Buggy Rides, located in the town of Bird In Hand, east of Lancaster on Highway 340. Our driver had grown up Amish but had left when he was about 20 years old. He joined up with the Mennonites, who allowed him to drive his Mustang and take a job in aviation. (The Amish do not allow the use of automobiles or electricity, and they don't allow one to work outside the community.) We had fun swapping stories with him, because he was familiar with Chuck Smith and John Wimber, and he apparently came to a real personal faith through the Vineyard ministry.

The buggy ride took us onto a real working farm where we could see the cows, alfalfa fields, corn fields, house, barn, and diesel equipment. (The Amish use diesel engines to provide hydraulic and pneumatic power for their tools, but they don't use the engines to generate electricity.) He told us about the typical farm (a dairy farm with 64 acres and about 50 cows) and its trials. He also told us what different kinds of workers are and are not allowed to do. For example, construction workers working on a barn might be allowed to use electric tools while on a job, but they are not allowed to let the clients use the electricity to power radios or other appliances. Also, an Amish landlord might have electricity in their house if they are renting a room to someone who is not Amish, but only the renter can use the electricity; the landlord cannot.

Finally, we went to the Lancaster County History Museum. We hoped to learn more about the Amish and the Mennonites, but we didn't really learn anything new, except that the central Pennsylvania area became a destination for several persecuted religious sects, including also Quakers and Huguenots. It showed that one president was from Pennsylvania and lived nearby. Daniel Boone was from this area. Davy Crockett campaigned here. Abraham Lincoln passed by here twice, once on the way from Illinois to his inauguration, and the other on the way home to his burial. Overall, we thought the museum was very well done, but geared more toward children, and overpriced.

We are now in Gettysburg. We hope to visit the National Park and the cemetery tomorrow. There's a lot here to get through. But the hotel here is expensive and we're determined to move on quickly. We hope to be in the Washington DC area by late tomorrow night. That's less than two hours away from here.

War Happens

Thursday 1 June 2006, 7:55 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Wednesday, May 31

Today, we went to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's capital city. It is a well-done museum, arranged in roughly chronological order, with separate rooms for each year of the war. It also devotes a room to the pre-war causes of conflict, and another room to reflection on the costs of the war. We ran out of time and had to rush through the last couple of rooms. But we enjoyed it quite a lot and we learned a lot. Our main complaints would be that the light was sometimes too low to read the text, and the lettering contrast (red with yellow shadows on translucent smoke colored plastic) was sometimes too low.

We stayed in the Harrisburg area tonight, because Mary is still not feeling well. We will leave for Lancaster and the Amish country tomorrow morning, since it's not too far down the road from here.

Science Happens

Thursday 1 June 2006, 7:53 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Tuesday, May 30

Today we went to the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. We didn't arrive there until after 1 pm, and it was recommended that we not try to see two movies and all the exhibits in only four hours. But Mary wasn't feeling too well, so the idea of sitting for a while in the IMAX movie theater appealed to her. We signed up for two movies: Magnificent Desolation (about moon exploration), and The Mystery of the Nile (about the first traversal of the complete Blue Nile from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean).

We also saw a presentation called Stars Over Pittsburgh, which presented a simulation of the night sky. The presentation showed how to locate and identify the various constellations visible during spring and summer in Pittsburgh.

The museum had a WWII submarine, the USS Requin, that you could go inside and explore. We were surprised at the ease with which we could move around, but the very small spaces provided for the sailors to sleep.

The museum had exhibits about the eye, color, prisms, sound, earthquakes, airplane wings and air pressure, among others. We did not see everything in the museum, but we were happy with what we were able to get to. The exhibits are really geared toward younger people, but they were still interesting to us old folks.

Pittsburgh has interesting geography. The Allegheny River flows in from the north, and combines with the Monongahela River, which flows in from West Virginia to the southeast, to form the Ohio River, which flows out to the west. Consequently, the city has lots of bridges over the rivers. Where the rivers come together, there is Point State Park, which we tried to get to, but we could not find parking nearby. I thought it would be fun to dip our ties into three large rivers at the same time.

The National Aviary, the Carnegie Science Museum, and two ball fields are in the North Shore area, north of all the rivers. The downtown area, the universities, and the "strip" are located between the Allegheny and the Monongahela. We also drove around near Frick Park and Squirrel Hill, a hilly area to the east of the universities. We got lost but eventually found our way to a freeway, and we were on our way to Harrisburg and the Amish country.

Sixteen Tons

Monday 29 May 2006, 9:48 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Sunday, May 28

This morning we went to church at Calvary Chapel Beckley in Beckley, West Virginia. I counted only about 14 people in the church including us. I didn't see any kids, but they may have been off in another room. We met the pastor, Ed, his assistant, Gary, and several ladies, including Cindy, who gave us lots of advice about things to see in the area.

After lunch, we visited Tamarack, a gift shop, conference center, restaurant, and theater that showcases handmade West Virginia art. We saw lots of wood, glass, quilts, paintings, and photographs. We didn't buy anything. We were glad we'd eaten elsewhere, because although the food looked wonderful, all of it violated our food allergies.

The highlight of our visit to Tamarack was a live big band concert. The Smoot Theater House Band from Parkersburg was holding a free concert in Tamarack's auditorium. The band consisted of about five each saxes, trombones, and trumpets, plus a small rhythm section. They ranged in age from under 30 to old enough to have played with the Glenn Miller orchestra! They were mostly band instructors and other music teachers from the local school systems. I don't have the flier with me right now, but they played an hour's worth of standards including When I Fall In Love, In The Mood, The Nearness Of You, and One Note Samba. They also played a couple of more modern swing pieces written by big band arrangers. They ended with a "patriotic" medley (which, to our consternation, included both Dixie and Yankee Doodle) and a sing-along of America the Beautiful.

Later in the afternoon, we visited the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. This is a real mine that was in use until about 100 years ago, and you can ride a real mine car into it. They talk about what kind of light the miners used, and they demonstrate different kinds of candle and fire light. They also talk about how the mining is actually done, and various tools that have been used over the years, from quite primitive ones to more modern ones that look like large chainsaws. In addition to the mine, the site includes real houses, shanties, churches, and other buildings moved here from mining camps around the state.

Early in the evening, we tried to find our way to the New River Gorge, billed as the "grand canyon of the east." We found the New River and a bridge over it, but I think we missed the best of it somehow. We had been advised to visit a place called Grandview, but that was the wrong direction so we tried to see the gorge from a different place. Oh, well. We were very tired and we turned in early at the little town of Burnsville in a very worn-down and overpriced motel. It was a bad night because the A/C did not work and neither of us could sleep.

Memorial Day, Monday, May 29

Happy memorial day to you!

We took off today not knowing where we would end up, but aiming toward the Amish country of Pennsylvania. Once we got going, it appeared that would be quite a long trip, so we detoured to Pittsburgh instead. We visited the National Aviary on the north shore side of town. Pittsburgh also has a zoo and aquarium combination, but we have had our fill of those for a while. We may visit another aquarium in Baltimore later.

Tomorrow we hope to visit the Carnegie Science Center, which includes a WWII submarine, 300 hands-on exhibits, and an IMAX presentation. It is supposedly an all-day affair to visit there. We hope to leave in time to head our towards Lancaster or some other Amish kind of destination in southern Pennsylvania, as we make our way toward Washington DC.

For those keeping track, Mary says Pennsylvania is the 20th state we have visited.

(I expect we will hit 21 more states plus DC by the time we are done, unless Mary twists my arm to skirt a few more.)

The lizard family

Monday 29 May 2006, 8:59 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Here are the photos of the lizard family that I promised to post.

The whole family

Close up

Pahrump Pupfish

Pahrump close up

Lizbeth Louise

Lizbeth close up

Smoky the Singing Salamander

Smoky close up

Out of Tennessee

Saturday 27 May 2006, 9:12 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Friday, May 25

Today we found a new Bible for Mary at the Bible Factory Outlet at the outlets in Pigeon Forge. We also visited the Christian Book Warehouse in Sevierville. Before we left town, we ended up at the Smoky Mountain Knife Works, billed as the world's largest knife store. We went there because my swiss army knife had a broken spring on the scissors. I didn't know it, but they sell the spring separately (30 cents, no less) and you can install it yourself if you are brave. They also sell the tweezers and toothpicks separately. We also bought a can of Bollitroll (sp?), a cleaner and lubricant made for guns, but which works well for knives.

We had lunch at Fat Mo's again. It was just as good the second time around.

We are finally on the way out of Tennessee. I wanted to go through Bristol because of this song by David Massengill:

Number One In America - David Massengill - From "The Great American Bootleg Tape" and "Coming Up For Air"

In nineteen hundred and sixty-three
In my hometown, Bristol, Tennessee
I was sitting on my mother's knee
Watching Amos & Andy on T.V.

Amos was Santa Claus on Christmas Eve
A little girl was tugging at his sleeve
Saying, "Can I have a doll my own color, please?"
He said, "Honey, you can make believe"

Just then came a call on the telephone
It was the Mayor, asked if my daddy was home
This was for his ears alone
Mom and me listened on the second phone

Mayor said, "The Freedom Riders are on their way
They'll be here by Christmas Day
Our laws they vow to disobey
'Cause our school's as white as the Milky Way"

The Ku Klux Klan is still around
With a permit to march in my home town
But only on Virginia's ground
The Tennessee side turned them down

Sheriff stood there with his deputies
Ostensibly to keep the peace
But he made us this guarantee
"By God, they'll not march into Tennessee"

The network cameras were triple-tiered
We laughed and cried, we hooted and jeered
But mostly we stood there unfeared
'Til the Ku Klux Klan disappeared

We got to drive down State Street, with Tennesse on our right and Virginia on our left. We took a photo of a big sign ... "Bristol VA TN, a great place to live." Doesn't sound so much like that. I'll post the photo when we get a chance.

Saturday, May 27

Today we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway from the North Carolina Border to about Roanoke. Then we got bored and hopped on the freeway. We've ended up in Buckley, West Virginia, where we hope to visit the local Calvary Chapel. After that, we will visit a coal mine museum, which is what passes for culture in these parts. We'll let you know later how that went.

Shopper's Paradise

Saturday 27 May 2006, 9:10 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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"Is that where they make cast iron pigeons or something?"
- A conversation I had once with Rob French.

Thursday, May 25

Today we spent a lot of time in the Pigeon Forge and Sevierville area. It's a tourist trap near Gatlinburg, but they really do have the largest set of outlets we have ever seen. This is really a shopper's paradise. Our truck bed is getting so full that we're considering shipping some stuff home. But that doesn't stop us from looking.

We started our day at the Little Blessings quilt shop in Crossvile. The gals there were very friendly and joked with us a lot about their accents (and ours). They suggested we try another store called the Cherry Pit, in Sevierville. We got to that store just before they closed, but I don't think we bought anything there. Mary did find some special free-motion foot in the first store. I think it is transparent and lets you see the needle while you're sewing.

At the outlets, Mary found a pair of Birkenstocks. She has been looking for months. We also found a store with interesting kinds of socks. If you're on our Christmas gift list, you might find a pair ... in your stocking ... this year. Mary also found a Scrapbooking outlet where she bought some doodads. And we found a VF store with the exact kind of pants I will need for the remainder of our trip and for the Europe trip also. Mary got a few things there too.

We ate dinner at a burger place called Fat Mo's. The name reminded me of the old Fat Jack's restaurant in Fresno (now moved to Clovis). The advertisement for the 27-ounce burger was eye-catching. We had only the 8-ounce model. Mine came with the bun, which I didn't order. I took that as a sign and ate it anyway. Yummy! They put a little pepper on the meat that gives it extra flavor. It can be ordered with bacon, grilled onions, bbq sauce, and jalapenos.

In case I hadn't mentioned it before, we are trying to east some of the 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die, as compiled by GQ magazine. So far, we have eaten only at the Bobcat Bite, in Santa Fe. But we would also rank Fat Mo's burger very highly. Look here for more burger reports as we hit New York, Chicago, and Detroit.


Thursday 25 May 2006, 12:12 am
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Wednesday, May 24

Today we went through the Cataloochie section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This section along the eastern edge of the park is mostly accessible via unpaved roads. I did not know that when we started out, but it was still a fun day. There were several more areas with many butterflies, including one swarm in the campground near the restrooms. They swarm together on the ground, and the best we can figure is that they are gathering around scat. But we can't figure out why they would do that.

We entered the Cataloochie section at its southern end, near Maggie Valley, and we emerged at its northern end, where I-40 crosses from North Carolina into Tennessee. Then we headed back into Tennessee for the upteenth time in hopes of visiting a friend who lives near Knoxville.

This evening we visited Dave and Randi Elliot and their munchkins Ethan, and twins Matthew and Avery. Dave and Randi used to work at Aspect with Mary before they moved out to Florida. They moved to Tennessee less than two weeks ago. It was fun hearing about all the changes they've been through in the several years since we've last seen them. (Ethan was an infant then, and he is five years old now.) It was also fun seeing the children and playing with them. Randi took incriminating photos of Mary and me holding the twins. I think Mary is trying to get me ready for grandfatherhood some day, but she's going to have to kick her own kids in the pants first in order to make that happen.

Tonight we also decided definitely that we are not going to Spring Berkshires in Massachusetts this weekend. Tomorrow, we will head east toward the Blue Ridge Parkway, follow it up toward West Virginia, and eventually land in Washington DC, where we hope to spend several days. I hope we can find a motel this weekend. Mary's real worried about that. It finding a motel near Washington doesn't work out, we might try to head toward the more rural areas of Pennsylvania, like the Amish country, or we might even just head to the "middle of nowhere" and camp restfully for a few days.

Holy Smokies

Thursday 25 May 2006, 12:11 am
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Tuesday, May, 23

Today we visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This park supposedly gets more visitors than any other national park in the system. Perhaps it is close to several populated areas, and perhaps it is because it is free. Can you believe it? Which other national park is free?

The guidebooks indicated that we'd need two days to fully appreciate the park; one day to visit Cades Cove, and one day to go over the divide and see Clingman Dome, the highest point in Tennessee. We hoped to do a little of each and finish it all in one day. This turned out to be a bit of an adventure.

Cades Cove is a beautiful drive that takes you past several small waterfalls very near the roadway. At the end is a scenic loop where you can view houses and churches from the time period 1880-1900. Each of the three churches also has a small cemetery. The cemetery we visited seemed to be in current use, having stones dated as late as 2002. The first church, the Missionary Baptist, had an interesting feature ("graffiti," as one ranger called it) ... you could see handprints in the ceiling. Apparently the ceiling was constructed as one man held up the board while another nailed it into place ... the hands drew out the sap in the wood, and the resulting handprints are still visible today.

We saw lots of birds and butterflies in Cades Cove, but one "wildlife jam" (a long line of stopped cars) made us get out and investigate. It turns out there was a mama bear and three cubs near a tree. Many people circled around, keeping their distance and taking photographs. Whenever people would get too close, mama bear would chase the babies up the tree for their protection. We got a few photographs, and while blurry, you can distinctly make out the mama bear and one cub in several of the photos. We talked to one gentleman who has lived in the area for several years, and visits the park often, and he has never seen a bear here. Mary told me later that she had prayed a bear sighting opportunity and she was very happy with the form of the answer.

Since the wildlife jam slowed us down and the bear view put us way behind schedule, we were rushing to get out of the Cades Cove area and see Clingman Dome before we lost daylight. When we got to the Clingman Dome parking lot, we found 20 minutes of sunlight left, and a 30-minute hike still ahead of us. They have built a tower at the top of the mountain, and it takes you above the treeline for a less obstructed view. The trail is one-half mile long, gains 300 feet of elevation, suggests and walking time of 30 minutes, warns of altitude related problems, and suggests a slow hike. We walked quite quickly up the hill to make it before sunset, and Mary had some athsma by the time we got to the top. However, we were rewarded with a fantastic sunset that lasted almost an hour from start to finish. We got lots of photos, and lots of beautiful memories.

After coming all the way through the park, we stayed in Maggie Valley on the south side of the park (North Carolina).

Not sure if I ever mention that at the St. Louis Zoo we bought a companion for Pahrump, our blue and green lizard. Her name is Lizbeth Louise and she is blue and yellow with some spots. Well, today we found an orange salamander in the GSMNP gift shop. He is pretty realistic looking, and they all get along well together. His name is Smoky the Singing Salamander. His mouth is wide open, and at first I thought we was yelling, or perhaps constantly hungry. But Mary determined that he likes to sing rock and roll, possibly Elvis, and he likes to "serenade" the other lizards. He also like to yell when we go through tunnels.

We also bought a little black bear. I have one at home that I got from my mother. His name is Blackie. We have named the new little one "BJ" for Blackie Jr. He likes to sit in the back seat inside the hood of Mary's jacket, or snuggled up in Mary's blanket. We think he might believe the tiger on Mary's blanket is actually his mama bear.

We learned that the Smoky Mountains are named for the "mists" that rise here in the late afternoon and evening. We first noticed this last night even before we got to the park. I kept asking Mary whether my windows were dirty or whether it was foggy outside. Some brochures say the mists are due to the unusally dense deciduous vegetation here ... the large levels of oxygen given off by the plants. But the amount of "haze" has apparently increased since the park opened, because of automobile traffic and growth of cities nearby.

We learned that the biological diversity of the Smoky Mountains were caused by the most recent ice age, when species from Canada moved south into the higher elevations of this park, which was just south of the ice sheet. We were told that in the 45-minute drive from the lower elevations to the heights of Clingman Dome, we would encounter the same change of plants as we would in a drive from Tennessee to Canada.

We learned that there are more salamanders, by weight, in GSMNP than there are bears. That's a lot of salamanders!

Built on the Moor

Thursday 25 May 2006, 12:06 am
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Monday, May 22

Today we visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Our chiropractor, Dr. Dean, suggested we visit this last year when we were in NC to greet Matthew as he returned from Iraq. Unfortunately, Camp Lejune and Asheville at at opposite ends of a not-so-small state, so we didn't make it here then.

Billed as the country's largest private residence, the estate was built by George W. Vanderbilt in the 1890's. It was intended to be a working estate that could sustain itself from ranches and farms worked within its gates.

I thought the ticket prices were steep at $45 (including audio tour), but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the product. The audio tour is a definite must; otherwise, you'll be totally lost. I thought the house was pretty cool. The tour included four floors plus the basement. The guest rooms were scrumptious, but it was fascinating to learn how the "other half" lived in the servants quarters and the basement kitchen.

Mary liked the gardens the best. There are several hot houses, a cactus room, areas where you can see plants being potted and prepared, and acres of roses and azaleas. Almost a mile down a path through flowers and forests, you'll find a pond with a small boathouse. There are lots of birds throughout and even though you can hear cars in the parking lots, it's still peaceful.

The estate is spread out over miles, with miles between the populated areas that include the main house, a winery, gardens, and an inn. Each area includes restaurants and gift stores.

Overall, we found the estate worthwhile if not slightly overpriced.

When we were all done in Asheville, we headed a couple hours back up into Tennessee to Gatlinburg, the northern entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Thursday 25 May 2006, 12:05 am
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Sunday, May 21

Today we went to Marietta Vineyard Church. It is a very friendly church and we met a lot of people. The message was also very good. They are doing a series on the Sermon on the Mount, and the specific passage dealt with adultery and divorce. They also had some powerful worship; unfortunately, we knew only one of the songs they sang. After the service we spoke to several people, but we were particularly impressed with one of the worship leaders, who spoke of having lost her husband earlier this year, yet she still overflowed with the love and joy of the Lord.

We found a health food store next to the church, but it was closed. Next door we found an art studio being run by a native American gentleman, who spoke to us for a while. He describes himself as a "storyteller" and he sure did like to talk! He told us one story of a band of indians who were saved by two of their leaders, who volunteered to be arrested and executed under the condition that the rest of their tribe could be allowed to relocate peaceably.

OK, we found an open health food store across the street. We stocked up on healthful junk food (?!??!) and items we can use to make lunch on the road, so we won't have to stop for fast food.

From Atlanta, we headed northeast to Greenville, South Carolina. We didn't really spend any time there, but just passed through, turning northwest to head for Asheville, North Carolina. We want to visit the Biltmore Estate tomorrow.

Counting the states

Saturday 20 May 2006, 5:21 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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One goal of this trip was to try to visit all the states we've never visited before. So far we have been to 15 states; 7 of them we've been to before, and 8 are new for us. Before this trip, I had been to about 33 states, leaving about 17 remaining to visit (don't forget to count DC).

Let's see ... I was raised in California and childhood trips took the family to Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.

A church choir trip took me to Hawaii in 1977. Business trips between 1985 and 1991 took me to DC, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Texas. Square dancing events have taken me to Michigan, Ohio, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. In 1985 I visited a friend new Des Moines, Iowa, and in 1997 I visited a friend near Boulder, Colorado. in 1995, I visited Sedona, Arizona for the first time to attend a concert.

In 2004, Mary and I visited Nebraska and South Dakota when we went to Mount Rushmore. In 2005, we met Matthew in North Carolina when he returned from Iraq; we went to Disney World in Florida; we drove through New Mexico when we went to URDC in Texas; and we flew to Mississippi to work with CityTeam in November.

So far, on this trip we have been to California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, all of which we'd been to before. Since leaving MS, we've been to Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia. That makes eight new states for both of us. And it leaves only seven states we've never been to.

It looks like we will go through South Carolina, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania before we get to New England. And going through Wisconsin on the way home is a no-brainer.

This all leaves 3 states we won't make it to: Oklahoma, Kansas, and Alaska. It doesn't look like we'll have anywhere near enough time to get to Alaska this trip.

Mary's not sure what all states she has been to, because she was born in Michigan but lived for a time in Virginia before they moved to the west coast. Of the states she's not sure about, the only ones we're not sure we'll get to are Iowa and Colorado.

You can see that we're mostly traveling "around" the country but not getting to the states in the very "middle" of the country.

Stuck in Atlanata again

Saturday 20 May 2006, 5:04 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Mary is ill today, so we're staying in Atlanta for third night involuntarily. Mary has been in bed all day. We hope to find a CC here near Marietta before we take off for Greenville, SC tomorrow.

Swimming with the fishes

Friday 19 May 2006, 7:24 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Today we went to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, which is billed as the world's largest aquarium. Mary says it is the only aquarium she's been to that meets up to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and probably exceeds it. It did include two large species, the whale shark and the beluga whale.

The aquarium has five sections: ocean, tropical, cold water (arctic), rivers (fresh water), and "Georgia Explorer." The Georgia section included species indigenous to this state, mostly along the coasts. It included a video about whales who calve here. It also had several hands-on exhibits, where the kids can pet shrimp and stingrays.

The whale shark was found in the ocean section, which featured a tunnel through and under the tank. It was fun watching the small fish shadow the large ones, a defense mechanism they use to keep them away from larger predators.

The beluga whale, an arctic species, was found in the cold water section, which also included penguins that inhabit South Africa. It also included the curious Leafy Sea Dragons from Australia.

The tropical section included two large tanks of colorful fish, three separate tanks of jellyfish with suitably restful accompanying music, and the clownfish of "Nemo" fame.

The river section included a tank of red piranha, who flew into the fabled frenzy at feeding time. The piranha tank (and several others) has a tunnel where youngsters can get a close-up view (if they are short enough to enter the tunnel). For those of us a little taller, the river section included a simulated river over our heads where we could view the fish from below.

We rate the Georgia Aquarium very highly. It took us about 3-1/2 hours to go through every exhibit. We got out just in time to walk around the corner to the CNN building, where we were able to take the last studio tour of the day. We were able to see the a mock-up control room, a mock-up studio, and two real newsrooms. I thought it was mildly interesting how they use color techniques to let a weather person stand in front of blank colored wall that will receive a map background later. It was also fun to watch the anchors speak and see them live on a monitor at the same time. What you see on the TV screen has all kinds of added graphics, logos, etc. and looks very different from the studio setting. Overall, though, we thought the tour was overpriced at $12 per person.

Tomorrow, we had hoped to see the Atlanta Zoo, but it is closing early to prepare for special festivities this weekend, and it won't be worthwhile to go for only half the day. Our other options are to go to a patriotism museum and the large Martin Luther King section of town. I don't think our heart is on either one of those. I'm feeling a lot better today, but Mary thinks she is coming down with something now. We got her medicated right away, so hopefully she'll be over it more quickly than I was.

Our next destination would be Greenville, South Carolina, and from their traveling north if the weather clears up. We hope to go to a Calvary Chapel in Greenville on Sunday.

Ave Maria

Thursday 18 May 2006, 7:50 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Wednesday, May 17

Today we visited the Ave Maria Grotto. Bonnie and Pastor Di from Bay St. Louis had suggested we see this. It is called "Jerusalem in Miniature" and it has scenes from around the world constructed years ago by one of the monks, which died in 1961. It has representations of Jerusalem, Rome, missions including several in California, and many other things. One of the scenes is the grotto itself. Grotto means cave, and there is a small cave roughly 27 feet high, 27 feet wide, and 27 feet deep, with a statue of Mary holding the Christ child, and many angels surrounding her. There must be hundreds of figures in the cave.

We tried to find the Cast Iron store we missed a few days ago. I thought it was in the same town as an Unclaimed Baggage store. The UB store was like a big overpriced Goodwill store, but interesting in its way. There were lots of older digital cameras and Palm pilots. Sunglasses, computers, sports equipment, and lots of clothes. We didn't buy anything. Turns out the cast iron store was still farther up the road and the wrong direction, so we gave up on it.

Headed instead toward Boaz, Billed as the largest outlet shopping paradise in the south. Turns out most of the stores were vacant, and those occupied were stores we'd never heard of. However, we did find a Bible Outlet, not the same chain as we visited in Missouri, but a single family-owned store. The store owner has a son who is about to graduate from high school and go into the service (hasn't decided what branch yet), and Mary was able to encourage him with a lot of what she has learned as a Marine Mom. Mary felt this was a divine appointment and God brought us to this store.

After we left there, we also found a scrapbook store where Mary bought a couple things.

We started heading for our next destination, Atlanta, but I ran out of steam real quick and we stopped in Anniston, Alabama. We had a nice meal at Ruby Tuesday and brought leftovers back to our room, But because the refrigerator was not plugged in, all the leftover spoiled. The wireless didn't work either, so we had no internet access. Remind me not to stay in Travelodge again. Oh, well, there were tracts in the front so maybe he was a Christian. ??

Thursday, May 18

Very slow day today. We took a scenic route into the Talledega National Forest. It was beautiful, very green, and there were wildflowers here and there. The scenery changed several times over the course of 30 miles or so.

We got into Murietta, about 20 miles out of Atlanta, pretty early and took an early dinner at Outback Steakhouse. We don't normally eat there. But the waitress showed us they have a gluten-free menu! Mary was pretty jazzed about that. The GF menu is on their web site. We even had a decadent chocolate thing for dessert.

Our hotel has wired ethernet in the rooms and wireless in the lobby. Since our room is located directly above the lobby, I don't need to plug in. Cool!

Tomorrow we hope to visit the Aquarium here, billed as the largest in the world, having two whales and two sharks. We'd also like to visit the zoo here, which has has Pandas.

Pardon me boy, is that the ...

Thursday 18 May 2006, 7:50 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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I haven't been feeling too well this week. I've been very tired, and on Monday I caught a cold. I was pretty messed up on Tuesday, and we bought some medications to stop the coughing and help me sleep. Mary has been doing more than her usual share of the driving, but she's still found plenty of time to read her Bible when I am driving. She is reading about two hours each day, trying to finish her Bible before we return by more than doubling the pace.

Sunday, May 14

Today we went to church at Calvary Chapel Rivergate here in Goodlettsville. It was a much larger church than we were expecting, and we didn't really get to talk to anyone. We were a little disappointed.

We didn't really have a plan today. I told Mary we could just relax or do whatever she wanted because it is Mother's Day. She got to talk to both Matthew and Aaron, which was a real treat for her.

We just drove down to near Chattanooga, then we drove down into Alabama just to see what is there. Basically just a Sunday drive. We saw a sign for a Cast Iron Outlet but we got there just after they closed up for the day. Most everything was closed up on Sunday after 5 pm. We did have a real nice drive, then I got real tired. My intention had been to head east from northern Alabama into northern Georgia, not coming back into Tennessee again. But when I got tired, we decided that we were just a little more than an hour from Chattanooga, and we'd be best to stay there for the night. This was definitely the right decision, as we ended up staying two days in Chattanooga, and it was definitely one of the more interesting places we have stayed on our trip.

After checking into the motel, we wandered across the street to Cracker Barrel to have a late dinner. I said, "Mary, they are playing hymns on the sound system." As we left, I remembered that at Grand Ole Opry they mentioned that CB sponsored a CD of hymns sung by Amy Grant. I asked whether this was the CD they were playing in the restaurant, and we found a copy to buy right there in the store. We haven't listened to it yet. The folks at Cracker Barrel are definitely the friendliest servers we have met so far.

Not sure if I mentioned that at Grand Ole Opry, several of the songs were Christian in nature and several of the musicians were Christians, and several of them made mention of it. I remarked to Mary that we'd never hear comments like those in California.

Monday, May 15

Today we ran a marathon. We started the day by sending a birthday package to Matthew. We bought a bunch of stuff for him at the Cracker Barrel store last night, and today we visited the post office to fill out custom forms and whatnot. Then Mary had to check out a Hobby Lobby store since she has heard of them but never visited one. She did buy a bunch of stuff but did not spend a lot of money. She really liked the selection and the prices. I whiled away the time in a Best Buy store next door. I found a CD of hymns recorded by Johnny Cash, and the Passion CD recorded by David Crowder Band having the song "How Great Is Our God,", which Mary really likes. Then we went on a shopping spree at the local Chattanooga health food store. The selection was very good and one of the stockers there was very helpful, but the guy who checked us out was rude. We found some gluten-free pizza crusts that we hope to heat up later in the toaster over. Mary found pre-shredded cheese and I found a small bottle of pizza sauce.

Our first attraction was the Incline Railway on Lookout Mountain. This rail line rises about 1000 feet over the course of a mile, or an average 18 percent grade. You can view the valley below as you rise. When we bought tickets, we bought a package that also includes a gardens called Rock City and a waterfall called Ruby Falls.

At the top of Lookout Mountain there are two very interesting attractions. One is the Battles For Chattanooga Museum, which includes the "Electric Map." This is sort of a large relief map of the Chattanooga area populated by armies as they would be positioned during the Civil War. The lights dim as in a theater, then the map lights up with all the action that took place during the war. A running commentary tells you everything that is going on. I liked the fact that it was done on a map. Mary liked the fact that it was a "visual" presentation. She still questions why the schools don't present history in interesting ways like was done here.

At the top of Lookout Mountain, there is also a National Park devoted to the Chattanooga battles. The museum there was closed, but the park makes for a nice little walk, and the views are outstanding. There are some Civil War cannons posted around the park, and another couple took our photo, then I took their photo.

Back down the mountain and halfway back around we found Rock City. I thought this was just going to be a scenic view from a high overlook. But it was much more than that. It is a natural pile of very large stones that you can walk between like city streets. The owners built a path that goes down through the rocks then comes up to let you walk on bridges over the rocks. They claim that you can view seven states from the overlook, but I don't believe it. It is a very pretty walk and the owners have tried to make it interesting by adding "fairyland" sections and whatnot for the kids.

We still had tickets for Ruby Falls, but no time to use them today, so we decided to stay here one more day. We drove to a downtown area to see the Chattanooga Choo Choo. We did not even know what to expect. Turns out this is an old train station converted into a hotel and conference center. There are some shops and stuff too. We are too late to shop, but we had dinner in the hotel. They were really not prepared to serve any kind of gluten free meal, but we made the best of it.

On the way back to our hotel, we found a Staples store and I bought a refill for my favorite pen. It has been out for weeks, but we haven't seen a Staples until now, and they are the only store that carries refills. (It is the PhD Multi, which also has a PDA stylus.)

Tuesday, May 16

Today we went to Ruby Falls. It is an indoor underground waterfall over 100 feet high. You have to go down in an elevator, then take a guided tour that lasts about an hour. The whole thing is quite over-hyped, but the waterfall is nice. They played obnoxious music at the waterfall (Mary does not agree that the music was obnoxious). They did have the waterfall lit in a nice way. They let us go "underneath" the waterfall which was the best view. Along the way, we had to walk through a cave that had lots of formations identified. Since we had already been to Carlsbad and Mammoth, this cave had nothing new to offer us. But it did allow very close-up view of some interesting formations like drapery.

We went back down the Chattanooga Choo Choo, got some ice cream to soothe my sore throat, then bought choo choo hats in the gift store.

Tomorrow, we want to visit the Ave Maria Grotto in northern Alabama. We head south and with Mary driving we make it to Cullman, Alabama. We settle into the motel and make our homemade pizzas, which don't taste half bad.


Saturday 13 May 2006, 11:29 pm
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Saturday, May 13

Today we went to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The only tour available today was the Frozen Niagara Tour. Most of the tour is through "dry" caves, that is, caves not currently being eroded and shaped by water. But there is one "wet" area, and that is the Frozen Niagara area. This is an area of "drapery" which is quite a contrast to the "dry" areas where you enter and exit the caves.

We liked it a lot. Mammoth is supposed to be the "longest" cave system in the country, but for beauty, it can't compare with Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Still, we were glad we saw it.

We finished up early, and it was only 1-1/2 hours to Nashville, so we decided to get on into town and maybe take in a show. And what else to do in Nashville but visit the Grand Ole Opry? We had a good time even though country music is not my favorite. There was some good bluegrass, which I like, and a couple of newer, younger, energetic acts. Mary had a great time.

Tomorrow, I had hoped to visit Belmont Church, where Steve Fry was pastor until a couple of months ago. But we are staying on the north side of Nashville in the little town of Goodlettsville, and we found that there is a Calvary Chapel only about two miles from here. I don't believe in coincidence, so I think we will head out to CC tomorrow unless we feel differently after praying.

After church, we plan to head back south, but not very far since Tennessee is such a skinny state from top to bottom, to the northern part of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. That way, we can cross three more states off our list. Also, that will put us in good position to start our way up the Blue Ridge Parkway on Monday. The parkway ends up in the Washington DC area, where we hope to stay for the good part of a week visiting museums.

There is a square dance in western Massachusetts on Memorial Weekend, two weeks from now. We don't know how far we'll be by then, but if we are at least getting near New York by then, then we'll be able to go to that dance.

St. Louis

Saturday 13 May 2006, 11:28 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
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Thursday, May 11

The weather today is very windy, but there is no rain.

Today we visited the arch. Officially, it is known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The Gateway Arch celebrates the westward expansion that began with the journeys of Lewis and Clark during the Jefferson presidency. There are four activities at the memorial. There is a film about the journey of Lewis and Clark. It was fascinating and we both learned a lot. There was a film about the construction of the arch. Mary wanted to see this while I was ambivalent. I found it more interesting than I'd anticipated. I recommend it. Then there is the actual tram that goes to the top of the arch. It is built very much like a regular elevator that has several cars tied together. However, the elevator is not strictly vertical; it sort of goes up in vertical sections but it has to "jog" on an angle once in a while. The cars are circular so they can navigate the occasional curves. The tram takes about four minutes to climb nearly to the top of the 630-foot arch. Stairs take you the last 20 feet or so. It takes about four minutes to return. You can stay on the top as long as you like and take pictures.

The fourth piece is the museum, which is the only piece that doesn't cost money. The museum is interesting but overwhelming.

There is also a courthouse building at a separate location, but we didn't see that.

After leaving the arch, we bought Metrorail tickets and headed out to Union Station, where we were told there was a neighborhood with restaurants. It turns out Union Station is a railroad station rehabilitated into a shopping mall. We walked around the mall, and eventually ended up at Landry's Seafood House, where we had wonderful dinners. Mary got to talk to our waitress quite extensively about food allergies and how they might be causing the waitress's migraines.

Friday, May 12

The weather today is very windy, but there is no rain.

Today we went to the zoo. The St. Louis Zoo is rated the #1 zoo in the country. After visiting, we decided that this is not because of the zoo's size, because the San Diego Zoo is definitely larger and more interesting. But it is because the zoo is free, and it is very kid-friendly. The first things we noticed, before we even got into the zoo, were the line of busses in the street and the crowds of children around the entrance. Apparently the schools find this to be the best kind of field trip for the kids. Inside, we noticed that many of the displays are at kid-level. It was sometimes hard for us old folks to bend down that low, but how could we complain?

Our first destination was the Insectarium. This is where we found many displays at a low height so the kids could see inside without being lifted or held. We did see some neat stuff like bright blue cockroaches. The displays emphasize the importance of bugs in things like pollination and clean-up of feces.

The highlight of our day was the butterfly wing of the Insectarium. In this room, you can see about 30 different kinds of butterflies in a natural setting. They fly around and if you are lucky, they will stop to eat long enough for you to take a photograph. A few special people had the butterflies land on them. The butterflies were all very colorful and there was a card you could use to identify them. Mary got lots of photos, and I hope to post some of them.

We also visited the primate building, which was boring. Outside, there were sea lions, turtles, polar bears, grizzly bears, and black bears. The grizzly bears would sit up and beg for food, which was humorous. I think Mary got a photograph. Otherwise, the animals all seemed bored.

There was also a penguinarium, which somehow didn't seem as interesting as tbe one I saw at the Detroit Zoo many years ago.

We left St. Louis and headed toward Louisville, Kentucky. We want to go to Mammoth Cave National Park near Bowling Green. We crossed through southern Illinois and into the southern tip of Indiana. Then we found what looked like a shorter route through Evansville and onto toll highways across Kentucky. I don't really know whether this ended up being shorter because I made a couple of wrong turns and got lost a couple of times. We asked a toll-taker where to stay near Bowling Green, and she suggested I-65 exit 22. Once we got there, we found a Denny's and got one of those magazines with hotel discount coupons. We have been using those a lot on this trip. In the magazine, we found a coupon for a hotel at exit 53, right near the park entrance but 30 more miles up the road. We decided to get in real close, and the motel was nice.

We never encountered any rain today, also when we were passing near Evansville the radio indicated rain there.

Racing the rain

Saturday 13 May 2006, 11:27 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

We've settled into a bit of a routine this week. We get up around 10 am and leave the hotel just around check-out time. We usually try to find something to eat, so we don't really get going until noon-ish or later. In the afternoon we visit something. Some time after 5 pm when most of the museums and sights close, we get on the road for at least a couple of hours. We find a hotel and we stay up until around 1 am reading our bibles and checking stuff on the internet. We've had internet access just about every night since we left the gulf coast.

For the first few days this week, there was heavy wind and rain in the late afternoon, and on at least two days, there were tornado warnings withing 30 miles of us. We bought a radio that has weather band but it is useless. Fortunately, when there are tornado warnings, they interrupt the radio stations using the emergency broadcast system. So if we are listening to the radio we do get some indication what is happening near us.

Monday, May 8

Today we were in Natchez, Mississippi. This is a beautiful old town on the Mississippi River. It is also the starting point of the Natchez Trace Parkway, a road that winds through beautiful greenery near the Natchez Trace, an old trail that has been in use for hundreds of years by indians and explorers of the area.

We visited an old mansion, the Melrose Estate, which is a part of the National Park system. This mansion was built in the 1820's, and it is an example of greek revival architecture. Here is a small picture of the building. It is a beautiful building, but IMHO the tour was not worth the fee we paid for it. Mary really liked it, though. Even though it is a large building, on the bottom floor it has only the large hallway, a dining room, a drawing room, a living room, and a library. On the upper floor there is the large hallway and four bedrooms. All the rooms are large and they are decorated with the original furniture, which was passed down with each purchase of the property. I guess I just expected more from such a large building. The large central hallway is used to create an air-conditioning draft during the hot summer, but it does not have any furniture so it can't be used for anything else. There are a few interesting features like the ceiling fan in the dining room. It is a large blade that swings back and forth creating a draft, instead of a set of blades arranged in a circle. It has a rope that had to be pulled by a slave in order to operate it.

Then we headed up the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is a two-lane road without much cross traffic, nestled in grass and trees. The scenery doesn't change much, and it's hard to get a grasp on exactly where you are or how far you've driven. It is beautiful and relaxing, though. It was on this road around 6 pm that we first encountered a lightning storm and heard tornado warnings on the radio. The potential for tornadoes was behind us, but coming our direction, and about 20 or 30 miles away. However, the storm was heading roughly southeast and we were headed northeast, so we didn't worry too much but we paid close attention. We figured we were pretty safe after the warnings ended about 8 pm and things dried up around us.

We stayed in Jackson tonight. We have come about 100 miles along the parkway, which winds 300 miles through Mississippi and continues more than 100 miles farther into Alabama and Tennessee, ending in Nashville. We will continue tomorrow until we get bored with it.

Tuesday, May 9

It rained all night last night. We are thinking seriously about just staying in the hotel today. What can we do in all this rain?

I found an advertisement for the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. It is not too far from where we are staying. (Well, Jackson is just not that big.) Anyway, the museum was interesting. It has both an indoor and an outdoor setting. The indoor setting includes dioramas depicting Mississippi wildlife, an aquarium, and a reptile room with live alligators and turtles. There is also a rotating temporary exhibit, and at the time we visited, it was an exhibition of the photography of Mississippi native Stephen Kirkpatrick, who has written several books. The exhibit included not only his photographs of Amazon wildlife, but also tapes that let you hear the jungle in all its cacophony.

The outdoor portion includes walks along several trails through swamps. They promise lots of wildlife, but other than a group of turtles on a log and several lizards on a stairway, all we encountered were more biting bugs.

Then we continued up the Natchez Trace Parkway toward Tupelo. But it started raining again, there were more tornado warnings, and the road, as beautiful as it is, got boring. We decided to get off the parkway and head north toward Memphis. We were disappointed that in Natchez there were no river cruises. We hope to find a riverboat ride in Memphis. Also, the storms seem to be originating in west Mississippi and Louisiana, then moving across Mississippi to the southeaster toward the gulf. So maybe we can escape the rain by heading north.

Late tonight we arrived in the Memphis area. We found a motel in West Memphis, across the Mississippi river in Arkansas.

Wednesday, May 10

It rained again all night. It was intermittently very rainy in the morning, and constantly very windy. Our choices for today include a riverboat ride and Graceland. Both seem to be lousy choices for a rainy day. We're trying to figure out which direction to head to escape the storm. But now we seem to be right in the middle of the storm, which covers several states. Our best chances for escape seem to be toward the west into Oklahoma or Kansas, but neither of those states has sights that interest us. We ran some errands, then ate at a Waffle House near our motel. While sitting at the Waffle House, things appeared to clear up a bit. Mary likes to talk about a "sucker hole" in the clouds but things actually do like very clear on the western horizon, where these storms are coming from. I called the riverboat company and they say they will indeed do their 2 pm cruise unless the wind kicks up or not enough people sign up. The boat includes two outdoor decks and one enclosed deck in case it rains again.

This sounds like a better option than Graceland, which costs more, and part of the Graceland tour would be outside, self-guided, slogging through the wet lawn and mud. Even if the rain let up.

The riverboat cruise ended up two people short, and they were going to cancel, but each of us chipped in enough that as a group we could buy two more tickets and the tour was a go. The cruise itself was not too notable. We did go under a few bridges, some of which were very old. We were informed of a few things like the bluffs on the Mississippi side as opposed to the flat flood plain on the Arkansas side. This means that when the river floods, everyone comes over to the Mississippi side to stay dry. There were also some eddies under one of the bridges, where the river would run backward on the top. Other than that, there was not really much interesting to see.

However, they did discuss the role of Memphis as a stop on the underground railroad, as a center of riverboat traffic of various kinds, and as the birthplace of the blues. Some of these things were interesting, but we could have learned them without taking the cruise. The cruise itself was relaxing and we thought it mostly worthwhile afterward.

We tried driving around downtown Memphis. We found the BB King club, the Gibson guitar factory, and the Museum of Rock & Soul. But they allow no street parking anywhere, and the only parking lot we found was $10 flat rate. So we decided to pack up and find our next destination.

For some reason, we still think we can head north to escape the rain. We decide to head for St. Louis, and see how far we can get. We get as far as Sikeston, where we found some factory outlets. Mary didn't really want to stop, but there was a scrapbooking outlet store and I thought Mary should at least give it a chance. As it turned out, Mary found several things she needed in the scrapbooking store.

There was also a Bible outlet and I found a new Bible there. It is New Living Translation, smaller than my present bible, with a zipper cover built in, and plenty large print for my old eyes. It cost more than I wanted to spend, but I figured it will be a nice smaller bible to take to Europe later this year. Also, I will be finishing my present bible within the next few days, so I will need a new one pretty soon.

We also found a shoe store and a store with socks, where I replaced the tennis shoes and socks that I ruined while working in Mississippi. I had really needed new shoes since before we left, but there was no time when we were home, and no opportunity until just now.

We continued up toward St. Louis, but it started raining again and it got worse as we went along. I figured we could either stop before St. Louis and probably have to unload in the rain twice, or continue as far as possible, and if we can stay two nights in St. Louis, we only have to unpack once. We eventually found a nice place, inexpensive, on the west side of town in an area called Westport.

Let's pray for dry weather tomorrow.

Natchez to Jackson MS to Memphis to St. Louis

Thursday 11 May 2006, 10:48 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

A quick summary of the last few days, since I haven't had time to post anything.

Right now we are in St. Louis, Missouri. This is the first time we have stayed two nights in one place (except when we were on the gulf coast with CityTeam).

On Monday we toured an 1830's mansion in Natchez. Then we drove up to Jackson.

On Tuesday we visited a very nice Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. Then we drove up to Memphis.

On Wednesday we did a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River in Memphis. Then we drove up to St. Louis in intermittent heavy rain.

Today we visited the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, otherwise known as the St. Louis "gateway arch."

Tomorrow we hope to visit the St. Louis Zoo, rated the #1 zoo in the US. One reason we are particularly interested is they have an insectarium. There is also a butterfly zoo somewhere here in town, and botanical gardens too.

Our future plans call for us to head across southern Illinois and Indiana to the Louisville area, then down to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, hopefully on Saturday. Then maybe we can be in Nashville for church on Sunday.


Sunday 7 May 2006, 8:05 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

This morning we went to Bayou Talla Fellowship, a church in Kiln, about 12 miles from Bay St Louis. Tom, a volunteer who helped us in the distribution center yesterday, goes to this church and it sounded interested. They are hosting a large group from Samaritan's Purse, which is doing reconstruction work here.

After church we spent a couple hours loading up the truck and saying goodbyes. We got on the road around 2:30 pm. We took back roads through Bogalusa and McComb to get to Natchez around 7:00 pm. We stopped in McComb to eat at a restaurant called Golden Corral. It was terrible. We will never go there again.

We got here in time to see the sunset over the Mississippi River. We got a few nice photographs. There is a bridge over the river and we went over to Vidalia, Louisiana and back. Standing on the banks of the Mississippi, Mary had to put on long sleeves while I enjoyed the cool breeze. It was cool and calm and not at all like the muggy gulf coast.

Tomorrow we have the option to do several things: start up the Natchez Trace right away (ending up in Tennessee), take tours through several 1820's-vintage buildings, or maybe take a cruise on the river. Or maybe all three.

Our general plan from here on out is to take the Natchez trace to Tennessee, then go through the Smoky Mountains to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, ending up in Washington DC. However, we also want to visit the largest caverns in the US in Kentucky, and I'm not sure yet how to fit that in.

The Last Days

Sunday 7 May 2006, 7:53 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Thursday, May 4

Today we have been here two weeks. If we had flown out here, we would be leaving today or tomorrow. Bonnie asked us to stay until Sunday so we can help with distribution tomorrow. It looks like we will be short-handed because Bonnie and Di are going to Tennessee for a couple of days to start planning a relief effort for tornado victims there.

The college kids that were here yesterday never came back today like they had promised. That's OK. I did the clean-up in Shirley's yard that we had planned for them. I finished that all in the morning and then spent the hot afternoon in the trailer. Mary is still sick, but she is starting to sit up for a few minutes at a time and plan some cards she wants to make.

Later in the afternoon, John asked me to help fix the canopy on Bonnie and Di's trailer. We worked on that for a couple of hours.

We have decided that Mary probably OD'd on products that have gluten, rather than just eating enough to get by. Eating too much gluten makes her more prone to get migraine headaches.

Friday, May 5

Mary felt better enough today to help me do more clean-up around the camp. We had to throw away some clothes that got wet and moldy in the last rainstorm. That took the bulk of our day.

Saturday, May 6

Today we did distribution. Mary and I were really not needed from the standpoint of being short-handed. We had several community volunteers, plus three new volunteers from San Jose arrived last night (Pat, Debbie, and Rukiya). But we were able to train Pat and Debbie, who have never been here before.

After distribution, Mary and I cleaned up the trailer because new occupants will arrive on Tuesday. Ordinarily it wouldn't matter, but with all the storms we had while we were here, we tracked lots of mud onto the carpet. Mary let me clean it all up because she said I tracked it all in, even though we have identical boots. Go figure.

Late Saturday night, Bonnie and Di returned from Tennessee. Mary gave them a bundle of cards she made for them to use after we are gone.

A First Communion dream in doubt

The Boston Globe

Friday 5 May 2006, 7:56 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff

As Victoria Coyne, 7, prepares for her first Holy Communion, there has been a major snag: As a child suffering from both celiac disease and diabetes, she can neither eat the wheat wafer that represents the body of Christ nor drink the wine that signifies his blood.

"I already got the stuff ready," said Victoria, who hopes to make her First Communion in June at St. Marguerite D'Youville Church in Dracut. "My mom is trying to talk to the priest, and so is my dad."

Her parents thought they found a solution in a rice Communion wafer -- free of gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains that makes her ill -- but official church policy forbids its use. The ritual of Communion is tied to the Last Supper, when Jesus is believed to have eaten wheat bread and drunk grape wine with his disciples. Canon law requires that both wheat and grapes be part of the Communion service. Worshippers who receive Communion consume at least one: Children usually eat only the wafer, and adult Catholics sometimes receive both wafer and wine.

Church officials have grappled repeatedly in recent years with the collision between longstanding church teachings and modern medicine. In his previous job leading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue of worshippers suffering from celiac disease and alcoholism, allowing for the substitution of low-gluten wafers and a slightly fermented grape juice.

About 1 out of 133 people suffers from celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. For those with the disease, which is genetic, ingesting gluten damages the small intestine, impairing the ability to absorb nutrients from food. If the disease goes untreated, it can cause other conditions, including anemia and osteoporosis.

Some of the conflicts have been bruising. In 2001, the Boston Archdiocese told the family of a 5-year-old girl with celiac disease that when she took her First Communion, she could not substitute rice wafers for traditional communion wafers. Her family left the church and began practicing as Methodists.

In New Jersey, a bishop declared invalid the First Communion of a girl with celiac disease who took rice wafers instead of those containing gluten. Her mother unsuccessfully petitioned the Vatican to reverse the decision.

Victoria's multiple health issues complicate her case. Her body cannot tolerate even the low-gluten wafers, her mother said. The solution for Victoria may lie in a low-alcohol grape juice, often offered to priests who are alcoholics; her parents are investigating whether it is safe for their daughter.

Although the Coynes are grateful for the support of their priest, the Rev. Paul Clifford, they are discouraged by the church's rules on Communion, which they believe are overly rigid.

"Right now we're frustrated, because it just doesn't seem right that she would be expected to ingest something that would be harmful to her body in order to make her First Communion," said Stephanie Coyne, Victoria's mother. "She's sad. She's been at Sunday school for two years, practicing what she needs to do to make her First Communion."


Da Vinci Code of Gnosticism

The Australian

Friday 5 May 2006, 7:48 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

by Jill Rowbotham

One of the Church of England's heaviest hitters, the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, has plenty to say about the Da Vinci Code and the Gospel of Judas.

Wright has been dealing with da Vinci-style phenomena for years and is matter-of-fact about the anti-theology in Brown's book, which is, he says, a variation on the gnostic heresy that flourished in the early centuries after Jesus lived.

Gnosticism was a rival version of Christianity that was suppressed in the early church by what became the orthodox view. The recently published Gospel of Judas, translated from Coptic, for example, is a gnostic text that claims history's great betrayer was acting on the orders of Jesus.

"The really interesting thing about The Da Vinci Code is why, granted it's such manifest rubbish, do people want to take it seriously?" Wright asks. "Why has it been such a runaway bestseller? It's not because it's a page-turner, because there are millions of page-turners out there."

He theorises that it says what modern Westerners want to hear.

"The mythology about Christian origins that so many people in the Western world want today is a form of gnosticism in which self-discovery, particularly discovery of gender-based aspects of 'myself', whether it's the sacred feminine or whatever, is hugely important.

"Learning that in fact the heart and centre of genuine spirituality is not about my insides but about God coming in love and grace to do something fresh for me is not what people want to hear.

(emphasis mine - Mark)

"In other words, people don't want what Christianity authentically offers: they want this substitute called gnosticism in one of its many forms; and The Da Vinci Code plays right in," Wright says.

"Jesus was going around 'doing the kingdom', healing the sick, cleansing lepers, feeding the hungry, he was celebrating at a party with all the wrong people, transforming people's lives and saying cryptic things such as: 'Let me tell you what the kingdom of God is like'," Wright says.

"The church has it the other way around. It has tended to say: 'We must say it, say it, say it as clearly as possible and if there is any energy left over, we'll do a bit of it as well."'


Church a way of life in Dixie

Washington Times

Friday 5 May 2006, 7:01 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Jennifer Harper

Southern folks seem to have a monopoly on that good old time religion.

The South contains eight of the top 10 states with the most frequent churchgoers in the nation, according to a Gallup Poll analysis of more than 68,000 interviews conducted in the past two years.

With 58 percent saying they attend religious services once a week or almost every week, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina residents are tied in first place -- followed by Mississippi at 57 percent, Arkansas and Utah tied at 55 percent, North Carolina and Nebraska tied at 53 percent and Tennessee and Georgia tied at 52 percent.

The national average is 42 percent. There is a wide range between the highest and lowest numbers, however -- a difference of 34 percentage points between the top three and bottom two states.

Of the Southern states, Virginia has the second lowest reported church attendance rate (44 percent), which is still above the national average, according to Gallup analyst Frank Newport.

"Sunday mornings are for going to church, not mowing the lawn, going shopping (the stores won't be open anyway), or buying liquor or beer ... If someone in the grocery line finds out you're new in town and asks you to his/her church, go ahead and say yes, and enjoy the experience. Southern hospitality surely shows itself best in the willingness of the people to share what is most important to them: their faith," the site notes.

"At the other end of the spectrum, the data makes it clear that reported church attendance is lowest in New England states -- New Hampshire (24 percent), Vermont (24 percent), Rhode Island (28 percent), Massachusetts (31 percent) and Maine (31 percent.) The only slight exception is the New England state of Connecticut (37 percent)," Mr. Newport added.

Nebraska led the Midwestern states in weekly or almost weekly church attendance (53 percent). Among the most populous states, Texas led at 49 percent, followed by Illinois (42 percent), Florida (39 percent), New York (33 percent) and California (32 percent).

The District of Columbia stood at 33 percent.

State Percent Churchgoers
Alabama 58
Louisiana 58
South Carolina 58
Mississippi 57
Arkansas 55
Utah 55
North Carolina 53
Nebraska 53
Tennessee 52
Georgia 52
Texas 49
Illinois 42
Virginia 42
National Average 42
Florida 39
Connecticut 37
New York 33
DC 33
California 32
Massachusetts 31
Maine 31
Rhode Island 28
New Hampshire 24
Vermont 24


Heavy Metal Church

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friday 5 May 2006, 5:24 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Salvation Army monthly concert gives kids a safe outlet to rock

It's an "At the Loaf" Friday night, the monthly transformation of the Salvation Army center in Lawrenceville into a hard-core rock venue. The 250 or so young people who came Friday night knew in advance there would be no drinking, no drugs, no profanity. Aside from that, they knew they could dress as they please, jump with reckless abandon, and crank up the volume beyond all industrial safety standards.

For their part, the adults agree: (1) Not to proselytize and (2) Not to complain about the music.

The kids are cool with that.

The young people who come are typically not the ones trying out for cheerleading, the football team, or much of anything at school, she said.

"To a lot of people, we're the heathens," Jessica said.

However, the "heathens" find a Christian welcome and a judgment-free place to enjoy their generation's music. "These people are my friends and family; this is where I belong," Jessica said.

So, does heavy metal fit the mission of the Salvation Army? It's not so much of a stretch, said Ken Chapman, Salvation Army community liaison for the Lawrenceville Center.

"This is what the Salvation Army does, it takes in the people that society casts out," Chapman said.

Each month, four or five rock bands perform. About 100 people attended the first shows, but recent crowds have reached about 400, Salvation Army officials said. For the May 19 show, a popular band called Cool Hand Luke will play. A capacity crowd of 700 is expected.

Though these young people might look edgy, he said, the atmosphere "At the Loaf" is wholesome. "Parents can trust that they can drop their kids off here, and when they come to pick them up, they'll be here and be safe," Jay said.


Answer to prayer

Wednesday 3 May 2006, 8:45 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

The electical for these RV's is still something that makes no sense to me. But hunting around did provide an answer to prayer a few minutes ago ...

an alarm in the trailer started beeping. It sounds like a smoke alarm chirping when the battery needs to be replaced. Based on past experience I knew this meant the batteries were running low ... and this meant the charger had lost AC power. I eventually found that someone had borrowed the charger to fix his car, and he had not replaced it. We replaced it and got rid of that problem. But that led to more questions about our AC power and our air conditioning, which has not worked the whole time we've been here except for a few minutes at the beginnning ... and we could not find the breaker box.

Someone else overheard our conversation and helped us find the breaker box, and the air conditioning breaker was tripped ... now unless other problems come up, we'll have functioning air conditioning for the rest of our stay here. Most immediately, this weill help Mary with her headache.

Thank you, Lord!

More from Mary in Mississippi

Wednesday 3 May 2006, 8:13 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

More from Mary's recent emails. - Mark

Bay St Louis, Sunday, April 23

Regarding SU, while we're in MS working, we have daily network access. I'm keeping up with SCS & SU for the moment.

SU is Stampin' Up, and SCS is Split Coast Stampers. - Mark

I've been introduced to an entirely new 'weather' while here in MS... the hot humid stuff that goes way beyond what I've ever experienced at home, or in Hawaii or other tropics... but I think when I've been traveling before, it was for vacation & play and we were usually IN the water to it was extremely tolerable. Working in this stuff is another story... just drink TONS of water and no hurrying. Both Mark and I must be especially "sweet"... we're simply FULL of bug bites... and some in places I don't know HOW they got to!!! On the up side, for now Mark and I are housed in the "hilton"... a 5th wheel trailer usually reserved for on-site directors... but the current director is in another trailer so she put us up in here... no air conditioning and can't use the trailer's bathroom, but having a 'watertight' shelter that gives us full shade from the sun and cloudbursts is like being at the 'hilton' when contrasted to the tents... this is good.


We've been in MS since last Thursday. The humidity with heat and bugs is something different to us and we're 'adjusting'. Turns out the distribution center was cut back to 2 days a week. So yesterday we were helping in there. Today, Sunday, we rest. This coming week Mark & I are tasked with helping folks file electronic applications for some grants... that's supposed to start tomorrow and we still don't have the computers for that yet... but that's the way things seem to go around here... so we just go with the flow.

Bay St Louis, Tuesday, April 25

It's Tuesday afternoon now. Out 'work' days are long when it's hot & humid... have to really take things at a much slower pace in order to have any stamina.

The other day's rain was the first rain they had had in a long time and they are way behind on their water levels. When it's raining it feels soOOooo good, but if the sun comes back out then it gets like a really hot steamy sauna. I think I'll keep my CA residence, thank you.

Yesterday I worked the entire day in the the distribution center's tent while it was closed to the public. I was pulling all the winter clothing and bagging it up to be sent elsewhere.

Today Mark & I went to a couple's home to help in the yard with clearing... bamboo. The owner took the rest of the day off and pulled out his chain saw... so he cut what wasn't already broken away and we pulled all of it into a huge heap. We were ALMOST finished with the last of it when lightning was getting close so we had to stop. We went to Rite Aid to get me a new toothbrush (lost mine) and a Hershey bar... and it's been POURING and Thundering & Lightening like crazy since... camp is pretty flooded. I'll have to put on my hiking boots during the night to get to the bathrooms (where my flip flops or birkenstocks have been just fine for that middle of the night hike). Oh well. I do wish the thunder & lightening would stop... can't use an umbrella... so get really wet... seems like I look like a drowned rat whether it's raining or it's super humid & hot.

We had to drive our truck out to the home we were working on today (because we were the only ones going there and we're not insured as drivers of City Team vehicles)... Mark's keyring fell off his pants while we were working out there... looking at the area we had been working you would expect we would never be able to find it... but we DID. I have my spare set of keys in my bag at camp, but not with us at the time, but NO keys to the truck bed's cover). Wheh!

The home on the property we were working on was over 130 years old. They showed us pictures of the outside before K. It was beautiful. Actually, this particular home suffered very very little damage to the house and NO water entered. It is on a 'high' spot... you could see the waterline on the concrete thingys under the house... about 18" of water... and the bamboo on the gulf-side of the house caught & held incoming debris so that only water ran by. The house on the end of the street was about 180 years old... the entire gulf side of the yard & street were washed away and that side of the house has collapsed. It has to be demolished. They showed us photos of that house pre-K (katrina) from a coffee-table style book.

The biggest challenge for us has been the heat & humidity. I'm so used to working 'nose to the grind stone' pace, but you can't do that here. We're so tired by the end of each day that we're sleeping really well, despite the heat & humidity. Late this afternoon there was quite a rain storm complete with thunder and lightning, unlike what we're used to at home.

Bay St Louis, Thursday, April 27

Sadly, I didn't get around to bringing ANY stamping supplies... space, didn't think I would find time on vacation, and we simply HAD TO GET going. In lieu, I pulled a bunch of BD & thank you cards and 2 generics without any salutation. I SHOULD have brought some stamping supplies! I've gone thru my generics already and will need to buy a get well for a friend at church.

I'm toying with trying to expedite order from SU to deliver here some very minimal things for cards... maybe the pre-cut-folded card & envy sets, a set of petal points (for some color choices), black classic, adhesive glue stick, and an image set... rats, would have to order scissors to to cut & mount the stamps... I'm tempted but it's not the smartest way to spend $$$... I may simply resort to store bought cards to fill in for what I didn't bring... ack!!!

Shirley is the lady across the street. She fixed us all some Alfredo fettucine with shrimp and 'BBQ' jumbo shrimp the other day... tonight Nola made us Gumbo... everything is so yummy.

Yesterday we had that nasty storm. Today's weather has been like 'home'... comfy and no humidity with gently breezes. I wish everyday was like this. Mark & I are both have allergic reactions to the bug bites... they're all 'welting'. I started taking Benadryl this morning... leaves me spacey but I'll take that over the insanely intense itching that goes beyond poison oak's itch... thankfully I don't have to do any driving.


Another question you asked in first mail... something about how the folks are doing compared to our previous visit? They're coming along very slowly. Things seem harder now for them. I think the shock of things has worn off. Everything is a roller coaster ride... things appear going well for a bit then the bottom falls out... over and over for so many of them. Today I met a woman of 50, her house, property, & car were all paid off so she didn't carry insurance... did you know if you didn't carry any insurance you could not qualify for any of the gov't's grant monies and numerous other assistance? This woman was having a particularly bad day today... not over losses from K, but it's been 2 or 4 years (I can't remember which) since her youngest son was killed in an automobile accident (he was 22 at the time). So many homes await volunteers or others to come in and work... the amount to be done is mind boggling still... but the only way you can eat an elephant is one bite at a time. With summer heat approaching, there will be less and less volunteers available to assist. Personally, if we didn't have the weather & fierce bugs to contend with, I would want to stay longer.

Bay St Louis, Friday, April 28

regarding rubber stamping and cards - Mark

I gave up last night figuring I would just go buy some as needed... but you've given me hope again! It's Wal-Mart that they have here...'express'... which means they don't have what you're looking for... lol. They don't have a craft section. But MAYBE Sunday on our down day I can get Mark to take me to Michael's in a near town... one of the directors got stuff for yesterday's lady's lunch & craft event. I think I may just do color blocks, inspired by me bestest friend ;-)...


5:00 Friday afternoon. I'm finished for the day... can't wait to jump in the shower. Today I cleaned out and hosed out (the insides!) of 4 huge vans and then had to disassemble a tent that tore during the storm a few days ago. All in slow motion, of course. Yesterday Mark learned to lay carpet over concrete and also using carpet strips. Today he's learning to put up dry-wall. Tomorrow the distribution center's open ... so that's what we'll be up to the entire day.

I was flipping thru the SU catty and realized they have KITS! So I ordered 2 so I could make both masculine & feminine cards. I put up a thread on SCS demo forum asking if there's any demo's in the area here as I would love to meet some local demos... (I'm thinking of donating the 2 stamp sets at the end of our vacation). I ordered overnight shipping so should receive it Tue or Wed here in MS. Itch itch... time for another Benadryl. It was hard to place a 'minimal' order and not keep adding all sorts of little things (but I did 'upsize' the kits).

Bay St Louis, Tuesday, May 2

We have 2 more days here. After last Tuesday the weather cooled down for nearly 5 days... what a blessing that had been. During that we also had a pretty good storm that damaged all but 1 of the camp's nylon tents... Mark spent the better part of 2 days taking those down and apart... trashing the torn and splintered stuff. They still have the bunk houses and a few trailers in camp so all is well. City Teams is considering moving camp to higher grounds for the 2006 hurricane season... and we expect that means they will get out of the tents, too.

Yesterday the weather got hot again, and today was also hot. I have succumbed to the heat... today I spent the day in bed from a migraine ... I'm feeling much better now. Tomorrow the distribution center will be open and I will be doing registration, something I can manage even if I'm not quite 100%.

Last Sunday Mark & I attended the Calvary Chapel that's been set up in this community... originally CC had setup feeding the community over 7500 meals a day. Now they are sending volunteers out to the homes to assist with repairs, much like City Teams is doing (Mark has learned to lay carpet and put up sheet rock). CC holds its Sunday service in the same circus tent they served meals from. They even have a small tank setup and lined with heavy black plastic sheets for doing baptisms. While at church we met a man who's from CC Monterey.

Random impresions from Mary

Wednesday 3 May 2006, 7:55 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

I took these comments from some of the emails Mary has sent since we've been away from home. - Mark

Santa Fe, Thursday April 14

Today, Thursday, we visited my first mother-in-law. She has fairly advanced Alzheimers. She didn't seem to recall who I was (as I expected)... but showed some recognition when I talked of Aaron... and when I called Aaron and let him talk to her (I went in not knowing whether she would still recall Aaron or not... she & he had a special bond... Aaron cried ALL the time as an infant... Rosabelle was the ONLY person that could get him to stop!). I am so glad we got to see her. ...and no, we won't be spending Easter with her.

Please continue to keep us in prayer for travel mercies. Also, that God would again lift my food allergies (& Mark's too) while we're serving in Mississippi so that we can eat what is served to us without ill-effects.

I always love to hear how God has answered our prayers. We have also continuously been keeping the [Easter] play, all participants, and all who will see it held up in daily prayer. Mark's been on Patrick's emails regarding Joy... and that has been so wonderful seeing/hearing how God's hand has been on both her and Patrick thru all of this trial. I've put this week's prayer requests into my notebook so I can keep up daily with them... our internet access has been far less than Mark anticipated.

Weather for us has been dry & sunny since getting out of the Silicon Valley. Aaron (my son) has said most days have still had rain there. The wet rainy weather is PERFECT, if you're a duck!!! I hope you're all staying dry!

Odessa, TX, Saturday April 15

Today we saw the Carlsbad Caverns... we were able to take the walking entrance and enter thru the natural entrance (where the bats do their massive exit every afternoon/evening). It was pretty awesome and a fair decline... over 70 stories worth of decent to the main cavern-room... and take the elevator back up. Tonight we're in Midland, Texas. We have to report next Thursday to Mississippi.

Yes, the visit with Rosabelle was great. She's still not communicative and you can tell she's 'searching' in her mind... but her physical demeanor etc were a blessing to see... far better than a few years back. I feel bad not writing snail-mail to you... but DO get us an addy as soon as you do know a 'good' one.

Last night we drove from Santa Fe to Roswell, the "UFO Capital". We didn't see any UFOs. While in Santa Fe we visited Los Alamos, where the atomic bombs from WWII were developed. Fascinating. Everyone brought in to work on the project lived in Los Alamos, but it was all secret... 'Los Alamos' didn't exist to the outside world... to receive mail, it went to PO Box 6166 (or something like that), Santa Fe... even the birth certificates for births during that time in Los Alamos say Santa Fe PO Box 6166. Then we drove until nearly 1 AM... Mark nearly ran over the Easter Bunny, too!!! But he was quick and Mark missed... wheh!

We found a quilt store in Sedona & bought 2 patterns... I'll HAVE to take Kathleen's class after we're home so I can learn to how make these. One is the Chapel of the Holy Cross that is built into the red rock... it's a smallish wall one, about 12" most square... the other is about poster sized of a desert scene with sunset colors.

San Antonio, Monday, April 17

This is awesome news regarding the play! ... made me tear up realizing how prayers were answered, but more importantly, that so many received Christ. I'm also glad to hear Joy made it yesterday... we had been praying for her for that also.

Carpet, Church, Clean-up

Wednesday 3 May 2006, 7:19 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Saturday, April 29

On Saturday I was finishing up the carpet install with Nick and Roger. Mary stayed at the camp to work registration for the distribution. (Distribution is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but we were closed last Wednesday due to the storm.)

Sunday, April 30

On Sunday, we went to church at Calvary Chapel, here in the tent in Bay St Louis. They used to serve three meals a day seven days a week, but now they do only a couple of meals. They focus mostly on construction work, and they have a Sunday service and a Wednesday service. The church service was nice and all, but I find myself wondering why they don't plug into the local churches here instead. Especially since almost everyone in the congregation (except us) was a Calvary Chapel volunteer.

On Sunday afternoon we just had to get out of Bay St Louis for a couple of hours. We drove up to Gulfport, just 20 miles up the coast from here. Mary went craft shopping at Michaels while I went computer shopping at Office Max next door. We've had occasion to send some sympathy cards and get-well cards to friends, and also an unexpected birthday card for a man, and Mary didn't have anything suitable in the stock she brought with her. So she went shopping for a few things to make more cards. She also got a shipment from Stampin' Up on Monday.

Monday, May 1

We've mostly been hanging around the camp this week. On Monday we unloaded three trucks of donations. It was so much that there was no room in the storage tent. We also moved a trailer so it can get better sewage lines run to it. Then we had to level the trailer but we didn't really know what we were doing, apparently. I think I actually know what needs to be done, but we did something else at the direction of others. Anyway, it was a busy day even though we stayed here at camp. Mary and I took down almost all the tents we had repaired last week. We had another storm, mostly wind, and it just tore up most of the small tents and did some damage to a couple of the larger ones as well. Fortunately all the most-used tents stayed intact. Anyway, there was lots of moldy material in the damaged tents,including one totally soaked twin bed mattress, and mold did it's usual thang on Mary's health ...

Tuesday, May 2

On Tuesday Mary got a sinus headache, and by Tuesday night she had a full-blown migraine and could not get out of bed. She is still now (Wednesday night) quite sick and we hope she is back on her feet tomorrow.

On Tuesday I finished packing up all the downed tents that were still usable. We also made a second attempt at leveling one of the trailers but it's still not right. I also cleaned up around the camp, and I cleaned the showers. Powerwash mania!

Wednesday, May 3

Today I helped at distribution as best I could. Suddenly right around the distribution opened, we got about 60 volunteers from a college in St Louis, Missouri. I had no idea what to do with them, and there were no leaders around here to give direction. Help! I did get some of the guys for fix our two large tents that came down partially in the wind storm. That was a big score. Some helped stock the distribution tent, and some helped rearrange the storage tent so that we were able to move all the pallets into that tent that we'd received on Monday but had no room for.

One of the guys (name withheld to protect the guilty) (no, it wasn't me) got the forklift stuck in the mud behind Shirley's house. We tried to pull it out with my Toyota truck, then with the flatbed truck, and finally with Bonnie's personal huge Dodge truck. We pulled on it with the big truck from three different directions before it finally broke free. That was fun for all of us!

Since work for us began slowing down earlier this week, we've been thinking about leaving on Thursday or Friday. We told Bonnie about this yesterday, and she asked if we can stay until Sunday so we can help with Saturday distribution. If Mary doesn't start feeling better real soon, I'm going to have to take her away from here and lock her up in a hotel with A/C until she's better. But with y'all prayers, she'll be feeling better tomorrow and in that case, I have my plate full. Bonnie is leaving for a few days, and Pete is back home for a few days, so we are without a leader and there's much to be done. Bonnie went over it all with me today. If the Missouri volunteers come again tomorrow as we're expecting, we'll have it done in a couple of hours. If not, it will take me all three days, even working together with John. It's mostly clean-up around here, but lots of it is in Shirley's yard, which she's been kind enough to lend to the cause.

Please pray for us that Mary gets over her headaches, light sensitivity, nausea, and other maladies soon. Also please pray that we can continue to make a contribution here and be a blessing to the people around us.

Bible Reading Plan Progress

Monday 1 May 2006, 8:27 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

I've posted a couple times before about my new plan for reading through the New American Standard Bible in one year.

I'm happy to say that after five months, I have almost finished reading the Bible. I am just over 90 percent done.

Here is a summary of my progress up until now:

Date Chapters read this month Chapters read - cumulative Percent - cumulative
December 1, 2005 0 0 0
January 1, 2006 187 187 16
February 1, 2006 180 367 31
March 1, 2006 248 615 52
April 1, 2006 266 881 74
May 1, 2006 214 1095 92

I have only 94 chapters left to read. At the average rate I've been reading over five months, I should finish in 13 more days, or around May 13. At the average rate I've been reading more recently, over the last one month, I should finish in 13 more days. At the nominal plan rate of four chapters per day, I should finish in 24 more days, or around May 24. In any case, I should finish before the end of May, which puts me on track to finish the entire Bible in less than six months.

I've already been shopping for a new Bible to read after finishing this one. I'd like to read a more modern translation like the Good News Bible (Today's English Version) or even the New Living Translation, a very recent version. One thing we're keeping in mind (we're both shopping for new Bibles) is that we'll be traveling through Europe later this year and we'd like to take the smallest and lightest Bible possible. Mary is thinking about taking the New Testament only. I'm thinking about taking something on my Palm Tungsten. Don't know about charging it in Europe, though.

Previous posts on this topic:

More Photographs

Friday 28 April 2006, 9:18 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Here are a few more photographs ... click to get a larger view ...

Bunkhouse, used for housing

The Upper Room, used for devotions

Mordecai, Pete's sweet doggie (really)

Showers with solid walls!

One of the tents Mary and I repaired

The trailer where Mary and I are sleeping

Mark's ugly legs covered with bites


Friday 28 April 2006, 7:15 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

I never knew you could put drywall on a ceiling. Yow! Ouch! I also never knew that there are at least three kinds of drywall: the regular kind for walls, a thicker "fire resistant" kind for ceilings, and a "water resistant" kind for bathrooms.

There were only two of us working on this job, and Nick told me it was really a three-person job. I found out why. To put up drywall on the ceiling, someone has to hold up the piece while the other quickly puts screws into it before the first person collapses. The smaller pieces were not difficult, but the pieces that approached 4x8 feet in size were miserable. Nick held up all of those, and he said my screwing speed was pretty fast, but he did turn a greenish color a couple of times.

If there had been three of us, who could have held up the drywall easily, one at each end, while the third put in the screws. We didn't have that luxury.

What most consider the difficult part is the measurement. Not only do you have to cut the pieces to exactly the right size, but you have to cut out holes for things like light fixtures and heater vents. With only the two of us on the job, we found the measurement part to be easy compared to the (literal) grunt work. It turns out Nick was a system administrator at his last job, and he has a Math degree from Portland State University. So I guess you'd expect a couple of math/computer geeks to have no trouble putting the holes in the right places, but difficulty holding the drywall over their heads.

It also turns out there is nothing square in this particular house we were working on. When putting in a sheet, we could take measurements of all four sides, but we didn't have the appropriate tools to measure all the angles. Unfortunately, for any set of four lengths, there are an infinite number of quadrilaterals that might have those dimensions. In most cases we could be sure that there was at least one angle of 90 degrees, but without the good tools, we could not tell which angle it was. Sometimes we could put a piece of scrap "factory angle" (corner not yet cut) to see if an angle was close to 90, but if not, we could not always tell how far off.

Blech. Enough of this. It was a really fun day. Nick is a fun guy and we had a lot of laughs, especially when a piece of drywall not quite securely fastened yet fell on our heads.

Tomorrow, Nick, Roger and I are supposed to finish the carpet at the house where we were working yesterday. Mary is supposed to stay at camp and run the distribution center with a skeleton crew. We are supposed to get a crew of six contractors here tomorrow, so the next week promises to involve a lot more house building.

CityTeam's goal is to completely rebuild the insides of 50 homes. This means the foundations, frames, and outside walls are intact, but the crews will replace the drywall and carpet, add inside paint and trim, usually replace the electical system, but not usually the plumbing, which generally needs new fixtures at most. Anyway, I hear they have worked on about eleven or twelve houses, but only finished one or two. There are two problems: the labor might be very slow, because volunteer contractors generally stay here for only a week or two, not long enough to finish a job, so another contractor has to finish the work later. A more pressing problem is that it can cost $15,000 in supplies (mostly drywall and carpet, I guess) to finish a house. You can do the multiplcation yourself. That's a lot of money, and CityTeam can't really afford to buy all those supplies and pay for the plane flights too.

The real heroes here are not the "short-timers" like Mary and me, but the long-timers like Roger, John, and Nick. Roger has been here since January, and before that he was in New Orleans. Nick has been here on and off for twelve weeks since Katrina hit. Ralph and Pete have been running the CityTeam camp here pretty much since it opened, with only a week here and there to go back home to Philadelphia.

Time Tags

Friday 28 April 2006, 6:46 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

The blog entries get time tagged with the time on the server, which is in California. Mississippi is actually two hours ahead of California, so all the time tags are actually off by two hours. For example, last night's post tagged at 10:30 pm was actually posted at 12:30 am. Since we get up around 8:00 am to get ready for 8:30 am devotions, I really do have to do the blog earlier and get some more sleep.


  • Nevada - same time zone as California
  • Arizona - AZ standard time is the same as Pacific Daylight time
  • (AZ never has DST, so same as CA during the summer, same as NM in the winter)
  • New Mexico - one hour ahead of California
  • Texas - most of it is two hours ahead of California
  • Louisiana and Mississippi - two hours ahead of California

See you LATER ...

Trip Photographs

Thursday 27 April 2006, 10:31 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Click any image to see a larger version

Badwater, 282 feet below sea level

Death Valley

Our mascot Pahrump goofing around

Pahrump at Petroglyph Nat. Mon.

Tuzigoot National Monument

Montezuma Castle Nat. Mon.

Patriotic Advertising in San Antonio

Rocket Park at Space Center in Houston

Find M&M on a Google Map

Thursday 27 April 2006, 9:18 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

You can see where we've been on this google map:

I will try to update the map as we move across the country.


Thursday 27 April 2006, 9:16 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

What would you like to know about our trip? What would you like to know about working in Mississippi? Send us your questions so we can answer them on this blog. I feel a lot of the posts are pretty mundane. We'd like to make them more interesing to you by letting you decide what is interesting. So let us know what you'd be interested in hearing about.

Week One

Thursday 27 April 2006, 9:13 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

One Week

We have just finished our first week here. Since Monday we have been doing many different things that we haven't done before.

Monday, April 24

Today we stocked the shelves at the distribution center. Boring. Nothing new today. Oh, I think we also tried to fix some tents that had come down in the last storm. Not too exciting there either.

Shirley made a dinner of shrimp alfredo and barbequed shrimp. Mary liked it even better than red beans and rice, but of can't eat the alfredo pasta at home ... maybe we could create a gluten-free version of it.

Tuesday, April 25

Today we did something entirely different. Mary and I cut down a bunch of dead or damaged bamboo for a couple not far from here. Their yard was pretty large. Their house is only the second from the water. But they got only minimal damage because the larger house next to them on the water shielded them, their bamboo prevented a lot of debris from landing in their house, and they are on an inlet, not directly on the gulf, so the water sort of came up their street sideways instead of straight on.

It was quite warm and sunny as we cut the bamboo, and Mary started to feel sick. But then a starm started, and it felt really good to work with a little water to cool off. We took a bit of a break, sat on their large front porch, drank cokes, and chatted while it was raining only a few feet away. A very southern kind of experience. But eventually it turned into a real thunderstorm and they chased us away so we wouldn't be hurt by lightning.

While cutting the bamboo, at one point I dropped my car keys and didn't notice until about an hour later. We scoured the whole yard, hoping that the keys had not ended up in the huge pile of bamboo we had made. We didn't find it until the moment Mary started praying ... and there they were, right at my feet.

Nola made spaghetti with cajun spices tonight. Wow!

Wednesday, April 26

The storm started up again early evening, and it rained all night long. In the early morning, it turned into a severe thunderstorm that prevented us from opening the distribution center today at all. They were afraid that the tent poles would act as lightning rods and people would get hurt. I was surprised that anyone would even show up to get food at the distribution center in such a storm, since it tends to be moms and their kids. But a few did show up anyway. We were sorry to have to turn them away.

I slept in this morning because I woke up with a sore throat. I felt better after a coke to cool off my throat, and some aspirins that Mary found for me. It turns out the storm was so bad they just told us to stay in our trailers anyway. Even the mess tent etc. are natural lightning rods. They even turned off all the computers and the wireless routers to prevent any damage to them. This meant we couldn't even use the Powerbook from our trailer because the wireless system was turned off.

In the afternoon, once the storm passed by, they told us just to clean up the camp, things that the storm had caused. Things like water in the trash cans. A screen room that Mary and I had put up before was damaged in the storm and we couldn't repair it right away, so we took it down. Some other tents that we'd fixed earlier also suffered some damage. All of the guy lines and other parts of the tents had rotted away in the changes of weather over the last few months. Mary and I bought some nylon twine at 84 lumber and we tried to replace all the guy lines, and we also patched up some of the other problems. We hope this keeps them going for a few more months.

They took us to Sicily's, all you can eat Italian, buffet style, with pizza, pasta, salad, and desserts. All the food we can't ever eat at home! Yum.

I cleaned up the showers again with the power washer because after dinner there was just enough sunlight left to get that done.

Thursday, April 27

Today was the most different of all for us, because they sent us in different directions. Mary stayed in camp to help with a ladies luncheon that was attended by about 18 women from the community. They had lunch and did a craft project.

I spent the day with Roger and John installing carpet. That was fun, and I felt that for the first time I was doing the real hurricane relief work that I had intended when I came here. I had never really done anything like this and I really enjoyed learning new things. It was Roger's birthday today so we bugged him about getting old.

Tonight Nola made gumbo, with sausage and whole legs of chicken. The food gets better every day!

Tomorrow I am supposed to go with Nick to hang some drywall. Mary is anxious for me to learn all this stuff. I wonder why?

Prayer requests

Mary and I continue to get lots of bug bites, and they are growing into large welts all over our arms, legs, necks, and even chests. Someone told Mary today that it looks like she is having an allergic reaction to the bug bites. We think there may be bugs right here in the trailer where we are sleeping, biting us at night. They did give us some Benadryl, which stops the itching for a little while, but also makes us sleepy. I did OK today as long as I was working hard, but as soon as I stopped to rest I would start to fall asleep. Mary was able to take a nap in the afternoon, lucky her.

There is always extra stress in a situation like this because you are thrown together to work with people you don't know. Most of the guys I have worked with are really cool and mellow. But there are a few people here who are just really hard to read. I tend to be insecure by nature anyway, and sometimes some of the people give me the impression that I'm not wanted here, that I'm doing the wrong things, or that we're rubbing some people the wrong way. Mary has felt the same thing too. Mary and I have talked about it and we both have similar impressions. I think maybe this is a device of the enemy to discourage us and make us think of leaving early. I know God has a special purpose for us here beyond just the "normal" aid we are lending. God has us here to bless some special someone is a specific way and it hasn't happened yet. We don't want to miss that opportunity when it comes.

We continue to pray for all of our friends and family back home, everyone here, Calvary Chapel San Jose, the upcoming Harvest Crusade in October at the Shark Tank, and other things as we are impressed to pray. We also pray for everyone here that God will keep them healthy and effective.


Sunday 23 April 2006, 7:12 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Saturday, April 22

Today we had the distribution center open 11-3. Spent a couple hours before that stocking the shelves. Mary did registration, and I hung out there to keep an eye on her when it was real busy at the very beginning. We had two wonderful volunteers, Tammy and her teenage son Billy, Tammy's energetic 4-year old Anna kept us on our toes all day long.

Shirley came over to visit us today. It was really nice seeing her again. She is promising to cook us a special dinner this week.

We saw a few familiar faces from when we were here late last year. They remembered us too. Even those who didn't know us yet were very friendly to us.

Mary and I put up a screen canopy over the picnic table today, so we can serve up dinner outside the tent but keep the flies away.

Tonight we got our trailer hooked up to some real power so we can recharge the computer and the phones. Until now, we've had only battery power for the lights, but not AC for the outlets.

In the early evening we tried to go out to Sonic for ice cream, but they had run out of ice cream. We tried BK but they had just closed. We ran to a nearby town to DQ but they had also just closed. We ended up at a gas station mom-n-pop where we bought pints of Ben & Jerry's on sale ... one for each of us, no sharing, except Mary got an ice cream sandwich. Most of mine is still in the freezer, but it was a fun adventure after a very warm day.

Sunday, April 23

Today Mary and I went to church at The Vineyard in Slidell with Ralph and Pete. They had loud worship and a good message, but I have not been sleeping well in the heat, so I almost fell asleep. Still, it felt good to be in church, praise the Lord, shake some hands, and take a drive in the fresh air.

In the afternoon we just read a little bit and I took a nap. For dinner eight of us went to Picayune (a real town pronounced pick-a-yoon) and ate at Ryan's ... all you can eat. One of the guys ate six steaks! Mary and I have been able to eat gluten and all the things we can't have at home ... we had biscuits, boston cream pie, etc. Mary even had salad dressing and other stuff with vinegar, and she has not had any reaction. Even last time we were here she would not press it that far. They say Ryan's was the first restaurant open anywhere along the gulf coast after the storm, and in October when they opened, the wait could be over an hour just to get in the door. The service was great, too.

We got an email from Matt today, and he gave us a mailing address. We'll be sending that information out to all the family soon.

Funny story today ... when we went to church, I could not find my wallet. I was really worried because we are thousands of miles from home and my wallet has credit cards, health insurance, etc. We went to church and hoped we'd find it when we got back to camp. While Ralph and Pete stopped for coffee, Mary and I prayed for help finding my wallet. But I was still worried. Engineers are trained to consider the worst case, and I'm real good at that by nature anyway. So we went into church, and Mary opened her backpack to get her pen, and she handed me my wallet. How it got in there is beyond both of us. Neither of us remembers putting it in there, and it's not really something we are in the habit of doing. We figured God just picked it up from wherever I dropped it, and He put it in the backpack so we'd find it. I feel so foolish worrying after something like this happens.


We are getting eaten alive by bugs! It has been real bad for me since we got here, but for Mary it really just started today. Actually, she woke up earlier this morning and she was shaking the whole trailer with her scratching. (I had been through the same thing around 4 am.) I'm scratching right now as I sit at the computer.

We have been able to eat just about anything we want. I still don't know why I got sick a couple of days ago. But it seems likeliest that it was some kind of dehydration. I had been drinking this gatorade-like stuff all day, but perhaps it was too sugary. Mary also thinks I may have used too much bug spray and it got into my system through open bites.

Mary and I are getting in the habit of praying about everything. We pray every night before we go to bed. We also pray whenever a situation arises, like when I lost my wallet earlier today. We also have devotions every morning, so we get to pray a lot.

What else ... it has been warm here. Even when it rained it just cooled off a little. The humidity magnifies the heat. It's probably been in the low 80s. But the trailer is much warmer. We didn't have real electricity in here until last night, so we couldn't run the A/C. Even after connecting, we've been afraid to run it lest we trip a breaker, but we tried it for a few minutes today without a problem. We think we've been getting the bug bites at night while sleeping, so cooling it off in here may help.


Sunday 23 April 2006, 7:11 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Friday, April 21

Today Mary and I were assigned to sort some laundry. They provide sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, and sheets to all the volunteers, the they won't have to bring those items from home on the plane. We had a huge pile of bags of all this that came back from the laundry, and we had to sort them into individual sets.

There are two wooden bunkhouses here that were not here before. Each one houses 12 people on mattresses. There are also three large tents, each containing 14 cots. And there are six small tents, each containing three cots. So there were about 80 sets that needed to be put together. Some of the pillows were moldy so we set them out in the sun to dry out and maybe bleach out the mold. But then it started to rain, and we couldn't even transport the sets from the large tent where we'd sorted everything out. It rained so bad we didn't even want to leave the tent for a few seconds to use the bathroom or anything. Eventually it cleared up, and the sun came out, but the whole place was muddy and it was easy to slip. Eventually we got it all sorted out.

We also did some other cleaning errands around here that I can't remember right now. Oh yeah, we cleaned out the four new wooden- enclosed showers. They have a power washer, which is like a little lawn mower that shoots out high pressure warm water. We had a hard time getting it going, but Nola, who in the past has worked on boats, said it probably got wet in the rain and needed a little TLC. She helped us get it going, and then we were able to give the showers a thorough cleaning. Having cleaned them ourselves, we were then comfortable using them. They are in a small wooden building, not like the tent-style showers we used before (they are still here and still being used by other groups), and they are right next to our trailer so even when muddy we only have to walk a few steps.

About the accommodations here: Mary and I are in a 5th wheel we just call "the trailer." It used to be the office and it was located at Powerhouse church. It is still used as an office on rare occasions but we can stay there until someone comes who needs to use it as an office. The two ladies in charge, Di and Bonnie, are staying in another trailer across the street in Shirley's yard. Pete and Ralph are also in a trailer in Shirley's yard. Nola and her husband, who run the distribution center, are in a trailer near ours. Roger and John, handymen who will take on just about any job around here or around town, are staying in the back of a large van. Tony is in a tent, and one other guy whose name I can't remember is in another tent. As far as I know, they are the only two who are in tents.

By comparison, last time almost everyone was in tents, mostly small tents for the couples, but there was one large tent sometimes used by larger groups. A couple of those larger tents are still here, but they are now being used for storage.

There is also a new wooden tool shed here, and a small wooden office. They both look really nice. The two distribution tents are still the same. The third larger tent is still here; it is now the registration area. They also use it to show movies on Friday or Saturday nights, but we didn't do that this week. I hear they also use it for some kind of community dinner once a week. There are tables set up in there with quilted tablecloths. Mary and I like some of the quilts.

Tonight I got sick. Probably some kind of food poisoning. I felt really terrible for several hours. It felt very much like the thing I had in Sedona early last week, headache and nausea. But I couldn't do anything to fix it ... pain killers, emetrol, hydration, all ineffective. Eventually I threw up then slept. Felt much better in the morning. Mary was a wonderful nurse.

Mississippi at last

Thursday 20 April 2006, 6:27 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006 , Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

We stayed in Baton Rouge last night. Today, we just went shopping at Wal-Mart for more shorts and stuff because it's warmer than we expected for April ... definitely shorts weather. We both got some real ugly plaid bermuda-style shorts with elastic waists. They are ugly but comfortable. Then we ate at Shoney's, a chain I don't think I've ever been to before, but we see a lot of them out here. The menu was real thin (one page), but the bacon cheeseburger was good.

We arrived in Bay St Louis just around 5 pm. We are staying in a 5th wheel until someone more important arrives who might kick us out. Then we would move into a tent.

The place is now being run by Pastor Di who is a real blessing. She worked at a homeless-reaching church in Brooklyn before coming down here with no idea what she would be doing. She has a lot of energy and her enthusiasm is contagious.

We have found out about a few things since arriving here. They are apparently still doing distribution on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but there is supposedly not much left to distribute, and contributions are way down. We haven't seen the distribution tents yet so I don't know exactly what the situation looks like. Most of the effort is being conentrated on rebuilding. Most of the "mucking" work is already done, and now they are hanging sheetrock, painting, and installing electrical and plumbing.

Mary and I will supposedly be doing some computer work starting on Monday. There are some web forms that people must fill out in order to get the next wave of FEMA grants for reconstruction. People will come in with paper forms filled out, and Mary and I will help input this information into a web form.

We have already met Ralph, who was here when we were here before. He cooks up a mean barbeque chicken. He has been here more than at home for the last few months. We have not yet seen Shirley or Cee Cee. And I am supposed to look somebody up for the manager of the motel in Webster (Houston). Now what did I do with that name? It must be in my binder here somewhere.

Mary was up late last night looking at stuff on rubber stamping web sites, and I think she's doing the same thing again now. They have several computers here, and I'm using my laptop with the wireless they have set up all around the camp. I guess we need to do it while we have it available.

There are lots of bugs here, and they use a vanilla scent spray to repel them. It's not a bug spray, just a scent you can spray on. They say that when people found out it repels the bugs, Wal-Mart doubled the price of it. Hmmm.

Thank you so much for all your prayers. We had another "close call" today just as we got off the freeway to come into Waveland. Someone would not let us merge and ran us off the road. We really appreciate all your prayers for our safety. It seems someone really does not want us here. But we are safe in the Lord's hands.

The Swamp

Wednesday 19 April 2006, 9:55 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Wednesday, April 19

Today we took the Amazing Swamp and River Tour. Mary and I were the only ones who signed up for this tour, although a group of twelve had taken another tour earlier in the day. It cost a little extra, but we got a private tour of the swamp. It included Blue Elbow Swamp, the Sabine River (which separates Texas from Louisiana), and Bienvenu Swamp (sp?) We saw several alligators, more than half a dozen turtles, and lots of birds. The guide's special interest seemed to be the birds. We saw an osprey, which is a kind of eagle. From the top of a telephone pole, he took a dump in our direction as we passed by and made a noise.

We also saw the remains of piers from a mothball fleet that is now gone, and several barges that were used in WWII, now sunk in the river. They still stick out because the barges are about 40 feet high, but the river is not that deep in that spot.

I had been on a similar tour in New Orleans in 1989, but it was neat to watch Mary's reactions, and it was nice to get the more private treatment. We could ask lots of questions.

We had been told that we must eat at Cajun Charlie's in Sulphur, Louisiana. Well, so far Louisiana gets an A+ for both food and service. Mary had red beans and rice; I had an appetizer of jambalaya, then blackened catfish. All were wonderful. Charlie himself also made a special dressing for Mary's salad. This one is worth going out of your way for.

We are now staying in Baton Rouge. Tomorrow we might see the USS Kidd and Veteran's Memorial, a destroyed docked in the Mississippi River here.

Tomorrow, we are due to arrive in Bay St Louis, Mississippi, to work with CityTeam there for two weeks. That is about three hours away from here, and we hope to arrive there in the late afternoon.

We appreciate all your prayers for our safety and for our effectiveness working with CityTeam the next couple of weeks. We had a couple of close calls on the freeway today, and we could feel your prayers and God delivered us from dangerous situations. We are praying for you all too.

Outer Space on $100 a day

Wednesday 19 April 2006, 9:54 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Tuesday, April 18

Today we visited Space Center Houston. This is not the same as the Johnson Space Center, but its web site describes it as "the Official Visitors Center of NASA's Johnson Space Center." We discovered that SCH and JSC are not the same thing when we turned into the wrong parking lot, and security guards had to scuttle us away. (Us and a long line of others.)

There is a tram ride that you can take through JSC, and it includes an inside view of the Mission Control room that was used from 1965-1995, a stop at the grove of trees that memorializes the crews of the Challenger and the Columbia, and a stop at Rocket Park, which includes two upright rockets that were designed for the Mercury and Apollo programs, I think. Not quite yet ready for exhibition, but visible through a dirty window, was a large Saturn V rocket that is being restored. This rocket had been scheduled for use on the scuttled Apollo 18 project.

Space Center Houston also includes lots of hands-on activities for the kids, including a neat section with sensors of various types (heat, motion, wind, sound, etc.) that demonstrate how a robot might be given senses. There were also activities like jungle gyms and large helical slides to keep the littlest tykes busy.

We got to see actual Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules, and full-size mockups of the Shuttle bridge and Skylab. There were also capsule stories of each of the missions through Apollo 17.

I bought a patch from the Mercury 9 mission. This was a little before my time, but I never knew that each Mercury mission had the number 7 associated with it, as in "Friendship 7" and so on. I bought this particular patch because it says "Faith 7" on it, and apparently the pilot was a Christian.

After finishing up at the Space Center, we ran around Friendswood trying to find the last open UPS Store so we could send some packages home, but we got lost and the packages will have to wait until Wednesday. Not wanting to get back into the Houston traffic snarl, we headed out to the coast to leave town trhough the La Porte area. When we made a wrong turn there, we found the Runway Grill. We hoped to find the great Texas steak there, but I was a little disappointed. We both ordered the same thing, rib eye medium with baked potato, but while Mary's was a bright pink, mine had no pink at all. Mary really enjoyed hers, but we both agreed this was not something to send someone out of their way for.

On down the I-10 toward Louisiana, we stopped in Orange, which turns out to be the last city before you cross the river away from Texas. Our Ramada was supposed to have WiFi but I only got it to work just once for a few seconds. Sigh.

Crab Shack

Monday 17 April 2006, 9:32 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Monday, April 17

Did you file your taxes today?

We stayed on the north side of San Antonio last night. We had Marble Slab ice cream and we found a AAA office nearby. This morning we went out to the AAA office to get maps of Texas, Houston, and Louisiana. I figured we knew our way around San Antonio so I wouldn't need one of those. Oops!

On the way to AAA we found a Christian bookstore, so we backtracked there to shop for the book Mary is looking for. I also bought a bookmark and a gift for a friend back home ... someone's going to get a surprise later this week!

We ate at Karam's mexican restaurant again. We got lost twice trying to find the freeway exit, but eventually I found a street that looked familiar and we got there. We had lunch this time instead of dinner (no margaritas because we have a long drive ahead of us), and it doesn't seem as good as last time. But still good!

The ride from San Antonio to Houston was pretty boring. Not ugly, and there were occasional patches of wildflowers along the freeway, yellow, then blue, and a little orange-red, but the closer you get to Houston, the flatter it gets, and the road is perfectly straight.

I-10 backed up and stopped almost dead on the west side of town, so we got off and tried surface streets. That side of town is pretty with lots of grass and lots of parks. Eventually we found our way to a toll freeway, and the toll takers gave us good directions how to get to the Space Center.

After checking in to a hotel in Webster, we followed the advice of the hotel manager and headed down the road to Kemah, a little town with a boardwalk and lots of seafood. Not quite as far as Galveston, but still we didn't get there in time to see the sunset. Rats. Had dinner at Joe's Crab Shack ("Eat at Joes"). We sat outside because it was warm but not too hot. A little muggy, though. The truck was wet when we returned to it. Anyway, the food was good, but I wouldn't send anyone out of their way to eat there.

Tomorrow we will visit the Johnson Space Center here in a little town just south of Houston. We would also like to visit the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, but it is near downtown and after seeing the traffic today, we're wary of venturing in that far. It might also be too much to visit both in one day, but we could stay here a second night if need be. This hotel is a little expensive, though.

Easter Miracle

Sunday 16 April 2006, 10:08 pm
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Easter Sunday, April 16

Today we attended the Easter service at Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Odessa. The last time we attended a VCF was two years ago in Gillette, Wyoming. That church was small, we met the pastor and several others, and we got lots of good advice about what to see in the area.

We didn't really know what to expect, but we were hoping for a smaller church, where we could meet people. What we got was a miracle!

As soon as we walked in the door, several people introduced themselves. David, Mark, one other I don't remember right now. We were made to feel very welcome. The church was very small. I think there were about 50 chairs set up, only about 25 of them occupied.

Pastor Tim Lien gave what he called an "atypical" Easter message, but it was meaty and well-received. Mary told me later she got a lot out of it, including some "homework" for when we get back home, and she asked the pastor later for the name of a book he mentioned, so we can buy it. At one point, Mary started sniffling with allergies, and someone passed us a box of kleenex.

After the service, we were talking to David, who had introduced himself earlier. We were telling him about our trip to Mississippi, and about the needs there. He offered to pray with us, then yelled for others to come and pray with us also. The pastor's wife, Mary Ann, and another gal, Susan, came to pray with us. In addition to the relief effort with CityTeam, Mary asked for prayer for Matthew, who is with the Marines in Iraq. David and Mary Ann prayed for us mightily, and Susan gave us a prophetic word of encouragement about Matthew's safety, which matched almost word-for-word the way I myself have been praying for Matthew lately.

Not only that, but after we prayed, David gave us some money and Mary Ann wrote us a check from the church, to use for "whatever we need." It's not been very often that I'm offered money, and I didn't really know how to respond, but the givers were very gracious even sensing my discomfort. Unless some pressing need presents itself, like the truck breaking down or something, we intend to turn this money over to CityTeam when we arrive in Bay St Louis. When we left there in November, there was a pressing need for pots and pans for people who had been moved into trailers but had no way to use the kitchens. The needs are probably different now, but we expect they are just as pressing.

David also took the time to tell us a nice way to get to San Antonio on back roads, since I-10 is so ugly through west Texas. The back road goes from Midland to Sterling City on hwy 158, then to San Angelo on hwy 87. In San Angelo, we stopped at a Denny's for Easter dinner. I'd have preferred a good Texas steak, but this was the best meal we've ever eaten in a Denny's (breakfast for Mary, Tilapia for me).

From San Angelo, we continued on hwy 87 to Eden, then hwy 83 to Menard, then hwy 29 to Mason. In Mason, I let Mary take over the driving. Since she prefers the freeway to the backroads, we headed out to I-10 via Fredericksburg and Comfort, bypassing Luchenbach. Darn! (eh?) I slept while Mary navigated I-10 down to the beltway, where we found this nice Howard Johnson with wireless internet.

Tomorrow, we hope to eat again at Karam's mexican restaurant here in San Antonio. (We ate there last summer when we visited here for URDC.) Then it's about 3-4 hours to Houston. On Tuesday, we hope to vist the Kennedy Space Center and other Houston attractions, including some kind of butterfly museum or zoo. Then on through Louisiana to Mississippi. Bay St Louis is just over that border. We are due to check in there on Thursday, April 20.

We've been told not to miss Cajun Charlie's in Sulphur, Louisiana, near Lake Charles. The manager of Denny's says it may have been wiped away by Hurricane Rita last year, but he's like to know if it's still there. Sounds like our kind of adventure.

Holy Batcave!

Sunday 16 April 2006, 10:03 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Saturday, April 15

After a late night driving last night, we slept in. We left Roswell around noon to head for Carlsbad Caverns. We would have visited the UFO Museum if we had seen it. Actually, I don't know how we missed it, having seen a postcard later ... it looks like a "sore thumb" building. As it turned out, it's a good thing we beat feet to Carlsbad when we did ...

Last year, we visited Carlsbad but we got there too late to do the "natural entrance" tour, where you walk down into the historic entrance, descending 700 feet over the course of a one mile walk. Last year we were able to visit the "big room" by going down the 70-story elevator. Last year, they stopped admitting people to the natural entrance around 4 pm. The reason is that the cave is populated by bats that come out in the evening. This year, they were closing the natural entrance at 2 pm. Apparently the bats come out at different times in the afternoon depending on the season, and this time of year they come out earlier. Anyway, we got there just in the nick of time. We were with the last group they let in.

We left Carlsbad at 5 pm when the closed up. Tonight, we want to make it to a town that has a Calvary Chapel or a Vineyard. We are heading generally in the direction of Houston. Unless we want to backtrack to El Paso, it looks like our best bet is the Midland/Odessa area or San Angelo. It doesn't help that we lost an hour when we crossed into Texas. We're now on Central Daylight Time, two hours different from our California home. Anyway, San Angelo looks like a very long drive, but Odessa looks very doable. We found a Days Inn there with internet access. After we checked in, we got online and discovered we were only two miles away from Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Odessa. Also, there is a Starbucks nearby. So we know where we're headed in the morning.

Da Bomb

Sunday 16 April 2006, 10:02 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Friday, April 14

We had a wonderful breakfast at an apparent one-off called the Flying Tortilla. We both had corned beef and eggs, and we both had sufficient leftovers for another meal. Santa Fe definitely gets an A+ for food.

Today we went to the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos. The Bradbury museum is not named for writer Ray Bradbury, but for another man having the same name. It is a huge alter to the sacrament of the atomic bomb, and other scientific achievements. It did have an "equal time" section for those who argue that the use of the atomic bomb in WWII was not necessary, but even to a peacknik like me their arguments were transparently ridiculous.

The museum also had sections devoted to computing, the human genome project, visualizations, and radiation. There was a hands-on section for children. Overall, we thought it very worthwhile.

We headed back to Santa Fe in time to attend the evening Good Friday service at Calvary Chapel Santa Fe. The church meets in a large building but attendance seemed small. Several people shook our hands but no one told us their names. We hope to find a better church for Easter.

At about 8:30 PM, we headed out on back roads toward the UFO capital of Roswell. We arrived around midnight. The last hour was pretty harrowing, as we found the road haunted by rabbits. We did almost hit one, and we came close to several others who were just sitting still by the side (or the middle) of the road. Mary said, if you hit the Easter Bunny he won't bring you any eggs.


Thursday 13 April 2006, 10:41 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Thursday, April 13

Today we visited Rosabelle. She is Mary's former mother-in-law. She is in a long-term care facility here in Albuquerque. We had a very pleasant visit with her. We're still not sure whether she recognized us, but she seemed very happy to see us. We called Aaron and let him talk to her on the cell phone, and her eyes lit up with recognition. We left her a photo of Aaron and Sherrellee from their wedding, and an Easter card to open later.

I will let Mary report more on the visit with Rosabelle later.

We found a UPS store where I could finish my paperwork and have it notarized. Then we went up to Sandia Peak but the tram was closed today. Across town, we visited Petroglyph National Monument. It was warm and while partly cloudy, we still got tired quickly and sunburned (which we didn't notice until later).

We left Albuquerque around 4:30 and arrived in Santa Fe around 5:30 pm. We found a motel with internet access so I could post all these blog entries! Then we headed to a local hangout that has become well known across the country ... The Bobcat Bite. They serve a 10-ounce hamburger with your choice of swiss cheese, bacon (Mary's choice), or green chilies (Mark's choice). I also tried the grilled jalapeno and turned bright red after just one small bite. As I told Mary, for just one buck I had to try it. We talked to several other customers who are regulars and they gave us some advice about what to see in and around town.

We found a Cold Stone Creamery near our hotel where I could wash away the effects of the jalapeno.

Tomorrow we hope to find a Calvary Chapel where we can attend a Good Friday service.


Thursday 13 April 2006, 10:30 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Wednesday, April 12

Wednesday was our fun day bumbling around Sedona. We stayed in Cottonwood last night, at the pleasant Little Daisy Motel.

The Red Rock Loop definitely gets 5 stars. It winds around a few miles through red rock canyons on a dirt road. There are also some nice homes back there.

As we headed back into Sedona, Mary yelled "quilt shop!" The Sedona Quilt Store had some interesting western patterns but the people were not that friendly. We bought a few patterns. Just a couple blocks further on down Mary yelled again ...

"Gluten free pizza!" What? We turned around and went back. Sure enough, Picazzo's Gourmet Pizza and Salads will serve any of their whole pizzas on a gluten-free crust. They also helped us to find gluten- and vinegar-free toppings and salads. Mary was in heaven! This was definitely a highlight of our trip so far. The waitress told us that people have come out to Sedona all the way from Indiana just to eat this pizza.

Next, we went up the Airport Road to the overlook. You can see all of Sedona from above. Many of the buildings are painted red to match the surrounding red rocks, but there was one cluster of whitish buildings right in the middle of town. I think these may have been some kind of industrial buildings, but Mary thinks maybe they were mobile homes.

Finally, we got our chance to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This is a small Catholic Chapel set high in the red rocks. It is known for its large stone cross built into the windows and the hillside. We've been here before, but never inside. They have a nice gift shop downstairs and we bought some post cards. Then we went inside and prayed for several minutes. We prayed for Matthew and many other things. There were candles to light and all the Catholic stuff we don't understand. This was another highlight of our trip so far.

We left town via Schebly Hill Road. This is a rough dirt road that climbs to several stunning vistas of red rocks. We definitely needed my high-clearance truck to do it. We were told that sunset is the favorite time to travel it, but we started around 3 pm. It took us right out to the freeway to Flagstaff, so off we went. Goodbye Sedona, we'll be back again!

We decided to make it as far towards Albuquerque as possible. We want to visit Rosabelle tomorrow. Mary took a little nap while I drove as far as Gallup, where we had to get gas. Then Mary took over while I rested. We arrived in downtown Albuquerque around 10:30 pm by our watches. But unknown to us, when crossing into New Mexico, we lost an hour due to entering Mountain Daylight Time (Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time all year). So it was actually 11:30 pm. I slept better that night.

The Day From Hell

Thursday 13 April 2006, 10:11 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Tuesday, April 11

Highlights: The Pitch, The Chiropractor, Emetrol

I woke up with a headache after not having slept well again. Why I can't sleep in an expensive resort is beyond me, but we'll find out before the end of the day.

We have a noon appointment for "the pitch" where they will try to sell us a time share in this resort. We both agree that we are really not interested. But it really does sound appealing. After discussing it with them for two hours (it was supposed to be a 90 minute pitch), they let us take a lunch break to think it over. The problem is that you must sign up today in order to get all these other extra benefits. It's really the additional benefits that are most appealing, because they include big discounts that might help us on our present trip. I really hate being railroaded into making a quick decision.

I can't even eat my lunch. It has nothing to do with the time share pitch ... I am just physically ill, and I don't know why. My headache is getting worse. During lunch, I got another phone call ... the missing paperwork, which I sent off the day after Disneyland last week, was filled out incorrectly. I'm not sure exactly how to fix it, but I have to fill it all out again, have it notarzied, and send it in again. And they won't tell me how to fix it ... I have to supply some numbers, it's a security feature. I understand the necessity of it. But, what a bother!

It takes another hour before we got them to sign us out without a commitment. Meanwhile, the concierge found a chiropractor so I can get some treatment for a neck that won't move, a headache, and persistent nausea. David Hart at Hart Family Chiropractic in Sedona, 928-282-8493, was a real life saver. In addition to fixing my neck, he diagnosed that my headache and nausea were caused by low blood sugar and dehydration. Sedona is at 4500 feet and the effects of the sun here are more pronounced than they would be at our sea level home. Dr. Hart also suggested some short-term remedies and some longer term strategies for dealing with low blood sugar. Short term, eat some raw nuts and drink some pure juice. This will get some protein and good sugar into my system. Longer term, the same as we've heard all along from our doctor at home ... balance the carbs with protein, eat smaller meals more often, and stay hydrated at the higher elevations.

After some pain killers and some Emetrol (an anti-nausea remedy) we found at Walgreens, I started to feel better. We also found a health food store that carried some good juice; we also stocked up on gluten-free products.

I regained my appetite about four hours later, around 10 pm. Dr. Hart actually called me on my cell phone to see how I was doing. Since we had wasted a day with time share pitches and illness, we decided to stay around Sedona one more day. This proved to be a great decision, as Wednesday was much more pleasant than Tuesday was unpleasant.

Indian Ruins

Thursday 13 April 2006, 9:47 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Monday, April 10

Highlights: Jerome and Jerome State Park, Tuzigoot National Monument, Montezuma's Castle NM

We aim to get into Sedona the back way, through Prescott and Cottonwood. I've never been this way before, but it must be better than the freeway. We found gas in Chino Valley for 2.59. The Chino Valley and Prescott areas seem to be nothing but trailers, but I don't assume we saw the whole thing.

Between Prescott and Cottonwood we pass through the hillside tourist trap of Jerome. We had to stop here because we have a brother in law named Jerome. We had to send him a post card and have it postmarked here. We also went to Jerome State Park, which surveys the mining history of this town.

Near Cottonwood we found the Tuzigoot National Monument, a set of indian ruins. It is really interesting because you can see entire rooms from below, at eye level, and from above. There are also two rooms you can actually walk into, one with a roof and one without.

Also nearby we found Montezuma's Castle National Monument. It is another indian dwelling build high on the side of a cliff. You see it from a couple hundred feet below, and you can't go into it, but it is still fascinating. The park includes a small-scale model of the innards and a video showing what life might have been like. Those displays help fill in the gaps.

In Sedona, we found our first internet access since the Kinko's in West Covina several days ago. I downloaded our email by sitting in the parking lot of the Comfort Inn. Someone clogged up my spool with a 6 megabyte cue sheet file. Please don't do that to me while I'm on vacation! Someone else sent me a large video file. You know who you are! Please don't do that ... even "high speed wireless" is not very high speed, especially when you have only 1/2 bar of signal from some parking lot.

We got here too late to see the church on the hill while it's open ... again. So we'll stay here in town tonight if possible, and see the church tomorrow. But there are no available rooms in town. We finally find a great deal on a resort room ... if we will spend 90 minutes listening to the time-share pitch tomorrow afternoon. We're not interested in the time share, but 69 dollars for a suite and free steak dinner is too good to pass up. I have not been sleeping well for several nights, and this promises to make for a sound sleep.

Las Vegas

Thursday 13 April 2006, 9:42 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Sunday, April 9

Highlights: Calvary Chapel Spring Valley, In-n-Out

Calvary Chapel Spring Valley is a large church on the western edge of Las Vegas. They had good rock and roll worship. The message was out of Daniel 9 and how it relates to Palm Sunday. Mary found the message interesting, but she did not like the impersonal nature of attending a large church as strangers. We've had better experiences attending small churches while on the road.

This was our last chance to eat at In-n-Out and we did so. Then we headed out to Kingman over Hoover Dam. I forgot about the traffic delays at Hoover Dam. It's not disagreeable when you want to see the dam, but when you just want to get from here to there it's annoying. My covered truck got picked out for a short inspection.

We went to the Powerhouse building in Kingman, home of the Route 66 Museum. We looked at all the displays that were free, but peeking into the actual museum room, it didn't look worth the four dollar entrance fee, even though recommended by Lonely Planet.

We ended up in Ash Fork, halfway between Kingman and Flagstaff. The Ash Fork Inn advertised 25 dollar rooms, but it ended up at 31 dollars for two people plus tax. Not a bad room, either, but the towels were pretty skimpy.

Death Valley

Thursday 13 April 2006, 9:39 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Saturday, April 8

Highlights: Death Valley, Pahrump, Las Vegas

We got up at 5:45 in order to get into Death Valley early, I've heard that sunrise is the best time to see it. This is way early for us. We both slept OK, but not nearly long enough. Because I made a wrong turn, we had to go at least 10 miles out of our way on the freeway before I found a place to make an illegal u-turn in the median. This put us almost half an hour behind schedule.

We entered Death Valley from the south entrance, near Shoshone. Wish we'd known better. There really is not much to see between the south entrance and Badwater, which is almost to the middle of the park.

The weather is cool at the higher elevations, but rises as you descend into the valley in the main part of the park. We never found it either cool enough or warm enough to be uncomfortable. The bright sunlight does tire our eyes, though.

Badwater is 282 feet below sea level. The ground is white and salty. There is a huge mountain next to it, and you can look up the mountain to a spot 282 feet up labeled "sea level." There is a boardwalk where you can walk out a little ways. There actually is a little pool of water there, the pool named "Badwater" because the water has too many minerals to be drinkable, although it is not toxic.

There is a gas station, store, lodge, and visitor center in Furnace Creek. In the visitor center, we get good advise about what to see in a short time. We don't really want to be here tomorrow because we want to go to church, preferably a Calvary Chapel like our church at home.

Gas is about 3.79 in Death Valley!

We decide to go as far as Stovepipe Wells, but not as far as Scotty's Castle. Probably the highlight there is the Salt Creek, where you can see pupfish mating. Pupfish are only about one inch long and they are very cute. They seem to be playing tag like children. On closer observation, it becomes apparent the males are chasing the females. They mate by sidling up next to each other, pausing a moment, and exchanging eggs or bodily fluids or whatever they do. It's fascinating to watch.

In the store at Stovepipe Wells, we bought bologna, jerky, ice cream, and Pahrump. Pahrump is a city in Nevada, but it is also the name we gave to our trip mascot, a little green and blue stuffed lizard we bought. He likes riding on the dashboard and soaking up the rays. He's very easy going and doesn't care much what you do, what you say, or even what you call him ... Pahrump, Pupfish, "the lizard," "hey you," or whatever. He's as low strung as we are high strung. God brought him into our lives to teach us how to relax and not sweat the small things.

We got into Las Vegas but we could not find a place to stay. We are looking for something really cheap, but it's Saturday night and spring break and everything is full. I got quotes for 149, 129, and 89 before crying. We prayed. Seriously. At one hotel they gave us the card for a hotline you can call. The gal on the other end called me "honey" about a dozen times during the three minutes we talked. She told me the cheapest hotel in town would be about 189, and even the chains were all full. She told me to call the 89 dollar motel back and snap it up. I called back, and the rate had gone down to 74! God does answer prayer. We had a room at the Klondike Casino.

But the hotel was disgusting. (The Klondike.) We waited an hour in line for them to process about 8 people ahead of us. Everyone around us was gambling, smoking, or drinking, even doing all three while waiting in line near us. Then we waited another half an hour for passable but cheap prime rib. The room was a smoking room but guaranteed aired out every day. Been there, done that. But the room wasn't bad from the odor standpoint. Our clothes smelled more from smoke just due to waiting in line at check-in. But the sink was so rusty that Mary refused to even brush her teeth. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we had prayed for a place to stay, and this is what God had provided.

But ... we will be able to go to church tomorrow at our choice of any of several Calvary Chapels. Which makes it worth it. We pray for the people at this very dark hotel. I refused to even have a drink with dinner. I refused to complain about the long wait. I refused to complain about the smoke. In this very dark place, we need to be the brightest lights we possibly can.

Running around

Thursday 13 April 2006, 9:32 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Friday, April 7

Highlights: none

We found a Kinko's and a notary in West Covina. We could not make my Powerbook work with the network at Kinko's. So I had to use their PC. Kinko's now charges 25 cents a minute to use their computers! Just a couple years ago it was 10 cents for a PC, and 20 cents for a Mac. We need some numbers to fill out the paperwork. I call the attorney but he leaves early on Fridays. I call the CPA and get the numbers.

Our nephew Paul goes to school at Azusa Pacific College, but we don't have his phone number, and no one else in the family does either. We finally reached his sister Rebecca, only to find out he's not in town anyway ... he's on spring break.

OK! We're headed towards our next destination: Death Valley. If we can't get there by dark, we'll get as close as we can. We end up in Baker at the Bun Boy Motel. I've called all around Death Valley and no other town has motel vacancies.


Thursday 13 April 2006, 9:30 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Thursday April 6

Highlights: Carrizo Plain National Monument, Disneyland, the Phone Call

I get up around 6 am after not having slept much. Mary gets up around 6:30 am. Very early for both of us. We're sorry we didn't have more time to visit with Carol.

We are on the road by 7:30 am. Destination: Disneyland! We have season passes so we can even drop by for just a couple hours at no charge. We got gas at some no-name city along highway 99. I want to see if there are wildflowers in the Carrizo Plain National Monument between Bakersfield and Santa Maria. There are lots, on the northwest end near Soda Lake. But afterward, Mary didn't think it was worth the detour.

While on the 405 approaching Garden Grove, I got a phone call that some of the paperwork I filed a couple of days ago was incomplete. We have to find a Kinko's, print a form from the web, fill it out, have it notarized, and send it in. We'll work on all that tomorrow.

6 pm: We arrive in the Disneyland area after being stuck on the 405 for a couple of hours. We've made several wrong turns, and we are both tired, hungry and grouchy. There are no rooms available in Anaheim. We decided to pay the 10 bucks to park in the lot, go to Disneyland, leave when the park closes at 11 pm, and get out to some other lesser town where we can find an inexpensive room.

In California Adventure, we went on the Tower of Terror, the roller coaster we missed last time and whose name I can never remember, and Soarin' Over California. We discovered that the Taste Pilot's Grill serves a gluten-free hamburger. But we did not eat there because the park closed before we could get to it.

In Disneyland, we ate the gluten-free burger at Club Buzz. Then we went on Space Mountain while the 50th anniversary fireworks were going off. Lots of others had the same idea, and the line for SM was very long. We were told later that we'd missed quite a fireworks show. Hopefully we'll get to see it again later this year. After Space Mountain, we went into the Haunted Mansion, which was closed when we visited in January. I thought we went on one other ride, but Mary says no. We were both really tired and we still didn't have a place to stay. We left around 10:30 pm.

We stayed at the Super 8 in El Monte. We both slept well tonight.

The Countdown

Thursday 13 April 2006, 9:25 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Day -1: Monday April 3

We selected April 4 as our departure date. Originally, my passport was scheduled to arrive on April 4. It arrived earlier than expected, on March 23. But by then we had already made some other plans up until April 4.

But it doesn't look like we will get out of here tomorrow anyway. I am still finishing up some paperwork that needs to be done before we leave, and we have not started packing yet.

Day 0: Tuesday April 4

We decided that in order to leave today, we'd have had to stay up all night packing. So we will take today to pack, and we will leave tomorrow.

Afternoon update: we have not started packing yet.

If we wait until tomorrow, we can go to Bible Study at church tonight. We'll be away from Bible Study for several weeks, and we'll miss it, so since it is late, we decide to wait until the morning. We can pack later tonight or early tomorrow morning, and be out of here by noon.

Day 1: Wednesday April 5

OK, we slept in until almost noon. But we'll still be out of here in a couple of hours.

4 pm update: we are almost done packing. I call my sister in Fresno to see if we can stay at her house tonight. We will be ready to leave in about an hour, and we will arrive in Fresno around 8 pm. Carol will be in her own deaf Bible Study until 8 pm, so it times out just about right. We will be able to visit with her for a couple of hours before her 10 pm bedtime.

7 pm update: we are packed and the truck is loaded, but we have to stop and visit friends on the way out of town. They are looking after our house while we are gone.

8 pm update: we are truly on the road now. We should arrive in Fresno around 11 pm, only one hour after Carol's bedtime.

10 pm update: Carol asks whether she should leave the door open for us so she can go to bed. We are still 45 minutes away.

We finally arrive at Carol's house in Fresno just a little before 11 pm. She gets up around 5:30 am and we want to leave her house before she goes to work.

Where we been?

Thursday 13 April 2006, 9:13 pm
Keywords: Road Trip 2006
(Link to this article alone)

Starting April 5, we are traveling the country. So far, we have been to Disneyland, Death Valley, Sedona, and Albuquerque. Right now we are in Santa Fe, and we're not sure where we are heading tomorrow. We will be heading either toward Oklahoma City, Amarillo, or Carlsbad Caverns. We do hope to visit the Atomic Museum in Los Alamos and the Space Center in Houston.

Starting April 20, we are due to serve for two weeks with CityTeam in Bay St Louis, Mississippi. We were there last Thanksgiving, helping to run a distribution center. We don't know yet what we will be doing this time.

After we're done in Mississippi, we may head up the Natchez Trace and and the Blue Ridge Parkway to Washington DC, where we hope to spend some time visiting the Smithsonian Museums. After that, we plan to visit Independece Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadephia, whatever we can see in New York City, including the Statue of Liberty, then head up to Boston and New England.

As we head back, we might visit Ann Arbor (where Mary was born), Chicago (where Mark's dad was born), and venture into Canada. If there is time, we might even go to Alaska.

I will post our experiences this last week as a series of separate articles.

An Affront to Civilization

National Review Editorial

Friday 24 March 2006, 1:03 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The trial of Abdul Rahman, who faces a potential death sentence for converting to Christianity some 15 years ago, is an affront to civilization. Killing or jailing someone for his religious beliefs is always wrong, and is especially galling in a country so dependent on American military forces and aid.

Conservatives in this country have been admirably willing to accept the compromises and frustrations that come with President Bush's attempts to reform recalcitrant parts of the world. The judicial murder of a Christian convert by a government that exists only on the basis of American power and good will, however, would be intolerable.


Free Abdul Rahman

Washington Times Editorial

Friday 24 March 2006, 12:59 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Washington Times Editorial

The case of Abdul Rahman, who faces execution in Afghanistan for having become a Christian 15 years ago, is about as clear-cut as it could be. A democracy founded on the principles of freedom and tolerance does not kill religious dissenters. This was why Afghanistan under the Taliban was considered one of the most oppressive countries in the world. What have American soldiers achieved if they have not eliminated this barbaric medieval legacy?

We expect the administration to use all the leverage it can, which is considerable, to set Mr. Rahman free -- and not only for Mr. Rahman's sake. American soldiers and their families, not to mention taxpayers, have sacrificed much to free Afghanistan. The execution of Christians simply because they are Christians is not what they had in mind.


Congratulating ourselves

Los Angeles Times

Friday 24 March 2006, 11:13 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Conservatives have questioned the administration's support for democratic governments in Islamic countries.

"How can we congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadists only to be ruled by radical Islamists who kill Christians?" wrote Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, a lobbying group, in a letter this week to Bush and congressional leaders.

Afghanistan's new constitution calls for religious freedom of expression, but the document has an unresolved conflict with Sharia, which does not permit conversions out of Islam.

Mawlawi Ghulam Haider, 75, a mullah in a Kabul mosque, said: "If somebody becomes a Christian or converts to any other religion than Islam, he must be given a chance over three days to think and return to Islam. If he returns to Islam, he can live happily ever after. But if he doesn't turn back … he will be punished by death."


Spring Ache

New Orleans Times-Picayune

Thursday 23 March 2006, 7:17 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Thousands of college students who might have spent spring break sunning in Acapulco or on Florida beaches this year are pouring into New Orleans to sleep in dormitory tents or on classroom floors, eat off paper plates and spend a week of vacation hauling foul muck out of homes ruined by floodwaters.

-- Campus Crusade for Christ, a network of campus ministries, has sent 4,400 students to New Orleans this week, the peak of the spring break season, spokesman Tony Arnold said.

-- The Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board has more than 1,500 students here this week, spokesman Steve Manfredi said.

-- Common Ground Collective, a secular grassroots organization of young social progressives, has about 1,000 students on the ground doing demolition, health care, day care, after-school tutoring and other tasks, said Lisa Fithian, a veteran activist from Austin who has been in New Orleans since September.

-- Opportunity Rocks 2006: Rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a network led by former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., has nearly 700 college students from 27 states working in Chalmette.

-- United Methodist churches around New Orleans are housing and dispatching more than 1,000 students to work sites daily during this week, said the Rev. Yvonne Dayries, a coordinator at the denomination's headquarters in Baton Rouge.

-- Lutheran encampments in Metairie, Kenner and St. Tammany house 300 volunteers working around the region.

Four major encampments in Chalmette, Algiers, at City Park and in the Lower 9th Ward house more than 5,000 students. Many more are bedded down in independent churches or private homes. The students are scattered around the area, but most are concentrated in the flood zones of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.

In shorts and rubber boots, bandannas and face masks, they immerse themselves in the wreckage. Often a boom box pumps out music to relieve the work. But the experience remains sobering.


Democratic Apostasy

Prison Fellowship - Chuck Colson

Thursday 23 March 2006, 7:15 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Chuck Colson

The irony is inescapable: This is the country that we rid of the Taliban because of its religious oppression. This is the country in which we have spent at least $70 billion to establish a free democratic government. This is the country whose freedom cost us three hundred American lives and eight hundred casualties. And this is the country that is preparing to execute a man for becoming a Christian after he witnessed other Christians caring for his countrymen.

Is this the fruit of democracy? Is this why we have shed American blood and invested American treasure to set a people free? What have we accomplished for overthrowing the Taliban? This is the kind of thing we would expect from the Taliban, not from President Karzai and his freely elected democratic government.

I have supported the Bush administration’s foreign policy because I came to believe that the best way to stop Islamo-fascism was by promoting democracy. But if we can’t guarantee fundamental religious freedoms in the countries where we establish democratic reforms, then the whole credibility of our foreign policy is thrown into serious question. I hope the president and the administration can recognize what a devastating setback Rahman’s execution would be to the cause of democracy and freedom.


Satellite May Have Found Noah's Ark

ABC News

Wednesday 22 March 2006, 2:52 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

This article reads like something from the National Enquirer, but ...

Satellite May Have Found Noah's Ark

March 15, 2006— A satellite image may launch a scientific expedition to search for Noah's Ark. The snapshot captures a mysterious object on Turkey's Mount Ararat.

"I see for a 1,015 feet in length a shiplike object that has almost unbroken symmetry," said Porcher Taylor, an assistant professor at the University of Richmond.

He calculated that the object in the photo had the same length-to-width ratio — 300 cubits by 500 cubits — of the ark described in the Bible. That is about the size of an aircraft carrier.


Southern Baptist mission to rebuild Big Easy houses

Wednesday 22 March 2006, 2:01 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

The Southern Baptist Convention, in conjunction with Promise Keepers, plan to rebuild 1,000 homes in New Orleans. They hope to find 52,000 volunteers.

Samaritan's Purse has contributed $25 million and over 5,000 volunteers to rebuild 7,000 homes.

The Lutheran Church is sending 1,000 college students who will spend their spring break helping the area rebuild.



Washington Post

Wednesday 15 March 2006, 1:15 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Linton Weeks, Washington Post Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- Anita McClendon, 48, and about a dozen other volunteers were gutting the innards of the flood-ravaged Greater Little Zion Baptist Church in the Lower Ninth Ward. It was tough, sweaty work, and for some of the volunteers, it was their vacation.

McClendon, a health care worker from Oakland, Calif., was here for three weeks, ripping down demolished buildings by day -- and dancing to zydeco by night. She and thousands of other volunteers are combining work and play to help rebuild this devastated city.

This month, they are being joined by hundreds of college students spending spring break here and on Mississippi's Gulf Coast. They include 200 students from Howard University, more than 40 from George Washington University and more than two dozen from American University's Washington College of Law. The effort is dubbed "voluntourism," and local leaders say it is critical to the rebuilding because it provides dollar-spending fun lovers and hammer-wielding fixer-uppers all rolled into one. The more than 1,000 students expected here in the coming weeks will clean out houses and churches and day-care centers.

The Web site www.VolunTourism.org points out that the combination of volunteerism and tourism dates back centuries: Missionaries, sailors, explorers and others performed social services while visiting new places. The modern iteration began in the 1960s with the launching of the Peace Corps. Study-abroad programs in the 1970s and ecotourism in the 1980s expanded the notion. Volunteer vacations, with organizations such as Earthwatch, really took hold in the 1990s.

Habitat for Humanity, the Georgia-based home-building group for low-income families, offers voluntourism opportunities, called "global village trips," around the world. Spokesman Duane Bates said, "They build houses during the day and enjoy cultural activities at night."

Through Habitat, volunteers are helping to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. Since January, more than 1,300 people have worked for the group in the greater New Orleans area.


Girls gone mild - a different kind of spring break

San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday 14 March 2006, 12:30 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by C.W. Nevius

A growing number of college students are opting for spending the spring break week volunteering for good causes.

Erin Cooper, a third-year student at UC Berkeley, is going to the party-hearty hotbed of Tijuana. She wants to help improve conditions for border patrols, raise awareness of domestic violence within Mexico and, just for kicks, help out in organizing labor unions among migrant workers.

Some of her classmates are going to New Orleans to join in the cleanup. Still others are headed to Mexico to lend a hand in impoverished communities.

Cooper says the move toward constructive, even philanthropic, spring breaks is only natural among students today. "I think there has definitely been an increase in community service in the last 10 years," she said. "I think a lot of us got into it when we were in high school because we had to do it to get into college, and it carried on from there."


Job gains bring out job seekers, so unemployment rate rises

San Jose Mercury News

Friday 10 March 2006, 3:40 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Frank Michael Russell, Mercury News Assistant Business Editor

Now that employers are finally adding to their payrolls, many long-suffering job seekers are returning to the workforce. In fact, they're returning in numbers so huge that the unemployment rate climbed in February, even as employers added 243,000 payroll jobs.

The unemployment rate was still relatively low at 4.8 percent, up from 4.7 percent in January, the Labor Department reported today. "You are seeing a large number of people coming out of the woodwork because there are jobs to be found. People are now looking for jobs because it is now worth looking," said Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services, according to an Associated Press report. (The Labor Department doesn't count an individual as unemployed unless that person is actively looking for work.)



Mark says: Doh! I could have told you that.

God by the Numbers

Christianity Today

Friday 10 March 2006, 1:09 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Three numbers in particular suggest evidence for God's existence. They are 1/1010123, 10162, and eπi.

The fine-tuning of the four physical forces and the presence of one habitable planet are just two of the components that would go into a formula to predict the probability of a life-supporting universe. Oxford professor Roger Penrose discusses it in his book The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind. Penrose says the number is 1 in 10 to the 10 to the 123.

The second number that points to God comes from the field of biology. William Dembski, in The Creation Hypothesis, suggests the following argument. The odds against getting 1,000 beneficial mutations in the proper order is 21000. Expressed in decimal form, this number is about 10301. 10301 mutations is a number far beyond the capacity of the universe to generate. The chance of getting 1,000 beneficial mutations out of all the mutations the universe can generate is 10139 divided by 10301, or 1 chance in 10162.

A mathematics professor at MIT, an atheist, once wrote this formula on the blackboard, saying, "There is no God, but if there were, this formula would be proof of his existence."

eπi + 1 = 0


Real Life Simpsons Intro


Friday 10 March 2006, 12:29 pm
Keywords: Humor
(Link to this article alone)

A real-life Simpsons video. Not bad ...


Mississippi's Post-Katrina Boom

Washington Post

Friday 10 March 2006, 11:38 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post Staff Writer

BILOXI, Miss. -- On a recent Saturday night, traffic inching toward the 1,100-room Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino backed up for a mile on Interstate 110. Inside, gamblers jammed all 52 tables and 1,900 slot machines on the casino's three burgundy-carpeted floors.

Six months after Hurricane Katrina smashed through a fragile necklace of Mississippi coastal towns, the region is enjoying a post-storm boom. Fueled by insurance money, federal reconstruction aid and speculative capital, surviving hotels and restaurants are filled to overflowing, beachfront land prices are soaring, and developers are placing billion-dollar bets that shattered antebellum mansions will give rise to condominium resorts.

The guarded optimism is tempered by continued human suffering in one of the nation's poorest states, where 36,000 families remain housed in trailers and hundreds more live in plywood barracks and tents in the winter chill. To the west, the smaller towns of Waveland (population 7,100), Bay St. Louis (8,300) and Pass Christian (6,800) remain largely obliterated by Katrina.

"It's going to be a long journey -- we know that," said Pass Christian Mayor Billy McDonald, whose beach colony lost every business that generated sales taxes and 75 percent of its housing. Only about 2,000 residents remain. "First, we have to get cleaned up. Then we have to get people to come back. The hard part is in front of us."

But evidence of short-term recovery is everywhere in the cities President Bush visited this week. In Biloxi, a city of 50,000 that lost a quarter of its structures to Katrina, the three casinos that have reopened did $63 million of business in January -- close to the $83 million taken in by the city's nine gambling venues a year ago.

Brent Warr, mayor of neighboring Gulfport (population 72,000), said the nation's discovery of the area's 26 miles of white-sand beaches has boosted land prices along the devastated shoreline by 50 percent -- between $1 million and $2 million an acre. Investors are also seizing on federal post-storm tax legislation, which lets companies immediately write off half the cost of new investments.

Although the storm drew no distinctions between rich and poor, middle- and upper-class residents are rebuilding. But low-income people, fixed-income seniors and renters in poor, low-lying areas -- about 20 percent of the storm victims -- are being squeezed out by demolition and redevelopment, according to such groups as Oxfam America.


US students toil on Katrina relief for spring break

Alternet, Reuters

Thursday 9 March 2006, 3:12 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jeffrey Jones

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss., March 6 (Reuters) - It isn't the spring-break beach holiday most U.S. college students dream of, but with the shore still strewn with wreckage and homes in shambles from Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast is the destination of choice for thousands.

College kids from across the United States have answered the call to forsake March parties in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in favor of fixing and cleaning homes, schools and community centers in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Their holiday accommodation is a wind-battered auditorium jammed with cots and sleeping bags.

7,000 students have been marshaled by Campus Crusade for Christ. The United Way and MTV are sending 100 spring breakers to Biloxi and Foley, Alabama. Many students are paying their own way and some have held pledge drives to fund trips to sites where the work is hard and accommodations spartan.

The temporary influx in Pass Christian, a town of 6,500 people, has created few problems for locals despite scant resources, said Lieut. Greg Federico of the Harrison Country Sheriff's Dept. Many displaced residents still live in green military tents. "It means extra hands. And we absolutely need any help," he said. In fact, students began arriving just after Katrina and "they've been just working their butts off."

About 60 miles (100 km) west in New Orleans, where some neighborhoods remain in a state of suspended ruin, grassroots aid group Common Ground Relief expects 1,000-2,000 students to join its cleanup and community relief work in poor areas.


Complexity causes 50% of product returns

Washington Post

Tuesday 7 March 2006, 12:52 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)


AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Half of all malfunctioning products returned to stores by consumers are in full working order, but customers can't figure out how to operate the devices, a scientist said on Monday.

Product complaints and returns are often caused by poor design, but companies frequently dismiss them as "nuisance calls."

Consumers find it hard to install and use the wave of versatile electronics gadgets has flooded the market in recent years.

The average consumer in the United States will struggle for 20 minutes to get a device working, before giving up, the study found.

Product developers, brought in to witness the struggles of average consumers, were astounded by the havoc they created.

She also gave new products to a group of managers from consumer electronics company Philips, asking them to use them over the weekend. The managers returned frustrated because they could not get the devices to work properly.


Mark says: The essence of engineering is being able to look ahead and predict problems that will occur with the design, development, and deployment of a product. These problems shows that consumer devices suffer from a lack of proper engineering and usability analysis. These problems should have been known before the products were sold.

What is an evangelical?

Friday 3 March 2006, 1:58 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

My good friend Bill M is helping contact pastors regarding the Harvest Crusade that will take place in San Jose later this year.

He said he is contacting pastors of "evangelical" churches. I asked him what is an "evangelical" church. We tossed it back and forth for a while, but we didn't really come to a firm decision. In the end, we decided that pastors of non-evangelical chuches would probably "self-select out" of involvement in the Harvest Crusade. That is, pastors that choose to be involved are probably evangelical, and pastors that choose not to be involved are probably not evangelical.

It can be confusing. "Evangelical" is not the same as "fundamentalist" is not the same as "right-wing" is not the same as "moral majority" (or whatever they like to call themselves these days). And some churches that call themselves evangelical, like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, might have their evangelical credentials questioned others in the movement.

The term fundamentalist refers to churches who believe the Bible is totally without error. These include most pentecostal and baptist churches.

The term moral majority refers to churches who oppose abortion and homosexuality. It includes some non-evanglical Christian churches, for example Catholics, and some non-Christian groups, for example Mormons.

The term right-wing refers to churches who align themsevles with right-wing political ideals. This goes beyond "moral majority" politics because it includes support for defense and war, support for the death penalty, opposition to immigration, and other right-wing political ideals.

But the term evanglical does not allow such a simple definition. Some would try to say that any church that believes in the gospel is evangelical. But many non-evangelical churches, like Episcopal, Methodist, and Catholic, believe in the gospel. And they believe in preaching the gospel. And they would like to think of themselves as evangelical, even if they are excluded by other churches that call themselves evangelical.

Historians David Bebbington, Mark Noll, and George Rawlyk have identified four characteristic marks of "evangelicalism":

  • a stress on conversion,
  • a focus on Christ's redeeming work as the core of biblical Christianity,
  • an acknowledgment of the Bible as the supreme authority, and
  • an energetic and personal approach to social engagement and evangelism.

I'd say that overall this is a reasonable starting point for a definition. But it does seem to work by principle of exclusion. In other words, it defines evangelicalism by contrasting it to what it is not.

The focus on Christ's redeeming work excludes some groups that would like to call themselves Christian, such as Unitarians, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

The acknowledgement of the Bible as supreme authority is a device that goes back to the reformation of the 1500's, designed specifically to exclude Catholics.

The stress on conversion is the requirement that is most germane to the upcoming Harvest Crusade. Why would a group that doesn't believe in conversion support an outreach that attempts to convert people? It may surprise you that some Christian groups do not overtly believe in conversion. Many groups believe in catechism ... that is, if you teach the gospel to children and young adults, they will "grow into" a relationship with God, without the need for any conversion experience. Gerberding, in The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, (Lutheran Publication Society, 1887) says exactly this. (The book is available online through Project Gutenberg.) In general, Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican/Episcopal churches do not believe in conversion. Reformed and Presbyterian churches claim to believe in conversion but many do not act like it ... and some extreme Calvinist churches say that "choosing Christ" is impossible because predestination requires that Christ choose you instead.

Personal social engagement and evangelism seems to exclude just about everyone. Most Christians believe in personal engagement but do not practice it. Most conservative Christians (those who belive in a personal relationship with Jesus) claim to believe in evangelism but few practice it. Most liberal Christians (those who believe in living like Jesus did) believe in social engagement but not evangelism. Only missionaries get even close to doing this.

But maybe that's the point. It's not enough to just have a personal relationship with Jesus, one must also "be Jesus" to the world without. And it's not enough to want to live according to the ethical ideals of Jesus, one must also have the personal relationship with Jesus that makes that kind of lifestyle possible.

(The Christianity Today article is about Richard Baxter; it is worthwhile in and of itself, and it describes these four characteristics of evangelicalism as they were displayed in Baxter's life.)

Bible Reading Progress

Wednesday 1 March 2006, 4:58 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

I've posted a couple times before about my new plan for reading through the New American Standard Bible in one year.

One month ago I was quite far ahead of plan, way far ahead on two tracks, and a little behind on the two other tracks. At that time I had completed 30 percent of the Bible, enough to finish in only seven months if I were to keep up that pace.

Here's my cumulative progress to date, through three months:

Track 1 Track 2 Track 3 Track 4
OT History OT Prophecy OT Wisdom New Testament
302 chapters 154 chapters 69 chapters 90 chapters
212 chapters ahead 64 chapters ahead 21 chapters behind exactly on track

I've read a total of 615 chapters, which is just over half the Bible. At this pace, I should finish in six months, or around the end of May.

Because I'll finish Track 1 shortly, I can start doubling up on Track 3, where I'm a little behind. But I'm worried that even if I tack Job and Proverbs onto the end of Track 1, I may not finish even the Psalms at the end of six months, because I'm not even half way through that one book. I don't really like to read more than one Psalm per day; but the later ones are shorter.

Churches vs. Starbucks

London News-Telegraph

Wednesday 1 March 2006, 3:14 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

More than 1,000 new Christian churches have been created over the last seven years, double the number of Starbucks coffee shops, new research has found.

All the major denominations opened new churches but the biggest growth was among the black Pentecostal churches. The remaining new churches were scattered among the mainstream denominations.

About 450 branches of Starbucks were opened over the same period.

(Mark says: NOTE this was in England)


The Simpsons vs. The First Amendment

Yahoo News, AP

Wednesday 1 March 2006, 3:06 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Anna Johnson, Associated Press

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.)

The study by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.


Learning to Listen to God

Christianity Today

Wednesday 1 March 2006, 2:06 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Philip Yancey

I've become more convinced than ever that God finds ways to communicate with those who truly seek him, especially when we lower the volume of the surrounding static. I remember reading the account of a spiritual seeker who interrupted a busy life to spend a few days in a monastery. "I hope your stay is a blessed one," said the monk who showed the visitor to his cell. "If you need anything, let us know, and we'll teach you how to live without it."


The Joke Is on Katrina

Los Angeles Times

Wednesday 1 March 2006, 10:35 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

"Chasing after Moses, the Pharaoh came to the shore of the parted Red Sea, cast his eyes toward the heavens and asked God, 'Lord, may we also cross?' God replied, 'Sure, Pharaoh. I don't see why not. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers swears the walls are secure and it won't flood.' "

— Joke told by engineers in New Orleans

"I just got back from Vegas. You'd think the people in Las Vegas would be different than us here in New Orleans, but they're not.

They're all walking around saying, 'I lost everything. I lost the car. I lost the house ...' "

— Comic Jodi Borrello, performing in front of shipyard workers

"I Stayed in New Orleans for Katrina and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt, a New Cadillac and a Plasma TV."

— We really saw this T-shirt in New Orleans

"Being an evacuee changes every aspect of your life, doesn't it? It changes your dating life, I can tell you that much. I'm in Houston and I'm talking to this woman, and things are going pretty well. I said, 'You want to go back to my place?' She said, 'Sure, I'd love to.' I said, 'Yeah, so would I.' "

— Comic Strecker, performing at Lucy's


What is communism?

Tuesday 28 February 2006, 10:22 am
(Link to this article alone)

This article from the LA Times about a joint effort between South Korea and North Korea in one brief sentence describes the essence of communism.

"The monthly salaries of $57.50 for each North Korean worker — regardless of position — are paid directly to the North Korean government, which in turn gives the workers about $8."

Think your taxes are high? Think again.

Gene variants make women see red


Monday 27 February 2006, 7:15 pm
Keywords: Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Amy Norton

A new gene study may help explain why she sees crimson, vermillion and tomato, but it's all just red to him.

In an analysis of the DNA of 236 men from around the globe, researchers found that the gene that allows people to see the color red comes in an unusually high number of variations. And that may be a boon to women's color perception in particular, study co-author Dr. Brian C. Verrelli told Reuters Health.

That's because the gene, known as OPN1LW, sits on the X sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, one from each parent, while men have one X and one Y chromosome. Because women have two different copies of the "red" gene, the fact that the gene can have so many variations means it may especially aid women's perception of the red-orange spectrum.

Past research into color-vision genes has focused largely on variations related to color blindness. The red gene routinely swaps bits of genetic material with its neighbor on the X chromosome, the "green" gene. Sometimes this exchange goes wrong and results in a defect that causes color blindness. An estimated eight percent of men are color-blind, while few women have the condition because the odds are they will have at least one good copy of the red and green genes.


Seeing Red

Netscape News

Monday 27 February 2006, 7:11 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Women see one color differently than do men: red. She sees crimson, burgundy, and tomato. He sees red. Just plain ol' red. Why? It turns out there's a perfectly good reason why men can't see what is so obvious to women: the many variations--some subtle, some bold--of the color red. Reuters reports that researchers from Arizona State University in Tempe have determined there is a gene that allows us to see the color red, and that gene comes in a high number of variations. Because the gene sits on the X chromosome--and women have two X chromosomes and so two copies of this gene, compared with only one for men--the gene aids women's ability to perceive the red-orange color spectrum. The study findings were reported in the American Journal of Human Genetics.


God's Katrina Kitchen

Christianity Today

Monday 27 February 2006, 1:32 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Deann Alford

On August 29, Katrina made landfall just west of Pass Christian (pronounced "Christy Ann") on Mississippi's coast. The 30-foot storm surge killed 22 people, destroyed nearly all business property, and damaged or destroyed 90 percent of the town's homes. Pass Christian is one of the communities most devastated by Katrina. By January, only 1,500 of Pass Christian's 6,500 residents remained. The rest are scattered nationwide, joining 2 million other hurricane refugees across America.

Pass Christian's government is in tatters. Like virtually all Pass Christian residents, city leaders suffered grave personal loss. City Hall is now in a doublewide trailer. The storm set back the city 150 years, to its early days as a rustic resort area. Little of the tax base remains, nor does any meaningful employment beyond contract work for cleanup and debris removal.

The Red Cross has left town, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has scaled back. Other major agencies, such as the Salvation Army, are often outmatched by the size and complexity of the needs.

Greg Porter, who had cooked for an inner-city ministry, stepped into the hunger gap. His church, Christian Fellowship, provided supplies. He and his team of five drove a mobile kitchen from Indiana to Pass Christian, arriving September 14. They set up on a median and turn lane of crippled Interstate 90. Their first meal provided 125 free hamburgers.

After Hurricane Rita passed by, crews moved to a city-owned lot, which is now filled with donated refrigerated trailers, storage containers, and a big tent dining room. Their canopied kitchen includes industrial-grade appliances that create meals from food shipped from across the nation, all of which is donated. An Evansville radio station has solicited volunteers for the operation. In late October, a station broadcaster christened it "God's Katrina Kitchen." Its motto is posted at the entrance: "Not One Church, But One God."

Kitchen crews daily serve 1,500 hot breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to residents, relief workers, police, road repairmen, soldiers from Biloxi's heavily damaged Keesler Air Force Base, and anybody else who's hungry—free of charge, no id required. A donation box sits by the serving line.

God's Katrina Kitchen includes a clothing center, a food pantry, and tables with Bibles and Christian literature. Volunteers who distribute food and clothing often share the gospel with those receiving aid. Nightly worship services feature music and speakers from across America.

Until mid-December, the Colbys ate supper several times weekly at God's Katrina Kitchen. Pastor Colby found that both victims and volunteers bore a heavy emotional load. He labels it "Katrina brain." But the summer camp-like environment at God's Katrina Kitchen provides a daily occasion for people to break bread and talk about what they face.

The collaboration between Christian groups has impressed Pass Christian's politicians. Christians represent 95 percent of relief volunteers, said Lou Rizzardi, Pass Christian's Ward 1 alderman who coordinates them.

Crusade volunteers share the gospel with every family they help. Nonbelievers are far more receptive to the message after seeing faith in action.

DEET-resistent gnats, more prevalent than ever, leave welts that itch and sting weeks later. Razor wire, used to block roads immediately after the storm, remains strewn along railroad tracks. Dreamlike morning fog that rolls over the community might seem romantic if it didn't envelop a vision from hell. Cleanup alone will take two years. Rebuilding Pass Christian will take much longer.

University Crusade groups and ten Christmas Conference gatherings nationwide have promoted spring-break work trips to the region. Rick Amos, Crusade's Katrina relief coordinator, told CT that during spring break, "There will be just as much evangelism in Pass Christian and New Orleans as there will be in Panama City [Florida]."


911 calls to be directly routed to city police

San Jose Mercury News

Monday 27 February 2006, 1:18 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Gary Richards, Mercury News

This month Los Gatos and Menlo Park join a growing list of cities where drivers making emergency calls from local streets will have 911 calls directly routed to city police, easing the pressure on the understaffed Highway Patrol.

San Jose is on board, as are most cities in Santa Clara County and along the Peninsula. Union City and Alameda are the only two East Bay cities taking local 911 cell calls on city streets, but more hope to.

All of the major cell phone companies, with the exception of Nextel, now have the ability to route 911 calls to the closest dispatch center.

Under the new system, city police can pinpoint the general location of calls on streets within city limits. Older phone models provide a phone number, cell carrier and cell tower that is being used along with GPS coordinates of the tower. Newer cell phones with a GPS chipset beam back the same information as well as GPS coordinates of the phone in use.


Cross-Generational Square Dance TOMORROW Feb 28

San Jose Mercury News

Monday 27 February 2006, 1:06 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Square Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

I'm not sure where else to post this notice, so here goes:

Cross-Generational Square Dance. Families with children ages five and older and seniors welcome. 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28. West Hope Presbyterian Church, 12850 Saratoga Ave., Saratoga. $3-$10. (408) 730-4684.


Four free ways to stop spyware

San Francisco Chronicle

Monday 27 February 2006, 12:55 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Lavasoft Ad-aware SE 1.06
Cnet rating: 7.6 out of 10 (Very good)

Tenebril SpyCatcher Express
Cnet rating: 7.2 out of 10 (Very good)

Spybot Search & Destroy
Cnet rating: 6.7 out of 10 (Good)

Microsoft Windows Defender beta 2
Cnet rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Good)


Mississippi Casinos Trump Katrina

Los Angeles Times

Saturday 25 February 2006, 8:50 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Richard Fausset, Times Staff Writer

BILOXI, Miss. — Nearly six months after the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, the good times are rolling. The gamblers are back, and they are bringing huge amounts of money to this beaten coastline's most important industry.

Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, destroying most of the waterfront casinos and shuttering the remainder. Some economists and tourism officials predicted that their comeback — if it occurred at all — would be slow going.

But the Isle of Capri and two other casinos resumed business in December, and since then have attracted thousands of visitors who have helped the gaming industry post surprisingly strong numbers. In January, the three casinos pulled in nearly $64 million in gross gaming revenue, according to the Mississippi Gaming Commission. The previous January, the total in Biloxi was $90 million — when the city had nine casinos in business.

In October, the Mississippi Legislature changed the law to allow onshore casinos within 800 feet of the shoreline. The casinos got another boost when Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) helped them win federal tax relief to rebuild.


Deaf Church Wins Land Value Battle

Los Angeles Times

Friday 24 February 2006, 2:10 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Dan Weikel, Times Staff Writer

A small church that has served the deaf community in Riverside County for decades will receive more than $4.5 million to settle allegations that Caltrans grossly undervalued the congregation's property when it was condemned to make way for new ramps on Interstate 215.

Calvary Deaf Church and Caltrans resolved their dispute Tuesday shortly after Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask tentatively ruled that Caltrans' original appraisal of $1.65 million was flawed and outdated. A trial had been scheduled for Monday.

Calvary Deaf Church, which has about 45 members, was founded in 1956 by Beatrice and John Berry, two Assemblies of God ministers. It is one of a handful of congregations in the region that specifically serve hearing-impaired people.


$3,200,000,000 and rising for Katrina relief

Christianity Today, The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Friday 24 February 2006, 1:44 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Some organizations have raised so much money for Katrina relief that they're not taking any more, says The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Charities have raised about $3.2 billion, according to the publication's survey. Among the top recipients: The Salvation Army ($325M), Catholic Charities USA ($154.5M), Habitat for Humanity ($95M), The United Methodist Committee on Relief ($62.4M), Samaritan's Purse ($36.9M), Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief ($20.1M), and World Vision ($10.9M).



Katrina Report Urges Retooled Disaster Plans

Washington Post

Friday 24 February 2006, 12:54 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Christopher Lee and Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post Staff Writers

The White House proposed a major restructuring of federal preparedness and response efforts for catastrophic natural disasters yesterday, saying the government's failures in coping with Hurricane Katrina had laid bare the inadequacy of steps taken since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In a 228-page report that emphasized bureaucratic problems rather than failures of leadership, White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend detailed a host of problems in the federal approach to the most destructive natural disaster in the nation's history. The report contained 125 recommendations for improvement -- including 11 critical steps to be taken before the next hurricane season begins June 1.

The report echoed many of the findings of a special House committee, which issued its report last week.

A Senate committee is at work on its own report, and the Government Accountability Office has undertaken a comprehensive review. But there is no independent commission looking into the government's response to the hurricane, as there was after the 2001 attacks.


Mark says: How many damn reports do we need, anyway? Keep them congress-persons too busy to do other damage, I guess.

Billy Graham the Pastor

USA Today

Wednesday 22 February 2006, 7:30 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY

The Journey: How to Live By Faith in an Uncertain World, by Billy Graham, will be in bookstores March 7.

"The book begins where a crusade leaves off. It's about being a Christian, not becoming one," says Graham's spokesman, A. Larry Ross. "It's his legacy, encapsulating the essence of his sermons, writings and recordings on what it means to be a follower of Christ."

There's no news in The Journey but the Good News, the translation of "Gospel." There are no bloggable bits where he slams people or pounds political views. He writes about, but never names, a "well-known Christian leader" with an impressive "zeal for truth" who was missing "a love for others (especially those who disagreed with him)."

The book's four parts focus on the basic elements of the Christian life: discovering God's love, building strength, facing challenges and finally, family life, aging and death.


Wrapped in Prayer, Marines Leave for Iraq Duty

Los Angeles Times

Wednesday 22 February 2006, 7:21 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON — Navy Lt. Jim Peugh, a Protestant chaplain, led the 100-plus Marines of Combat Logistics Battalion 5 in a prayer asking God to "be with us" as the battalion returns to Iraq and also to protect the families left behind.

"You need to be strong and you need to pray that they're all coming back, all of them," said Bev Singleton, the mother of Staff Sgt. Mikel Travis, 30. "These are all my sons and my daughters, every one of them."

It was a morning for spouses to trade secrets on how to endure the uncertainty of the deployment.

"Don't watch the news, be hopeful when he calls and don't bother him with problems. Just give him positives," suggested Carrie Strickland, 21, whose husband, Sgt. Chris Strickland, 23, is an explosive ordnance technician.


Does God love gays?

Wednesday 22 February 2006, 7:03 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

This cover story in the latest Metro Silicon Valley discusses a new documentary "God and Gays."

What God thinks about gay people is something that Christians and gay people need to think soberly and deeply about, not something where blanket pronouncements serve any purpose.

When some gay people say they can be Christians, they need to think about why their Christianity might give them some sense of being loved, but not some power to change. A real relationship with a loving Savior ought to impart some power to change some things in your life that you don't even necessarily think are wrong, but which God wants to change anyway.

On the other hand, when some Christians say that gay people cannot be Christians, they ignore the fact that the Bible has only half dozen passages that mention homosexuality, but four whole Gospels that show Jesus embracing those whom the religious community would not. Jesus did not condemn the outcasts, but he loved them back into the fold. Jesus condemned only the religious establishment that would exclude some from the spiritual life.

I personally like to think that the Bible can be summed up in these verses from Psalm 62:

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.

Gay people have a religion where God is loving but not very powerful. God wants to exercise his power in your life to change your life. And this means more than just the power to let you learn to love your mate better. Any old non-Christian person can do that, and divorce statistics indicate that they might do so better than self-labeled Christians do. God wants to change your life in ways you won't expect, and perhaps won't even want at first. But he also wants the power to change your attitude and desires. The irony is that by refusing to give full rein to God's power, they lose the most powerful demonstration of God's love. When you see God at work in your life in ways that are beyond human ability and comprehension, it validates your knowledge of his love in a powerful way.

Some Christians have a religion where God is powerful but not very loving. They remind me a lot of the Pharisees of Jesus's time. The Pharisees could quote lots of Bible passages, but they had a hard time showing the love of God to others. The irony is that by denying God's love, they cut themselves off from the full demonstration of God's power. God cannot reach others through a hateful person, although the story of Nebuchadnezzar shows that he can use even a hateful person to achieve his purposes through circumstances. I don't want to be a "circumstancial" Christian through whom God does things only by accident ... but someone whose love reaches out to others in a purposeful way.

Ministries mentioned in the article and the movie include Exodus International. This is not a hateful organization, as some would try to paint it. They do not try to "change" homosexuals into straight people. They do try to expose gay people to the love of God, and then let God exercise his power in his own unexpected ways. As Christians, we often hope that God will change a person in a certain specific way: free them from homosexuality, from substance abuse, or from pornography. But we forget that God's agenda might be to free them from cigarettes, from lying, from adultery, or from hatred of parents first. It's when we try to steer people away from God's agenda and toward our own that we get into trouble.

Each of us who calls himself or herself a Christian has our own "history" with Jesus. He has changed each of us in a unique way and a unique pattern. He doesn't fix everything all at once. Each of us still has ways we are being changed. Some of us may still be struggling with vices we've known about for many years. But God will fixes those things in the order that works best for him and his kingdom, and in the way that best indicates our awareness of his love and power.

Storm can't crush a town's heart

Los Angeles Times

Tuesday 21 February 2006, 9:49 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Elizabeth Mehren, Times Staff Writer

Six months after Hurricane Katrina, entire blocks have been bulldozed, leaving eerie empty spaces — like missing teeth — where quaint neighborhoods once stood. "The Pass," as everyone calls it, is a patchwork of FEMA trailers, RVs and pop-up tents. The town center is a field of drab-green Army tents used as dwellings and offices. City Hall is a double-wide trailer, as are the police station and library.

"We can't escape the devastation. It's everywhere," said Martha Murphy, who has lived here for most of her 54 years. "But we see Pass Christian through our hearts, not just our eyes. We know it is going to change. We just want to retain what it had that made us love it."

About two-thirds of the town's 6,500 residents have returned — enough families that 7 out of 10 children who were enrolled in Pass Christian schools before the storm are attending classes in neighboring areas where schools were less damaged.

Every public building in town was destroyed by Katrina, along with almost all the businesses and about 80% of the homes. Pass Christian's tax rolls dropped from 4,000 structures to 170.


Reasons computers must be female

Sunday 19 February 2006, 3:14 pm
Keywords: Humor
(Link to this article alone)

Eddie N told me this joke at the men's retreat. I liked this one the best:

The message, "Bad command or filename," is about as informative as "If you don't know why I'm mad at you, then I'm certainly not going to tell you."

You can find the rest of them here ...

Everything just disintegrated

USA Today

Sunday 19 February 2006, 1:49 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY

More than five months after Hurricane Katrina leveled much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, people here are still struggling mightily to restore some sense of normalcy.

The raw numbers are staggering: More than half a million people in Mississippi have applied for assistance from FEMA. In a state with just 2.9 million residents, that means more than one in six Mississippians have sought help. More than 97,000 people are still living in FEMA trailers and mobile homes. Another 5,000 to 6,000 are still waiting for FEMA trailers.

Despite a massive cleanup, many neighborhoods are still piled high with storm debris.

There is a lot of anger and frustration here: At insurance companies that accepted premiums for decades and are now, in the opinion of residents, dragging their feet or balking at paying off. At FEMA, which is doing a lot but is the main face of the federal government and therefore the target of much ire. At the media for focusing so much attention on New Orleans that Mississippians often feel their pain is being overlooked.

"You never see Waveland, Bay St. Louis or Pass Christian on the news, and we were the hardest hit," Linda Penrose says. "People do not know the devastation down here because the cameras do not come back here. Everything just disintegrated. I don't think they want people to see how bad it was."

Insurance problems plague the powerful and the not-so-powerful alike. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., have joined thousands of fellow Mississippians suing their insurer, State Farm Fire & Casualty, for refusing to cover property losses from Katrina.


TV Theology

USA Today

Sunday 19 February 2006, 1:27 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Watch for reincarnation Hindu-esque style if an Ashton Kutcher-produced sitcom lands on TV in the fall. For Pete's Sake is actually an interfaith goof: St. Peter plays bouncer at the Pearly Gates, sending five main characters off to rebirth instead of hell, garbling both Christian and Hindu theology.

After all, there's no law that TV or movies must teach correct doctrine, says Dick Staub, a writer on faith and culture for Christianity Today online.


Mark sez: You mean the Jesus on South Park isn't the real Jesus?

The Church of Katrina

Yahoo News, AP

Sunday 19 February 2006, 1:17 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

If it weren't for the faith-based groups helping out, the city of Waveland would be half the size it is now.

Katrina ravaged Mississippi's Gulf Coast, leaving roughly $125 billion in damage in its wake and nearly wiping some cities off the map. Waveland is still littered with massive amounts of debris, and police estimate fewer than 1,500 of its 6,600 residents have returned since the storm hit Aug. 29.

With government agencies stretched thin by the massive scope of the Gulf Coast recovery effort, groups from every conceivable religious denomination are shouldering a heavy share of the workload.

Amish and Mennonites are mucking out and rebuilding homes across the coast, with dozens living together at a religious-affiliated summer camp in Pass Christian. Lutheran and Islamic groups are providing free medical care to thousands in Biloxi. Southern Baptists have cooked an estimated 14 million meals in New Orleans and other hard-hit communities. The Salvation Army has had roughly 52,000 people working in Louisiana and Mississippi since the storm.

"We feel it's our duty to do it because it's God's work," said Amish volunteers who have gutted more than 300 homes in Waveland alone.

Tens of thousands of volunteers from hundreds of faith-based groups have poured into the region. That virtually bottomless well of labor makes them a valuable resource for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helps coordinate their efforts to avoid duplication.

Volunteer groups have been the "only show in town" as the work shifted from emergency relief to long-term recovery and rebuilding, said Ken Skalitzky, FEMA's voluntary agency liaison for Mississippi, Alabama and six other states.

In December, FEMA doled out $66 million in Katrina-related grants for 10 social service and volunteer groups, including Catholic Charities, Episcopal Relief and Development, Lutheran Disaster Response and the United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana.

Amish volunteers, who rotate through Waveland every week or two, will be here for several years. They recently trucked in prefabricated homes for roughly 60 people, setting them up on property near the remnants of Gulfside United Methodist Assembly, a church retreat that Katrina leveled.


Silicon Valley Habitat for Humanity

San Jose Mercury News

Friday 17 February 2006, 1:16 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Bay City News Service

The Milpitas-based non-profit organization Silicon Valley Habitat for Humanity plans to begin construction on six attached town-style homes at 2255 Gianera St. in Santa Clara this fall and is now accepting applications from county residents.

The homes are scheduled for completion by late fall of 2007.

Santa Clara officials agreed to foot the bill for the properties the homes will stand on and, as part of this deal, preference will be given to people who live or work in the city.

The six Santa Clara homes are part of a larger effort to construct 29 new homes in the next three years.

Habitat for Humanity, which has already built 28 homes in Santa Clara County for 28 families with a total of 95 children, strives to build decent, affordable houses for low-income families, Freiri said.

People with disabilities are encouraged to apply to purchase the new homes, one of which will be constructed to meet the needs of people with mobility impairments, and another that will be accessible to those with sensory disabilities, according to the organization.


Drunk Drivers' Penalty: Play Mahjong

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 17 February 2006, 1:01 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Drunk drivers in Taiwan can now choose their penalty: Pay a fine or play mahjong with the elderly.

Playing the popular Chinese tile game of mahjong with token money has taught offenders to love and care for the elderly.


Home sales falter, hinting at slowdown

San Francisco Chronicle

Friday 17 February 2006, 12:57 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer

Bay Area home sales tumbled to their lowest level in five years last month, and prices hovered well below record territory, further evidence that the region's seemingly unstoppable housing boom may have peaked with the blistering market of 2005.

January's performance is the latest sign of a cool-off that began 10 months ago when sales counts began declining. Experts have attributed the loss of steam to higher interest rates, prices climbing beyond the reach of many consumers and the inevitable maturing of the decade-old housing boom.

Last month, nearly 36 percent fewer houses and condos sold in the nine-county region in January compared with December and 20 percent fewer compared with January 2005, real estate information firm DataQuick reported Thursday. The month's total was 6,004; it usually ranges between 4,000 and 7,500.

Prices, while still up notably on a year-to-year basis, fell below autumn peaks. The median for a single-family home stood at $628,000, up 13 percent from last January, but 4 percent under November's $656,000. The condo median hit $475,000, up from $410,000 last January but below the October record of $490,000.

Clearly, the market is shifting to a lower gear as real estate agents report fewer bidding wars and a jump in the number of properties for sale. But housing experts are divided on how long the respite will last and whether 10 consecutive months of declining sales activity foreshadow falling -- or merely stalling -- prices.

For some hint of the Bay Area's trajectory, DataQuick analyst John Karevoll pointed to San Diego, which has been termed the "canary in the coal mine" by economists who have watched closely as that city's price growth rocketed north of 26 percent in late 2004. A short time later, sales totals plunged, and price appreciation has sunk to about 2.5 percent annually.

But other experts think the Bay Area's high-flying market is due for a steeper correction.

Real estate agents -- who are usually among the first to sense changes in the market -- say power is now balanced between buyers and sellers after several years of rampant multiple offers, waived inspections and pleading "sell me your house" letters.

That new rubric was summed up earlier this week at a sales meeting at Zephyr Real Estate in San Francisco. Of the 25 sales, 12 properties went for above the asking prices, 9 went for the asking price and 4 sold for below. Some agents say they must price their listings more realistically and market them aggressively.

Michael Carney, executive director of the Real Estate Research Council of Northern California at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, theorizes that an initial softening market may only drive more buyers out of the woodwork, buoying prices and sales over the longer term. "People are saying we're going to have this collapse of the bubble, but I don't think we're going to have an enormous drop in home prices," Carney said. "One reason is that you have a whole lot of people out there hoping prices fall. Demand is still there somehow."


World's best cyclists in 8-day, 600-mile road race

San Francisco Chronicle

Friday 17 February 2006, 12:51 pm
Keywords: Bicycle Accident , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer

It's the Tour of California, an eight-day, 600-mile race from San Francisco to Southern California, modeled after the Tour de France and featuring more than 100 riders from 16 top teams. It's the biggest bike race ever to huff and puff into California, the sort of affair Lance Armstrong would be riding in if he hadn't broken every cyclist's heart by retiring.

It starts Sunday with a sprint in San Francisco. The next day, the pack pedals from Sausalito through the rural roads of Marin and Sonoma counties to Santa Rosa. After that, the affair proceeds from Martinez to San Jose before heading to Monterey, the Big Sur coast and the Los Angeles basin. The race is sponsored by Health Net and AEG, part of Anschutz Corp.

Leland Mew, a 56-year-old emergency room doctor, rode back and forth over the race route, from Lafayette to Moraga, checking his speed on his handlebar gizmo and lamenting that it was not quite the 28 mph that the pack of pros is expected to average. "But I'm doing OK for an old guy,'' Mew said.


Mark sez: don't expect to see me in that pack.

The neighbor from hell

San Francisco Chronicle

Friday 17 February 2006, 12:46 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

I thought we had the neighbor from hell, but then I read about this one in San Leandro ...

'Dream' vehicles turn nightmarish

by Chip Johnson

The other day there were 11 vehicles at the home of Russ Daniels on Lewis Avenue in San Leandro, a fleet that included two trucks, two boats, two vans and three trailers used for various chores.

Neighbors are fed up with the battered convertibles, the bashed-in yellow BMW and the truck he keeps "for parts" on a trailer outside his home, and they want the city to force Daniels to clean up his act.

Last month, Daniels paid more than $3,000 in fines -- a six-month accumulation of parking tickets and citations for unregistered vehicles.

During the last five years, Daniels' Noah-like quest to gather two of every kind of vehicle imaginable -- and other items you couldn't describe -- has driven his neighbors completely bonkers. His eclectic collection has been the subject of conversation among a homeowners group of 1,500 members, at city planning commission meetings and at this week's City Council meeting, where blight was addressed.

Scott Warner, a Lewis Avenue resident who's tangled with Daniels, told the council that the city's efforts to keep Daniels in line have been ineffective. "You can't leave a trailer, a motor home and oversized vehicles out in the street, and have five in the backyard as well," Warner said. "This has been going on for at least three years." Warner recently presented the City Council with a petition bearing the signatures of 42 neighbors who want the city to force Daniels to remove his vehicles and clean up his yard.

In the last year, the tense relations that existed between Daniels and some of his neighbors have begun to boil over. His vehicles have been vandalized on several occasions.

Daniels realizes he isn't being neighborly. "I don't think it's OK to park all the vehicles here," he said. "Look at the hate that it's generated. It offends people."


Contactless credit cards

San Francisco Chronicle

Friday 17 February 2006, 12:35 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Carolyn Said, Chronicle Staff Writer

Credit-card outfits are pushing a new payment technology called contactless cards that could speed your way through the checkout line.

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover are promoting the tap-and-go cards for use when buying something quick and cheap -- garlic fries at AT&T Park, a Slurpee at 7-Eleven, a prescription at Walgreens, a Happy Meal at McDonald's, or movie tickets at AMC, Loews, Regal and Cinemark theaters. All of those merchants are installing special terminals to read the cards.

With a contactless card, the cashier rings up your sale, you hold your card (or cell phone or key fob) an inch or two above a radio-frequency reader, which quickly flashes green and beeps to indicate that you've paid. For purchases of less than $25, no signature is required.

The concept is similar to the FasTrak transponders Bay Area commuters use to pay bridge tolls, except that contactless cards must be read at a much closer range.

Contactless-card transactions average 15 seconds, according to Visa. That's less than half the 34 seconds for cash transactions and about a third faster than the 24 seconds for payments using traditional credit cards with magnetic stripes that must be swiped, it said.

Discover is testing cell phones with contactless chips.

Nationwide, about 20,000 merchant locations have installed about 120,000 contactless readers in the past year, many of them concentrated in a few geographic regions, such as Atlanta and New York.

To get a card, go to a credit-card brand Web site and look for links to issuers that offer them. Rather than giving you another piece of plastic to carry in your wallet, banks will simply add the contactless chips to mag-stripe credit cards, debit cards or prepaid cards. Those cards will then work both for traditional mag-stripe devices and the new contactless readers.


Americans in an uproar over cartoons?

Friday 17 February 2006, 11:42 am
(Link to this article alone)

In this rambling New York Times Op-Ed, Robert Wright starts out by making some good points.

Even many Americans who condemn the cartoon's publication accept the premise that the now-famous Danish newspaper editor set out to demonstrate: in the West we don't generally let interest groups intimidate us into what he called "self-censorship."

What nonsense. Editors at mainstream American media outlets delete lots of words, sentences and images to avoid offending interest groups, especially ethnic and religious ones. It's hard to cite examples since, by definition, they don't appear. But use your imagination.

Agree so far. The problem of self-censorship has become even more acute under the GW Bush administration, when any criticism of the Republican administration is considered treason.

But then Wright cites Hugh Hewitt's "apt comparison" that is so far off base as to be ludicrous:

... "a cartoon of Christ's crown of thorns transformed into sticks of TNT after an abortion clinic bombing," ... that cartoon would offend many American Christians.

Sure, it might offend many Christians, American or not, but it would not incite them to riot.

Wright's examples of the "American tradition of using violence to make a point" include the Watts riot of 1965, but the tensions that resulted in those riots had been brewing for over 100 years.

Besides, while certain American groups might resort to violence when they feel their own self-interest is threatened (as blacks did in the civil rights era of 1954-1968), expecting Christians to riot is beyond the pale of even the likes of Pat Robertson. After all, if American Christians ever felt the need to riot, wouldn't their favorite cause be the abortion rights ruling of 1973? But apart from a few loners who bomb abortion clinics, even the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade passed last month without major incident. Those few loners could hardly be called a riot or even a movement. Virtually all American Christian leaders decry those outbursts.

Which is more than you could say about Muslim leadership worldwide, who have apparently been fanning the flames of hostility behind the scenes. Wright makes this point also, and on this one other point he is also correct.

Letterfu: Letter-writing without envelopes, cutting or glue

Thursday 16 February 2006, 12:45 pm
(Link to this article alone)

A little communications origami:

  • Print a letterfu design onto a sheet of paper
  • Write your letter on the reverse
  • Address the letter
  • Fold using the instructions on the letterfu design
  • Stamp it and drop it in the nearest mailbox

All you need to send one is a printer, an A4 or Letter-sized sheet of paper and a stamp. The letter is the envelope. It holds itself closed, secured by the stamp - so it doesn't even need any glue. You use the entire sheet of paper, so there's nothing to cut either.


They Haven’t Got Mail


Thursday 16 February 2006, 12:28 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Mark Hosenball, Newsweek

The business world and government departments depend upon it, grade-school kids are taught how to use it and Osama bin Laden’s followers have become skilled practitioners. But congressional investigations of government responses to Hurricane Katrina have revealed that two of the nation’s key crisis managers, the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, do not use e-mail.

The House committee established to investigate Katrina was informed that neither Secretary Chertoff nor Secretary Rumsfeld use e-mail.

Spokesmen for the two officials maintain that Rumsfeld and Chertoff were kept informed during Katrina the same way as they keep in touch during other crises: through aides and a variety of other communications methods. Brian Besanceney, Chertoff’s top spokesman, said: “Every senior DHS official knows that, if they have important information to convey to the secretary, they go to his office or pick up the phone.”

But Dr. Irwin Redlener, a disaster-preparedness expert at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, expressed surprise that two officials in such critical positions would not be adept at routine methods of modern communication. “This can’t be true,” he said, only half-jokingly. “It’s almost inconceivable in 2006 for officials at that level of government not to be directly connected to systems of communications.”


New Presidential $1 Coins

Thursday 16 February 2006, 11:25 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

United States Mint to honor the Presidents of the United States

Beginning in 2007, the United States Mint will strike and issue new $1 coins to honor the Presidents of the United States. Mandated by Public Law 109-145, the coins will be issued at the rate of four per year, in the order in which they served. The Presidential $1 coins will carry new Presidential portraits on their obverse, or heads, side and will feature an image of the Statue of Liberty on their reverse, or tails, side.

From the US Mint web page, http://catalog.usmint.gov/

New Grant System Excludes Mac Users

Washington Post

Monday 13 February 2006, 1:45 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer

What if the federal government were about to give away more than $400 billion in grants, but only people whose computers ran on Microsoft software could apply?

That is the predicament that many scientists, scholars and others say they are in as the government enters the final phase of its five-year effort to streamline its grant-application process.

The problem: Although many U.S. scientists and others depend on graphics-friendly Macintosh computers, the software selected by the government is not Mac-compatible. And it is expected to remain so for at least a year.

"Uh, this would be the same government that spent a lot of time and money pursuing Microsoft for its anti-competitive behavior?" one blogger wrote. "And they now offer a government site that mandates monopoly?"

But the promise of making Grants.gov accessible to everyone remains unfulfilled because of a decision by Northrop Grumman and the Health and Human Services Department to give a small Canadian company called PureEdge Solutions the job of creating the electronic forms.

The PureEdge solution, it turns out, works only with the Windows operating system. And that is especially galling, several scientists said, as at least one major grant-making agency, the National Science Foundation, has for many years been using a "platform-independent" system that works seamlessly with all kinds of computers.

Critics note that in contrast to the domination of PCs in the business community, Macs constitute about one-third to one-half of the computers scientists and academicians use.


Parents Protest Child's Spelling Bee Loss

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 10 February 2006, 11:33 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

AP Breaking News

Eighth-grader Sara Beckman from Reno's O'Brien Middle School spelled "discernible" correctly during Tuesday's spelling bee at the University of Nevada, Reno. But the judge rang the bell anyway.

Her parents are furious, but organizers say they had to protest the call immediately. Sara's mom said they waited until the bee was over to avoid interrupting it.

Her mother Cindy calls herself a "momma bear with her bear claws out" and is ready to go to court.

School spokesman Steve Mulvenon says defending a lawsuit over a spelling bee isn't a good way to spend school district money.


(Should I have put this in the "humor" category or not?)

Paw and Order: Meet Fred, undercover kitten

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 10 February 2006, 11:28 am
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Tom Hays, Associated Press Writer

Authorities on Wednesday introduced the 8-month-old former stray cat that posed as a would-be patient while police investigated a college student accused of treating pets without a license.

At a news conference, Fred sported a tiny badge on his collar as he posed for photos with owner Carol Moran, a prosecutor.

Fred shared the spotlight with Burt the Boston terrier, an alleged victim of Steven Vassall, 28, who was arrested last week and released on $2,500 bail.

Burt's owner, Raymond Reid, contacted authorities after the dog survived a botched operation. In hindsight, he said, he should have been suspicious of a veterinarian who only made house calls and treated animals at an undisclosed location.


Power Play

Friday 10 February 2006, 11:15 am
Keywords: Computer Topics
(Link to this article alone)

This article doesn't specifically lay it out, but I think the legislation is trying to reduce the amount of power consumed by a charger "brick" when it's plugged into the wall, but nothing is plugged into it.

That is, if you leave your cell phone charger plugged into the wall 24/7, but you only plug your cell phone into it at night, instead of drawing power all the time, it would draw power only at night, when the cell phone is actually plugged into it.

I agree that it can be more convenient to leave all those bricks plugged in all the time, especially if you have a dedicated spot to do so. Anthro Corporation has even come out with a wall-mounted shadow box that consolidates the whole mess. But Mary and I don't leave our bricks plugged in all the time. We plug them in only when needed.

That is, unless you count the six bricks underneath my computer table ... the ones for DSL modem and router must be plugged in all the time. The ones for print server and wireless access point need to be plugged in only when those devices are in use, but that can happen at any time. The one for the Palm Pilot really needs to be plugged in only when I charge that guy, which is only about once a week. And the one that says Sony ... hmmm, it's not plugged into anything at all. I bet it's for the video camera, which I've plugged into the computer only once at most. OK, make that five bricks plugged in under the table.

Maybe there's something to this legislation after all.

Now, about this new California rule that prohibits disposing of batteries in the trash ...

... let's not go through this exercise again. Just learn to live with it. "It's good for your soul."

Miracle of Coyote Gulch

San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday 9 February 2006, 11:18 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Old dump in Presidio ravine now a haven for wildlife

by Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer

A new push for restoration at the Presidio is turning toxic-waste dumps into wildlife habitat. The National Park Service, using $99 million from the former owner, the U.S. Army, is fixing up the 1,480-acre Presidio an acre at a time.

Watching the bird life with binoculars from Lincoln Boulevard, just north of the Baker Beach turnoff, San Francisco birder Josiah Clark is rattling off sightings.

Clark spotted a metallic green Anna's hummingbird with its rosy throat perched on the scrub. A common raven was patrolling the ground for rodents, and an American kestrel alighted on a post at Battery Crosby, an old military fortification. Red-tailed hawks were sparring in a Monterey cypress on a bluff overlooking the ravine.

From this spot where the narrow mouth of the Golden Gate stands in full view -- with the bridge invisible to the north -- Clark has seen harbor porpoises, surf scoters, red-throated loons and western grebes.

But it's the bird song unique to the local dunes that pleases Clark, a consulting ecologist who has worked on Presidio restoration for the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy.

One by one, he picked out the whistle of the Nuttall's white-crowned sparrow, the melodic call of the bright yellow meadowlark and the tinkling note of the bushtit. On the wind, he heard the trill of the song sparrow, the black phoebe's "fee-bee'' and the Bewick's wren's "peety, peety, peety.''

"The birds like a wet spot with a bunch of rushes,'' Clark said.

"Lots of birds are migrating through here. You add this new landscape and it bumps up the capacity for nesting in the Presidio.''


Somebody turn it off!

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Thursday 9 February 2006, 11:13 am
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Our new microwave oven beeps every 30 seconds until you take your finished food out. I thought that was obnoxious enough, until I read this ...

Stuck foghorn wails every few minutes

Associated Press

The tranquility of Monterey has been disturbed by a foghorn stuck at the end of the Coast Guard pier. The switch is stuck on "on" and nobody in the area knows how to fix it, Petty Officer 1st Class Lance Benedict said Tuesday.

So the foghorn wails every few minutes.

The foghorn and accompanying light at the end of the Coast Guard Pier off Lighthouse Avenue are meant to prevent water travelers from running into the breakwall, Benedict said.

During foggy conditions earlier in the week, the horn was turned on.

"We are just a search-and-rescue part of the Coast Guard," Benedict said, noting the Coast Guard's repair staff is based in San Francisco. They have been notified but it's unclear when the team will arrive, Benedict said.

The Big Easy Is Now Limbo Land

Washington Post

Thursday 9 February 2006, 11:07 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Slow-Moving Bureaucracy Leaves New Orleans Stuck in a Cycle of Waiting

By Linton Weeks, Washington Post Staff Writer

There are so many symbols of Limbo Land: Vast sections of the city are still without utilities. Without electricity, businesses can't open their doors; without open businesses, electric bills can't be paid. House-gutting companies advertise everywhere, but many homes are too far gone for gutting. Of an estimated 50 million cubic yards of hurricane and flood debris, about 6 million has been picked up, the city's Web site reported. Countless cars litter the landscape, rendered useless by the floodwaters. Ridership on buses and streetcars operated by the Regional Transit Authority has fallen from 855,000 rides per week before Katrina to 60,000 or fewer, according to a mid-January situation report by the Bring New Orleans Back commission. Only 17 of 122 public schools have reopened.


Storm Victims Face Big Delay to Get Trailers

New York Times

Thursday 9 February 2006, 1:09 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Jennifer Steinhauer and Eric Lipton

Nearly six months after two hurricanes ripped apart communities across the Gulf Coast, tens of thousands of residents remain without trailers promised by the federal government for use as temporary shelter while they rebuild.

Of the 135,000 requests for trailers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has received from families, slightly more than half have been filled. The delays have left families holed up with relatives or stranded out of state, stalled local economies and infuriated state and local officials, who criticize how the program has been managed. Further, officials and residents complain about problems with quality, like poor plumbing and electrical shorts, with the trailers they have received.

Several Slidell city officials, including police officers, are still without trailers or just received them this week, and have been sleeping with friends or neighbors, and in one case, under a desk in a government office.

On Monday, frustrated by the delays, four members of the St. Bernard Parish Council performed what they called a symbolic act, taking three trailers from a local stockpile of about 275 and delivering them to residents.

"If this happened with any other business, you would find another purveyor," said Councilman Mark Madary, who represents a parish where 6,000 families are waiting for trailers and about 2,000 have received them.

The problems in administering the $4 billion trailer program mirror those of other major recovery efforts undertaken since the hurricanes crippled the region, and appear to be a result of failures at all levels of government. Local officials, contractors and residents say that some of the delays seem to stem from the federal government's poor planning and its frustrating layers of subcontractors and bureaucracy.

The goal from the start, particularly in Louisiana, was to find wide-open swaths of land where group sites, which have become known as FEMAvilles, could be set up. That was crucial because a large share of the homeless in Louisiana were renters who did not have their own property where FEMA could place a trailer. Even if they did, whole sections of New Orleans were still considered uninhabitable.

The contractors sent teams of surveyors to identify possible sites for these new trailer communities. But as they began to negotiate the permits required, local authorities and landowners, one after another, started to turn them down.

"There is a very strong message: not in my backyard," said Mark Misczak, who oversees the temporary housing effort for FEMA in Louisiana.

"If you needed a classic example of how to make every mistake humanly possible and then throw more mistakes on top of that, that is what you have with this trailer program," said Representative Gene Taylor, Democrat of Mississippi, a vocal critic of the program who lost his home in Bay St. Louis to Hurricane Katrina.

Shirley Harris, a 73-year-old Slidell resident, continues to live in a ramshackle house that was severely damaged by the storm. Ms. Harris said that FEMA had told her it could not install a trailer because she had electrical wires still hanging in front of her house. But looking across the street at a house with identical hanging wires and two FEMA trailers in the yard, she feels at a loss.


Fred Phelps Confronted

KAKE TV, Wichita

Wednesday 8 February 2006, 7:04 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Jeff Golimowski

KAKE's chief investigative reporter Jeff Golimowski went inside Fred Phelp's world looking for answers.

"God hates america," said Phelps. He offers no apologies. "Tthis country is hellbound, it's hopeless."

Phelps' church isn't a big place. About 60 people were there the Sunday we visited, 30 of them children. His sermon often rambles, he repeats himself, jumps from one topic to the next and is often tough to follow. He includes conspiracy theories and a lot of fire and brimstone.

Phelps views himself as an instrument of God's will, but what drives him to be so outlandish, so hateful?

"Those old baptist preachers delivered me a charge from Isiah 58:1," said Phelps. "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet and show thy people their transgressions."

We asked Phelps, "Do you preach hate?"

"Not in the perjorative sense I don't," said Phelps. "The truth of the matter is I'm the only one who loves these fags."

Phelps believes by pointing out what he calls the sin of homosexuality, he's fulfilling the Bible's commandment to love thy neighbor, but not letting his sin go unrebuked. "These kissypoo preachers that are telling them they are all right like they are, they don't love them, they hate them," said Phelps.


By the Thousands, Faithful Toil to Resurrect Gulf Cities

Washington Post

Wednesday 8 February 2006, 6:54 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Sojourners in the South Leave Behind Jobs, Schools, Lives

By Jacqueline L. Salmon, Washington Post Staff Writer

Since arriving in Biloxi with a convoy of supplies and volunteers from his Fairfax County church, Lord of Life Lutheran, shortly after Labor Day, Bart Tucker has spent a total of eight weeks here. He goes home only to raise more money and recruit more volunteers.

His efforts have rippled across Northern Virginia. Other faith organizations have joined in -- churches, Habitat for Humanity, Bible study groups -- sending members and money, forming partnerships with Biloxi churches and adopting families.

More than 10,000 religious people across the country have poured through the stricken Mississippi Gulf Coast in an unprecedented volunteer effort.

They sleep in church sanctuaries, RVs and tents. They leave behind jobs, schools and retirement for labor pilgrimages of days, weeks or months.

Tucker doesn't question God's purpose for his presence. "I'm just here," he said. "Whether I'm called in this direction, I'm not sure. I'm here."

The volunteers' focus: a seemingly endless horizon of destruction that stretches 70 miles. In Mississippi, 35,000 homes owned by residents who had no flood insurance were destroyed. Tens of thousands more were heavily damaged. Beyond this is Louisiana, where 77,000 homeowners with no flood insurance saw homes destroyed.


Nebraska Psychology Professor Uses IPod for Lectures

Washington Post

Tuesday 7 February 2006, 11:32 am
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Psychology students and fans of Apple's popular iPod can now listen and learn at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Calvin Garbin is one of the first instructors at the university to harness iPod's versatility and use it as an educational tool.

Garbin uses a wireless microphone hooked to his shirt to record the 50-minute lecture, then downloads the recording onto his computer. He cuts the lecture into short audio chunks and puts it on his Web site for downloading.

Students confused about certain parts of the lecture can click on a link and listen again. And podcasting makes studying for tests easier for those students who are auditory learners, Garbin said.


Habits of Highly Effective Justice Workers

Christianity Today

Monday 6 February 2006, 1:16 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Rodolpho Carrasco

Not so long ago, evangelical Christians who served the poor often found themselves on the defensive among fellow believers. Now it's the rare church that doesn't engage in works of mercy and justice. Watching this evangelical wave of concern and action, I've been greatly encouraged. Yet as I listen to my fellow justice-impassioned Christ-followers, whether they are newbies or grizzled veterans, I often hear only part of the message of justice.

There is no shortage of protest across the political spectrum. But while I celebrate this development, I worry that we are perilously weak at walking alongside the poor, at investing directly into the lives of individuals to give them what they truly need—not what we believe they need or what our policy statements tell us they need. I've found that it's relatively easy to raise a voice in protest, but unfathomably hard to invest in a life.

Take money skills. While some urban youth have a good grasp of personal finance, many don't. How to manage a credit card, why to avoid check-cashing shops, why a good credit report is a critical tool in America—most youth on my street know almost nothing about these topics.

Those who lack knowledge and experience managing money must be taught. But money management must be practiced in order to be truly learned. Is this young man getting the training he needs? More often than not, the answer is no, especially among fatherless young men. The older he is, the more bad habits he is likely to have accrued over the years. While he painstakingly unlearns those habits, he still has to make ends meet.

After seeing this pattern repeatedly in northwest Pasadena, I began to wonder where I learned about money. After all, at age 6 I was the at-risk poster child. I was "the poor." But my sister was a math major—and that fact alone made a difference.

But there came a day, as a young adult, when the problem was not understanding, but confidence. Deep down, I didn't believe I could really hold on to money, that this particular Mexican would ever rise above his circumstances. I went through a severe crisis of self-doubt.

I had a lot of support from family and friends, yet it took a long time to learn what I know now about finances. Now add issues like education, employment, and marriage. There is no way around these basic life skills if a person is ever to escape poverty. The investment needed is long, sacrificial, and, frankly, tedious. Doing justice by walking alongside people as they develop critical life skills is not exciting. Protesting on Wall Street against globalization is exciting. Getting arrested at the courthouse is exciting. Filling the National Mall with hundreds of thousands of people is exciting. But staying proximate to people as they learn lessons they should have learned years ago? When's the last time you saw that on cnn?


One reporter's futile attempt to see the Shroud of Turin


Monday 6 February 2006, 12:56 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Howard Fendrich, Canadian Press

TURIN, Italy (AP) - A bit of advice for English-speaking visitors to this city who want to find the Shroud of Turin: Don't try asking locals, "Where can I find the Shroud of Turin?"

The reason, of course, that Italians aren't familiar with the word "shroud" is that it's, well, English. Italians call it "La Santa Sindone."

And then, I hit upon the secret formula, using these words in English: "Jesus" and "religious." Perhaps because those are pronounced quite similarly in Italian - "Gesu" and "religioso" - she understood.

"Aaah, La Santa Sindone," a newspaper vendor said, nodding excitedly, and pulled out a map to show me the way.

Here's some more advice: Don't expect to actually see the Sindone. About 4 1/2 metres long and one metre wide, the linen has an image that believers say was left by Jesus' body when he was wrapped in it after being taken down from the cross.

When you enter the cathedral, to the left of the pews, there's a photographic replica of the Shroud, about two-thirds the size of the original. There are pamphlets in several languages, and helpful guides who aim their red laser pens at the copy as they describe it.

The Shroud itself? It's in its own chapel in the back left corner of the cathedral, enclosed in a box behind bulletproof glass. It was last brought out for public viewing in 2000, and is not scheduled to go on display again until 2025.

There was speculation the Shroud might be open to viewing during the Olympics. But Turin Cardinal Severino Poletto, the Shroud's custodian, announced in December it would remain closed.


Crawling through Fresno

Friday 3 February 2006, 10:49 am
(Link to this article alone)

The worst part of visiting Fresno is that it seems to take longer to get through town there than to get there.

It is 150 miles from San Jose to Fresno. Mapquest says it will take 2.75 hours, but it can be done in 2.25 hours if you take no breaks.

But once you get there, it takes another 22 minutes to cross from Highway 99 to Cedar Avenue along Herndon Avenue. (When we left town, it took 19 minutes to do the reverse.)

It's only about eight or nine miles across town, and the speed limit is 50 mph most of the way. So why should it take so long? We had to stop at every traffic light along the way. They are not syncronized.

So I'm happy to read this ABC30 article indicating that traffic signal syncronization is in the works. "The Fresno County grand jury named traffic as Fresno's number one problem and accused the city of lacking the commitment to fix it."

But since when does it take a flippin' grand jury to get involved to fix these things?

Fresno seems like a nice place to live in many ways, and I've often considered buying a retirement home there. But traffic has been their number one problem as long as I can remember (since the early 1980's) and they seem to be doing nothing about it.

Bible Reading Plan Progress

Wednesday 1 February 2006, 7:10 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

A while back I mentioned that I've started a plan for reading the Bible through in about ten months.

I started reading the New American Standard Bible around the first of December. So far, I should be 62 chapters (2 months) into each "track." (You have to look at the Bible reading plan page to understand about the "tracks.")

On Track 1, I've read 149 chapters, from Genesis 1 through Numbers 32. This puts me about 87 chapters ahead on Track 1.

On Track 2, I've read 116 chapters, from 1 Chronicles through Esther, then moved on to read Isaiah chapters 1 through 18. This puts me about 54 chapters ahead on Track 2.

On Track 3, I've read Psalms 1 through 49. These 49 chapters put me about 13 chapters behind the 62 chapters I should have read. One reason why I'm behind is that if I miss a day, I like to make it up the next day. But the Psalms are so personal and intense that I prefer not to read more than one per day. Also, I'm not too worried about falling a little behind here because Tracks 3 and 4 are shorter than the other tracks.

On Track 4, I've read all of Matthew and Romans, and the first nine chapters of 1 Corinthians. This is 53 chapters and it puts me nine chapters behind on this track. The reason I've fallen behind on this track is I usually read this track last, and if I'm too tired I might not get to it at all. Again, I'm not too worried about falling behind on this track because it is a shorter track. Also, I can read the Gospels more quickly than the epistles, because the Gospels have a little more action. I should start making up lost time when I get to the book of Mark.

Overall, I've read 367 chapters, or about 30 percent of the entire Bible (which is 1189 chapters total). This is about six chapters per day. If I continue at this pace, I should finish the Bible in about seven months, or at the end of June.

I've usually been reading late at night, before I go to sleep, and sometimes after my wife has gone to sleep. I haven't yet decided whether that's a good strategy, because I'm often very tired. But I think I'm learning a lot. And I'm noticing lots of things that I missed the last time I read the Bible through.

Man gets wallet back after nearly 40 years

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Wednesday 1 February 2006, 5:06 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Associated Press

A man is being reacquainted with his past after a Utah family returned a wallet he lost at a gas station nearly 40 years ago.

Schmitt apparently lost the wallet at a gas station in Logan, Utah, in the spring of 1967, when he stopped to fill up his 1955 Austin Healy. The station's owner stashed it in a drawer, presumably hoping the person would come back.

Ted Nyman, of Logan, found it decades later while cleaning out his father-in-law's estate. He tracked Schmitt down through the Internet, and last week mailed the wallet 2,158 miles across the country.

The beige wallet still held $5 in cash, a traffic ticket, 8-cent airmail stamps and Doug Schmitt's freshman ID card from Utah State University. The wallet also had photos of Schmitt's high-school girlfriends and a dry-cleaning receipt.

As an antiques dealer, Schmitt is accustomed to digging through other people's attics for wartime letters and other personal histories. He never expected someone else to pore over his past.

"It's just so wonderful that people will take the time to research that, then return something to someone they don't even know," said his wife, Vickie Schmitt.

Cutter Advanced

Tuesday 31 January 2006, 5:38 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

I found small bottles of Cutter Advanced formula at the local Walgreens. 1 oz. bottle, more suitable for packing light than the larger bottles. $1.79 per bottle, curently on sale 2 bottles for $3.00.

This is a mosquito repellent that was recommended to us as being better than DEET.

Last time, we had to go all the way to REI to get them, and they were large bottles that were hard to pack.

Holy Hip-Hop, Batman!

San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday 31 January 2006, 11:25 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Jason B. Johnson, Chronicle Staff Writer

DJ Born Again has the crowd rocking at Changed Life Church in Pittsburg on a recent Friday night, where young worshipers wear casual outfits and baggy pants in place of dress suits and skirts.

Changed Life is one of about six churches in the Bay Area -- and about 2,000 nationwide -- that lace their youth ministries with holy hip-hop to attract new, young believers.

"Youngsters have to have something done in a way they can understand," said DJ Born Again, whose real name is Ramon Jackson. "I deliver the message, but I still keep it raw."

The gospel rap movement, which features Christianity instead of profanity, dates to the early 1990s in cities like New York and Washington, D.C., but it has begun to catch on in the Bay Area only recently.

Gospel rap has drawn in young people who didn't come to church before, and some of them have also brought their parents into the church, Tindsley said.

"My dad was surprised when I started coming," said Emily Thornton, 14, of Antioch, who began attending Changed Life's hip-hop services last month with her older brother. "I think he was thinking 'why would you want to come to church when you could be at home doing something else?' "


States Consider Bans On Protests at Funerals

Washington Post

Monday 30 January 2006, 10:23 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Kari Lydersen

At least five Midwestern states are considering legislation to ban protests at funerals in response to demonstrations by the Rev. Fred Phelps and members of his Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church, who have been protesting at funerals of Iraq war casualties because they say the deaths are God's punishment for U.S. tolerance toward gays.

Though the soldiers were not gay, the protesters say the deaths, as well as Hurricane Katrina, recent mining disasters and other tragedies are God's signs of displeasure. They also protested at the memorial service for the 12 West Virginia miners who died in the Sago Mine.

Indiana State Sen. Anita Bowser said she thinks the demonstrators are hoping to provoke a physical attack so they can file a lawsuit. "These people are not gainfully employed, so they're waiting for someone to do battle with them so they can go to court and win. They want a big liability case to pursue. I don't think they actually give a diddly wink about the arguments they're making, but they're clever individuals trying to make a fast buck."

Shirley Phelps-Roper, Phelps's daughter and an attorney for the church, said if legislation passes, the group will challenge it in court. "Whatever they do would be unconstitutional," she said. "These aren't private funerals; these are patriotic pep rallies. Our goal is to call America an abomination, to help the nation connect the dots. You turn this nation over to the fags and our soldiers come home in body bags."


A Road Trip Playlist

Friday 27 January 2006, 2:56 pm
(Link to this article alone)

My 2G iPod doesn't let me see what I recently listened to, so I just looked through iTunes to see what looked familiar from our trip to Disneyland.

I just set the thing on shuffle (random) and let it play like the radio. I let it play from its entire contents, so there is really no pattern, theme, or consistent style. We do just hit FF when something comes on that is too soft or too relaxing.

I really need to put together a playlist that has all the high energy or interesting tracks.

Regarding this particular list: why so little of the Beatles? Why no Bruce Cockburn? Why so little Larry Norman? Why so little Mark Heard?

Title Artist

A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How
I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission)
Simon & Garfunkel
All You Zombies Hooters
And She Was Talking Heads
Baby's Got The Car Keys Trout Fishing In America
B-B-B-Burnin' Up With Love Eddie Rabbitt
Symphony 7, Movt 1 Beethoven (Vienna Phil)
Beyond The Sea Finding Nemo
Birthday Swingle Singers
Breathe Deep Lost Dogs
Bye Bye Love Simon & Garfunkel
Caledonia Dougie MacLean
Dance the Night Away Van Halen
Dangerous David Wilcox
Day Tripper Swingle Singers
Exactly Like You Nat King Cole
Heart Full Of Soul The Yardbirds
Hernando's Hideaway Martin Denny
I Don't Care Connie Kaldor
Is It True? Jacob's Trouble
Jerusalem Tomorrow David Olney
Jesus Freak DC Talk
Look All Around You John Fischer LP
Looking Through Your Eyes Leann Rimes
Love me like a man Bonnie Raitt
Love Songs Fleming & John
Lung Cancer Randy Stonehill
Mas Alla Gloria Estefan
Matthew's Blues John Fischer LP
Mission Impossible Swingle Singers
My Generation The Who
My Music Loggins & Messina
Names Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
Oxford Girl Oysterband
Pencil Neck Geek Fred Blassie
People See Through You Bruce Cockburn
Puppet Strings Randy Stonehill
Questions 67 And 68 Chicago
Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars Andy Williams
Righteous Rocker #3 Larry Norman
Rock And Roll Waltz Kay Starr
Sabor A Mi Luis Miguel
Sing Your Praise To The Lord Amy Grant
Six Trout Fishing In America
Smut Tom Lehrer
So Long Mom (A Song For World War III) Tom Lehrer
Songs from a Secret Garden Secret Garden
Swanee George Gershwin
Sweet Song Of Salvation Larry Norman
Talk To The Animals Sammy Davis Jr
Tell The Rooster Jane Gillman
That Certain Feeling George Gershwin
The Jesus Freaks Mike Warnke
The Magician Return To Forever
The Queen Of Argyll Silly Wizard
The Rose of Tralee Phil Coulter
The Seeker The Who
The Times They Are A Changin Simon & Garfunkel
Topliner Rag Joshua Rifkin
Walking Backwards Larry Norman
Walls Of Doubt Jacob's Trouble
Whiskey & Sangria Eileen Ivers
White Trash Stomp Larry Norman
Who put the bomp Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Why Can't This Be Love Van Halen

Dumbo and the Princess

Friday 27 January 2006, 1:33 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Mary and I disappeared for a few days to visit Disneyland with my sisters and brother-in-law, Carol, Susan, and Sam. The two of us met the three of them in Anaheim.

We left 7:30 am Monday morning and arrived at the Quality Inn on Manchester Avenue in Anaheim at 1:30 pm. We entered the park around 2:30 pm. My sisters left Fresno around 11:00 am and arrived at the motel at 3:30 pm. We met up with them at Cinderella's Castle shortly after.

We listened to my iPod most of the way down and most of the way back. But I'll post our playlist separately. It will take a while to sort it out. (My 2G iPod doesn't have the capability to remember what it played and display it in iTunes.)

Mary and I bought annual passes because we plan to come back this fall for my birthday. This time was "sort of" for Mary's birthday, which is in a couple of weeks. We might even come back next January to celebrate Mary's birthday early again. If so, the pass will be well worth the money. At $229, the deluxe (i.e. "limited") pass is worthwhile if you go to both parks for four days each. We were there for three days this time, so one day later and we'll break even. The deluxe pass has "blockout" dates on summer weekends and holidays, but we like coming during the off-season during the week anyway.

The annual pass also provides a 10 percent discount in most restaurants and stores, but we remembered to use it as such only once.

The only ride "down" was the Haunted Mansion. They redorated it and some other rides for Christmas, and they haven't finish restoring it to "normalcy." Oh, in California Adventure, the Golden Zephyr rocket ride was also down. Quite a few rides were down for short periods, but we eventually caught up with them all later.

We went twice on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, and Soarin' Over California (in California Adventure. Buzz because Mary wanted to improve her score, Roger Rabbit because the first time we went by ourselves, and the second time we wanted to take my sisters, and Soarin' because it is our favorite ride.

A few we went on that I'd never been on before: Dumbo, Peter Pan, the Circus Train, Winnie The Pooh, Monsters Inc. (a new ride this year), Tower of Terror (but we went on that one in Disney World last year), Jumpin' Jellyfish.

We also went on a few that I've not been on for a long time: Jungle Cruise (I don't remember it having Pirahna last time), Teacups.

We would normally go on all the roller coasters, but the first two days Mary's back was hurting, and the last day my back was a mess. I did take my sisters on Mullholland Madness the second day, and that might have messed up my back. So we skipped Space Mountain, the Matterhorn, and California Screamin'. We also skipped the two water rides (one in each park) because while sunny, it was not really that warm.

Monday we spent 1/2 day in DL, Tuesday we split the day between CA and DL, and Wednesday we stayed in DL until around 4 pm, because we still had a six-hour drive ahead of us. We did not visit anything else in LA or Orange County.

We stayed at the Quality Inn, a nice quiet motel with pool and pretty courtyards. Our room was only $46 for one queen non-smoking. The others stayed in a more expensive room because they needed two queen beds.

Tuesday morning we ate at IHOP. Fortunately we found a non-pancake breakfast that we could modify to be gluten-free. Did you know IHOP puts pancake batter into their omelet eggs? That makes even their omelets unsuitable for a GF diet, but they offered to make me "normal" eggs. Mary was skeptical they'd be made properly so she has something else.

Wednesday morning we ate at Mimi's Cafe. Mary thought it would be more expensive, but it was actually less expensive than IHOP and the food was better. Highly recommended. They have over 100 locations, mostly in California. I had the cajun sausage, which was pretty warm.

Tuesday evening Mary and I ate at Storyteller Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel off Downtown Disney. We ate there when we were there three years ago, and they took very good care of us and our special dietary requirements. (Neither of us can eat gluten, and Mary can't have vinegar either.) We ended up with salmon, almost the only GF and vinegar-free option on the menu. Their mashed potatoes have sour cream with modified food starch, but they instead made us gluten-free elbow macaroni and cheddar cheese. So we ended up with salmon and mac & cheese as the starch. Weird combination, but very good. The vegetable soup also warmed us up.

Wednesday afternoon in Toon Town while looking at ingredients, an employee named Brenda told us of gluten-free burgers at Club Buzz. (This is the disco dance floor in Tomorrowland.) We couldn't believe it, but she was right. We got huge burgers with gluten-free buns, and the fries were gluten-free, too.

What else? On Monday before my sisters arrived, Rancho del Zocalo restaurant made us a gluten-free Mexican meal. I think Mary had 1/4 chicken and I had enchiladas. They made us red corn tortilla special. On Tuesday, we wore tags that said it was Mary's birthday. To help us celebrate, Mission Tortilla Factory gave us a package of fresh corn tortillas right out of the machine. Yum! And they serve margaritas in California Adventure. A double treat.

Some of the rides had captions for the deaf, which helped my sisters. Tower of Terror had captions on the TV screens for the intro. Bug's Life had "reflective captions." These are projected from the back wall, and they give you a small smoke glass screen through which you can see both the feature and the captions as in a mirror. They also had reflective captions in Golden Dreams.

We left the hotel about 5:00 pm on Wednesday, but we did not get home until 12:30 am. That's what you get for leaving during LA rush hour.

Warning on cars damaged in hurricanes

San Francisco Chronicle

Friday 27 January 2006, 10:03 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer

600,000 cars damaged in last year's hurricanes are now making their way onto the market.

State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi visited a San Francisco salvage yard Thursday to warn against the dangers of buying used cars damaged by the Hurricane Katrina floodwaters.

Many of the cars damaged by the Gulf Coast hurricanes last year that are turning up these days on the used-car market have been dolled up, detailed and decked out in order to fleece the car-buying public.

Flood-damaged cars can look OK, Garamendi said, but their electrical systems and safety devices can be ruined. Some hustlers move damaged cars from state to state until their title records have been "cleansed" of their salvage status, the commissioner said.

Garamendi advised people to check the vehicle identification number of any potential car purchase on www.nicb.org, the database maintained by the National Insurance Crime Bureau that tracks hurricane-damaged cars.


Doggie Howser MD

San Jose Mercury News

Thursday 26 January 2006, 2:27 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Linda Goldston, Mercury News

Researchers in Marin County have been able to train dogs to detect lung and breast cancer in breath samples from people with 88 to 99 percent accuracy, according to a study released last week.

The studies show that cancer cells emit chemicals or molecules that are different from those in normal cells, and more research is needed to determine just what those chemicals are -- and whether they could help doctors find cancers earlier.

Questions to be answered are: "What is it dogs are smelling, and can chemical analysis match the dogs in terms of specificity and sensitivity?" said Michael McCulloch, research director for the private, non-profit Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo. "Then the pathway will likely lead to an `electronic nose.' "

The study, which will be published in the March issue of the medical journal Integrative Cancer Therapies, is the first to test whether dogs can detect cancer by sniffing samples of exhaled breath collected in tubes.


Pine Street Foundation:

Cancer-detection studies with dogs at Florida State University:

When is my credit card bill due?

Washington Post

Thursday 26 January 2006, 2:03 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Don Oldenburg, Consumer Columnist

After the wildly popular column about a Verizon double-billing glitch, among the dozens of phone-bill-focused folks who wrote in was Elliot Greene of Silver Spring, who offered this alert to readers when paying their phone bills: "Several times Verizon has charged me a late fee when the due date for my bill fell on a Sunday and my payment was received on Monday," he says.

Basic business standard is to accept as "on time" payments received the next business day following a weekend due date. Of course, lots of screwy things have been occurring with late fees and not just in the telephone industry (watch your credit cards!).

Greene says when he called to complain, Verizon "promptly agreed to refund the charge." But he doesn't like the implication that Verizon waits for the customer to correct the problem "and Verizon gets to pocket the fees if the customer doesn't do so." Moral: Pay bills on time -- and check 'em even when you do.


Swelling Textbook Costs

Washington Post

Thursday 26 January 2006, 1:33 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Susan Kinzie, Washington Post Staff Writer

Textbook prices have been rising at double the rate of inflation for the past two decades, according to a Government Accountability Office study.

Students at four-year schools spent, on average, about $900 for books and supplies in 2003-04, more than a quarter of the cost of tuition and fees. At community colleges, the GAO study found, the books amounted to almost three-quarters of the cost.

Because many undergraduates get federal financial aid, the overall cost of college is a concern to Congress, which sought the study.

Textbook prices almost tripled from 1986 to 2004, the GAO report found. And publishers revise texts more quickly than they used to, limiting the used-book market.

Students have plenty of conspiracy theories for the rising prices: Greedy publishers who change the cover just to charge more. Self-absorbed professors who assign their own masterpieces or forget to list the books till it's too late to find a used copy. Overpriced stores.

"Where college stores come into play, a lot of students automatically perceive a rip-off," Libertowski said. But stores' profit margin is far lower for textbooks, she said, than for all those sweatshirts and mugs, and it has been steady for years.

A few schools have even tried renting out books for the semester. Bills in Congress would provide grants to some schools to launch rental plans and make as much as $1,000 of textbook costs tax deductible.


Guinness ice cream

Boston Globe

Thursday 19 January 2006, 12:02 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A recipe for Guinness ice cream ...

But it has gluten in it ... doesn't it ???


Chuck Brodsky to play Espresso Garden

Thursday 19 January 2006, 12:58 am
(Link to this article alone)

Next Wednesday, Chuck Brodsky, whose Web site asks people to be on the lookout for musical instruments stolen from his North Carolina house, plays Espresso Garden at 7:30 p.m. for $15. Brodsky used to live in the area. His songs about baseball, "The Baseball Ballads," have enabled him to perform at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., three times.




Right to a Christian Scotland

The Scotsman - Opinion

Wednesday 18 January 2006, 12:29 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Helen Martin

What's wrong with Scotland being a Christian country and why shouldn't we say it is?

India is a Hindu country. Pakistan is a Muslim country. Italy is a Catholic country. There! Lock me up for being politically incorrect and throw away the key.

BMI is the only British airline to fly to Saudi Arabia. When BMI's female cabin crew disembark and spend stopover time in Saudi, they have been told to wear long robes and headscarves. The company says it is an obligation to respect the customs of the host country.

We put no such obligation on visitors from Saudi or anywhere else. Perhaps we should. Perhaps it is the fact that we don't impose our customs which leads them to believe we have no customs worth saving.

Or perhaps, as Cardinal Keith O'Brien suggests, we should begin by simply reminding ourselves and others that this is a Christian country with perfectly valid and respectable Christian values which are every bit as treasured as those of other cultures and faiths.


First lady says abstinence is a choice

Washington Times

Wednesday 18 January 2006, 12:24 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Bill Sammon

First lady Laura Bush yesterday said she was "irritated" by outside criticism of her husband's anti-AIDS programs in Africa as being focused too heavily on abstinence and not enough on condoms.

"I'm always a little bit irritated when I hear the criticism of abstinence, because abstinence is absolutely 100 percent effective in eradicating a sexually transmitted disease," Mrs. Bush said.

"In a country or a part of the world where one in three people have a sexually transmitted deadly disease, you have to talk about abstinence, you really have to," she said. "In many countries where girls feel obligated to comply with the wishes of men, girls need to know that abstinence is a choice."


Go to jail or go to church

Cincinnati Enquirer

Wednesday 18 January 2006, 12:21 am
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Dan Horn, Enquirer staff writer

A judge gave Brett Haines a choice Friday: Go to jail or go to church.

The Anderson Township man, convicted of disorderly conduct, immediately chose six weeks of Sunday worship over 30 days in the Hamilton County Justice Center. But there's a catch.

Haines, who was accused of using racial slurs and threatening a black cab driver, must attend services at a predominantly black church. "If you want to get out of jail, you're going to have to raise your black consciousness," the judge said.

Mallory said he was concerned about maintaining a separation between church and state, so he asked Haines whether the option would offend his beliefs. Haines said he was not a church-goer, but would like to give it a try.

The cab driver said he hoped the sentence would work, but he would have preferred Haines serve his 30 days. "Church don't change everybody," he said.


Microsoft to stop developing media software for Macs

San Jose Mercury News, AP

Tuesday 17 January 2006, 11:11 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Allison Linn, Associated Press

Microsoft Corp. will stop developing a version of its Windows Media Player for Apple Computer Inc.'s Macs, and will instead offer free technology that lets people play Windows Media files using Apple's own software.

Microsoft said it would continue to offer the current version but won't make any more improvements to it. The software maker has signed a deal with Nevada City, Calif.-based Telestream Inc. to offer a free plug-in that will let people play Windows Media video and audio files using Apple's QuickTime player.

Because Microsoft's media player for Macs has not been updated for quite some time, Harader said the quality of some Windows Media files could be better if people used the plug-in and QuickTime.


The plug-in is already posted on the Microsoft web site:


Out Of Order

Tuesday 17 January 2006, 10:43 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Example number 1 - the Milpitas Post Office.

Today, I went to the Milpitas Post Office to mail my quarterly tax payment. There were several cars waiting in line to turn left into the driveway, and several cars waiting to turn right into the driveway. Every time a car came out, another went in. Why would the post office be so busy today? I had to park on the street in front of the next building.

Inside, I found that the line was long. Also, there were lines for both vending machines. Everyone in line for the vending machines had a dollar bill in his or her hand. That is, they wanted to buy 2 cent stamps! But not only were there no 2 cent stamps in the machine, but both machines were out of order! Each person in line dutifully studied all the contents of the machine, discovered the "out of order" sign, got in line for the other machine, and left the next person in line to go through the same exercise.

No wonder the line was so long and the parking lot was full! Everyone wanted to buy 2 cent stamps and no one could get them in the machines. The line was full of people who might have been in the post office for only 2 minutes otherwise.

The Milpitas is normally my favorite post office because the lines go quickly; the employees are friendly and competent.

Example number 2 - Taco Bell on Blossom Hill Road.

Mary and I went to Taco Bell while running errands on the way to church tonight. The soda machine was out of both ice and cherry Pepsi. There were no napkins. Mary to wait for them to pull napkins for us ... while our tacos were getting cold.

Call me a Whiner ... except that these were not unoccupied businesses. There were lots of employees on hand at both who could have fixed things. I am going to file complaints at both web sites and see what kind of response I get.

Eager Few Try to Reclaim Destroyed Parish

New York Times

Tuesday 17 January 2006, 4:41 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Susan Saulny

The Robinsons are living where few people even dare to drive, here in the midst of a vast stretch of desolation on the banks of the Mississippi River east of New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish. In all of southeast Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina was the most vicious and thorough in its destruction here, and some streets remain impassable nearly five months later, blocked by houses that the storm surge lifted, twisted and deposited as wrecks. One home in Chalmette had water over its roof for 15 days and was coated in crude oil from a nearby refinery spill.

Now, the Robinson family members have come back to their front yard to live in a government-issued trailer, determined to make a home again on what seems like the edge of civilization.

Except for her cellphone and weekly church services, Ms. Robinson has little connection to other people apart from her family in the trailer. It is a 45-minute drive to the Wal-Mart in Gretna, the best option for groceries. There is no mail service, shopping mall or movie theater. And there is just enough electricity to light her trailer and part of the street.

Officials estimate that 8,000 people like Ms. Robinson have begin to repopulate St. Bernard Parish, which used to have close to 70,000 residents. The repopulation is mostly an independent movement, with residents saying they have received little guidance or help from the local government as they clean, gut and rebuild on their own.

What is left of the local government is doing what it can; most streets have been cleared of debris and fallen wires, and the major intersections have working traffic signals.


Two Million Displaced By Storms

Washington Post

Friday 13 January 2006, 10:47 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency yesterday increased its count of people displaced from the Gulf Coast by hurricanes Katrina and Rita by nearly a third, to about 2 million people. A FEMA spokeswoman attributed the sharp rise to a reporting error.

Shortly before Christmas, FEMA discovered that it had not counted families receiving rental assistance under a traditional disaster aid program.

According to a news release, FEMA is paying rental assistance to 685,635 families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the Aug. 29 and Sept. 24 storms, an increase of 167,000, or 32 percent, over a month ago. FEMA officials generally estimate three people per household as a rule of thumb.

The estimate of 2 million displaced dwarfs the number of people forced from their homes by past U.S. natural disasters, such as hurricanes Andrew, Charley, Ivan or Hugo, as well as the Dust Bowl migration.


300 million, plus or minus

New York Times

Friday 13 January 2006, 10:33 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

If the experts are right, some time this month, a couple will conceive a baby who, when born in October, will become the 300 millionth American.

As of yesterday, the Census Bureau officially pegged the resident population of the United States at closing in on 297,900,000. The bureau estimates that with a baby being born every 8 seconds, someone dying every 12 seconds and the nation gaining an immigrant every 31 seconds on average, the population is growing by one person every 14 seconds.

At that rate, the total is expected to top 300 million late this year. But with those projections adjusted monthly and the number of births typically peaking during the summer, the benchmark is likely to be reached about nine months from now.

Demographers know that the United States, which ranks third in population behind China and India, is still gaining people while many other industrialized nations are not. The United States' population is growing by just under 1 percent annually, the equivalent of the entire population of Chicago (2.8 million).

Given the demographic changes recorded in the 20th century, the 300 millionth American, born in the same year the first baby boomers turn 60, will be a very different person from the paradigm in 1915, when the nation's estimated population passed 100 million, or even in 1967, when it topped 200 million.


MSN Maps

Thursday 12 January 2006, 3:43 pm
(Link to this article alone)

MSN Local Live Maps (http://local.live.com/) may "blow Google out of the water," but they don't run on Apple's Safari browser. Why would that be?

I've tested on the following other browsers where the page does not work properly:

  • IE 5.2.3 Mac (!!!)
  • OmniWeb 5.12 Mac

and the following pages that work properly:

  • Firefox 1.5 Mac (works but generates 17 Javascript errors)
  • Opera 8.5 Mac (works no matter how I have the browser identify)
  • Camino 0.85 Mac
  • Mozilla 1.7.8 Mac
  • Netscape 7.2 Mac

A cursory examination shows that the page uses JScript instead of JavaScript. That's to be expected, I guess. There is also a line of code that checks whether the browser is IE. But it doesn't appear to lock out other browsers. I had Opera identify as Opera, as Mozilla, and as IE, and it worked no matter which identity I chose.

I'd like to add these maps to the arsenal at www.mixed-up.com/maps.

FWIW, the maps are only so-so, but the aerial views are wonderful!

A Day At Mac Expo

Wednesday 11 January 2006, 1:01 am
Keywords: Computer Topics
(Link to this article alone)

I stayed up last night to read the three latest issues of MacWorld magazine, see what I might be missing in the world of Mac, and to determine what I might need to seek out at the show. Consequently, my day started a little late. First, I headed to MacRumours.com, where I found live coverage of the keynote speech in progress. The technology they used to update just one line of the page every minute was pretty cool.

Eventally I dragged myself out the door, to Starbucks, to the gas station, and then 50 miles up the peninsula to San Francisco. The garage at Fifth and Mission was full, and I was directed to The Ellis-O'Farrell Garage, on the other side of Market Street. About the same walking distance to Moscone, but it took extra time to get there, and getting out afterward was a PITA.

Registration was pretty simple compared to previous years. I already had a badge that I'd ordered online (for free!) So I just had to bring it to a booth where they swiped it and put it in a holder.

LiveWorship (www.liveworship.com) is a replacement for PowerPoint for use in church services. It displays song lyrics, Bible passages, or anything else you might want to project. When projecting song lyrics, PowerPoint has the problem that the user never knows exactly where in the presentation he is. So if the verses of the song are sung out of order, it's hard to go back and forth to the correct slide. LiveWorship displays all the slides on one monitor, and the actual selected slide on a second monitor that is also connected to the projector. The slides come with "templates" (background images or even video). The program runs on both Mac and Windows. I'm going to get my church to try it out.

Berklee College of Music (www.berklee.edu/) has an extension program where you can study music online. They also had a catalog of books published by their press. Near their booth, I found stacks of free magazines, Mix, Remix, and Electronic Musician. I picked up the magazines and the brochures. Will take a look at them later.

Crumpler (www.crumplerusa.com) has colorful camera and laptop bags, but they are way too expensive for me.

I had a long talk with the people at Red Rock Software (www.redrocksw.com) about their program DeltaGraph. It is available for Mac and Windows, but not for Unix. I was inquiring how I might use it on the web site for displaying various kinds of data. It turns out I'd have to write a script to download the data from the site, feed it into DeltaGraph and write the output to a picture file, then upload the picture file back to the web site. This would involve a strange combination of shell scripts, AppleScript, and perhaps Automator (should I ever upgrade to Tiger). Sounds like fun. Worth $200 just for some fun?

I'll have to take another look at Fetch, from Fetch Softworks (www.fetchsoftworks.com). I used to use it many years ago on System 7. But not so much recently for one reason or another. Maybe it used to be free, and now it costs money? But I've not been all that happy with the alternatives I've tried: CyberDuck, Captain FTP, RBrowser, and Yummy FTP. Anarchie was always my favorite in the old days, but it has evolved into a mondo expensive tool for sysadmins.

I grabbed a card for TypeIt4Me (www.typeit4me.com), a program that expands your abbreviations. Useful if you type a lot, which I do. This is the kind of program that always intrigues me, but once I buy them I never use them as much as I expected to. Will take another look at this one.

Delicious Monster (www.delicious-monster.com) is a program that allows you to catalog your books, CDs, videos, and games. I really need it, especially for books. But it requires an iSight or some other firewire camera. I have a Logitech Quick Cam, a USB device. When I tried running the program a year ago, it actually crashed my Mac when I tried to access that camera. It takes a heck of a lot to completely crash Mac OS X! I told them of my experience and they asked me to try it again. The program has had several upgrades this year and whatever problem I had then, should be gone now. I could just buy an iSight camera at a show special price of $139, but that's not much of a discount, and anyway, it is really worth that much to catalog my books?

Guitar Center had the latest version of Peak LE 5 from Bias (www.bias-inc.com/) selling for $79. In past years I've been able to buy it for only $49. Bias has also increased the upgrade prices on their web site. Since this is the program I use a lot but also hate, maybe it's time to think about switching to one of its competitors, like Sound Studio or Amadeus.

Roxio (www.roxio.com) had a show special of $99 for Toast 7 with Jam 6. Maybe I'll switch to using that instead of Peak. I've been using Toast 5 Titanium for years, and I've felt no need to upgrade, but this upgrade pricing is hard to resist.

Unitek was selling Retrospect Desktop 6.1 from Dantz (www.dantz.com) for $97, but it's hard to justify paying anything at all for software that gets such poor reviews. I used to love Retrospect on System 7, but now the personal versions get no respect. When I do backups at all, I used Backup Toolkit which I think has evolved into Prosoft. But mostly I just drag a bunch of files from one disk to another.

The MacAlly booth (www.macally.com) had something called the Ice Station that lets you orient your PowerBook vertically. This raises the height of the screen and gives space to put a keyboard in front. I've been looking for something like this for a while.

The folks at the MacAlly booth also showed me something called the NDAS External Enclosure. It is a 3.5" hard drive enclosure that has USB 2.0 and network connections. I guess NDAS stands for "Network Direct Attached Storage" and you can find out more about it on the Ximeta web page (www.ximeta.com). According to the MacAlly people, the advantage of NDAS over NAS is that the drive doesn't actually have an IP address or appear on the network, but you must install a driver on each PC or Mac that will have access to the drive. I'm trying to find an NAS drive that I can use to backup my Mac and Mary's PC, but the NAS units I've seen have one or both of two problems: (1) the disk must be formatted with a proprietary format, (2) the drive is compatible with only PC (usually) or Mac (rarely), but not both. This particular unit is $99 but you must supply your own drive. The drive can be formatted for either Mac or PC. They suggested I format it for PC first and then Mac, but that didn't make any sense to me. I would want to use the Mac to format two different partitions. They also suggested I just format for PC and the Mac would be able to read and write to it. Hmmm...

Rain Design (www.raindesigninc.com) had some interesting computer tables called the iGo, but the keyboard trays aren't large enough for my ergonomic setup, and the $333 price tag is more than I pay for a more-capable Anthro Cart.

Garage Sale (www.iwascoding.com) is a program that helps you post and manage eBay auctions. I've bought lots of stuff on eBay but never bought any. Now I find that I need to sell some items from my dad's estate. So maybe now is the time to start selling on eBay. Not having tried to use eBay's tools, I don't know whether something like Garage Sale is really necessary. But I suspect it is. Again, will take another look at it.

Ok. I bought something! thINK4inc.com sells ink cartridges for my Canon i560 printer for $4 each. I bought three black and three of each color last year, and I just popped the last one into the printer last night. So I bought enough to last another year. It costs more than refilling the cartidges from a bottle, but it's a lot less bother. And they tossed in a sampler pack of all their photo papers.

I promised to take a look at ReadIris Pro 11 OCR software from IRIS. I have a 100-page book scanned into PDF as pictures. I'd like to convert it to text. Is it worth $99 to do this? And will it work? I've never used any OCR software that actually worked. If I found one, I might be scanning square dance fliers "right and left."

Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) (www.dlo.com) has leather iPod cases that look as good in person as they did in the magazine photos. But they weren't selling at the show. A look at their web site shows that they are available for 4G-5G and Nano, but maybe not for other models. I expect that my 2G model is too thick for even their largest case.

I found one neat book each at the O'Reilly and Peachpit booths. Well, actually I found lots of books at each booth and the Wiley booth as well, but I found these two books that just tugged at me. Bulletproof Web Design by Dan Cederholm shows how to avoid mistakes that prevent your web page from reaching the widest possible audience (that is, the widest possible range of browsers). Designing Interfaces by Jennifer Tidwell covers some areas that seem similar to the Information Visualization I studied in school a few years ago: affordances, visual hierarchy, navigational distance, and the use of color. The book vendors at Expo usually offer a discount of 20-25 percent, but even that is more expensive than just buying them on Amazon (and opting for free shipping). I have a couple of gift certificates for Borders and Amazon that should just about cover it.

Anthro (www.anthro.com) has a 30 percent discount on just about everything, if you call them on the phone and ask for the show special. I'm interested in the Anthro Cart, and I have some specific needs. For years I've used a pretty big 4x4 foot corner unit with separately-adjustable CRT and keyboard shelves. It's pretty cool. But last year I donated my 21-inch CRT to the church and got this wonderful 19-inch Acer LCD. So I don't need nearly as much space as I did before. I figure I can get the keyboard and screen into a 30x24 inch space, have a cozier setup, and free up some space in my office (probably for another bookshelf).

Matias (www.matias.ca) has a need little product called the Half Keyboard. I don't really want to type on half a keyboard, but what I really do want is to have a portable ergonomic setup. I use a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard at home, but typing on the PowerBook keyboard while traveling is painful to my wrists. The Half Keyboard might work if either (1) I could obtain the other half keyboard also, but it's not available; or (2) I could just use the Half Keyboard with my left hand and the regular PowerBook keyboard with my right hand. I might be able to find a comfortable separate wrist position. What I can't figure out is why Matias charges $99 for a Half Keyboard and $49 for a full keyboard. I think someone there flunked math.

Anybody know anything about the Virtual Training Company (www.vtc.com)? They have lots of CD-ROM based instruction, even on technical topics like DHTML, Java, Javascript, C#, SQL, Perl, Unix shell, and XML. Are these things really worth $99 a pop? (Or two for $99, show special.) I don't know. I dno't know how I would figure it out except to buy a couple.

Ok, I spent some more money. Other World Computing (www.otherworldcomputing.com) had a couple really great products that I could not resist. A new battery for my iPod 2G was only $10 on a closeout. The iPod, which I bought on eBay last year, until now played for only a couple hours or less even on a full charge. I know this because I fall asleep to it, and awake a couple hours later to find it dead. The new battery, from Newer Technology (www.newertech.com), is supposed to last 20 hours. I'll be happy if it gets only half that. The battery came with small tools and instructions, and the recommended video on their web site really did help. For $45, I also got 512 megs of RAM for my PowerMac G4. I'm so happy with the PowerMac, that after three years I'm still nowhere near tempted to replace it. It is the Dual 867 MHz model. It runs rings around my 867 MHz Powerbook. Maybe I should have bought RAM for the PB instead? This latest addition brings me up to 1.75 GB in the PMac. And of course it installed easily and works well so far.

I spent a long time at the Oak Tree Software booth. They make Accordance Bible Software (www.accordancebible.com). I've always found this software too expensive, but we discussed different ways I might be able to reduce the price for me by buying only certain sets of modules. The standard Library CD comes with four different packages that can be unlocked at different price levels. There is also a Bible CD that has various Bibles that can be unlocked individually. And there is a Scholar CD that has other references like Kittel, NIBC, and K&D. But I need such an eclectic set (KJV, NASB, NIV, Hebrew, Greek NA, Greek TR) that I'd need to purchase a module here and a module there, which gets expensive quickly. Don't know if we can come to an agreeable solution, but I'll take a look at it.

After visiting the Oak Tree booth, I was running out of time. Only a few minutes until they turn out the lights. I ran to the Sonnet booth (www.sonnettech.com) but it turns out they don't have any upgrades available for my PowerMac. Ok, I'm happy with the PowerMac, but if I could spend a couple hundred bucks for a speed bump it would be worthwhile. I thought I saw one somewhere but I guess it wasn't Sonnet. They do have SATA cards. Can I boot my PMG4 from a SATA drive?

Finally, one more purchase. I saw this in the magazines last night and it was too funny to pass up. Comic Life Deluxe Edition from Freeverse Software (www.freeverse.com) lets you make a comic book out of your photographs. You can add speech balloons, captions and special effects lettering. I took lots of pics of the kids at Christmas, and this will be a fun way to present them. The program gets from MacWorld and from MacHome.

Now it's very late, and I still need to figure out what I'm going to buy when I go back tomorrow. Maybe I'll study tomorrow and go back to the show on Thursday.

Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For

San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday 10 January 2006, 10:13 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Nine Bay Area companies made the cut. These six spotlighted:

1. Genentech
25. Cisco Systems
27. Network Appliance
43. Intuit
73. Yahoo
97. Intel

Google was not eligible because it has not been around long enough.

On the list in the past but not this year: Xilinx, Adobe, HP.


A Tail Of Revenge

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Monday 9 January 2006, 5:54 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

FORT SUMNER, N.M. -- A mouse got back at a homeowner who tried to dispose of it in a pile of burning leaves. The blazing creature ran back to the man's house and set it on fire.

Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner said he caught the mouse inside his house and wanted to get rid of it.

"I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house," Mares said from a motel room Saturday.

Village Fire Chief Juan Chavez said the burning mouse ran to just beneath a window, and the flames spread up from there and throughout the house.

No was hurt inside, but the home and everything in it was destroyed.

State of the Pews

Newsweek Commentary

Thursday 5 January 2006, 2:45 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Rabbi Marc Gellman

The Barna Group (barna.org), a consulting and religious research firm in Ventura, Calif., discovered these trends in their research into particularly Christian religious life in America in the past year:

1. Pathetic prayer. Churches are more concerned with programming than with prayer. Most church attendees say that they do not experience the presence of God in the service and fewer than one out of 10 spent any time worshipping God outside of their church service.

2. The continuing demise of the black church. Using the measures of church attendance, Bible knowledge, the priority of faith in a person's life, and the reliance on the religious community for support and relationships, Barna concludes that things are not looking good for black churches. Barna surprisingly concludes that the main reason for this decline is the increasing wealth of the black community.

3. The energizing of the evangelicals. Although only 7 percent of adults are evangelicals, their voice is the loudest and their energy, charity, Bible study, and prayer life is the greatest. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it was the evangelical volunteers who came in the greatest numbers and stayed for the longest time.

4. Biblical illiteracy. The Barna Group has discovered that most Christians (and I would add most Jews) are in increasing numbers biblically illiterate. Churches have demoted and de-emphasized Bible study. The Sunday-TV preachers I regularly monitor for good jokes use biblical verses as mere decorations for their psycho-babble sermons, not the driving reason for their sermons. Most of the baby rabbis I mentor still preach sermons (if they preach at all) that sound more like Dr. Phil than Rabbi Phil.

5. Revolutionaries. Barna labels as “Christian revolutionaries” the more than 20 million people who are pursuing their Christian faith outside the box. They meet in homes or at work. These revolutionaries, as Barna labels them, are really passionate Christians who have no patience for the moribund bureaucracy of organized church life.


After the tsunami

Daily Telegraph

Thursday 5 January 2006, 2:09 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

Asked once how she could possibly help all the poor of the world, Mother Teresa answered simply: "One by one." Since arriving in Sri Lanka, it has been clear to me that the tsunami devastated people one by one, and only one by one can they rebuild their lives. But in that lies the glory, too, of the post-tsunami human drama.

The pace of reconstruction seems at first sight painfully slow. Most survivors remain in temporary homes: some 90,000 houses in Sri Lanka are needed, but only 10 per cent have been built. Visit the devastated villages to hear people's stories, and it becomes clear why. Reconstruction is not, primarily, a question of bricks and mortar but of communities making choices; and sometimes those choices are not easy.

Some people have expected too much, too soon: it is normal, after a major disaster, for the rebuilding to become most intense in the second or third year, not the first. The amount of building required in Sri Lanka is six times what it would be normally, and there is an obvious skills shortage. There is, above all, the challenge of land ownership, which has become a complex issue in the tsunami-affected areas.


After Storm, Relief Groups Consider More Work in U.S.

New York Times

Thursday 5 January 2006, 2:02 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Stephanie Strom

The chaotic response to Hurricane Katrina by government agencies and the Red Cross, the sole private organization charged by law with providing relief in national emergencies, has led organizations like Oxfam to wonder whether they have a role in disaster response here.

Now, as Congress considers whether it should broaden the mandate for disaster response beyond the Red Cross, Oxfam and other international humanitarian agencies may find themselves called upon to take on new responsibilities in the United States.

Nonprofit groups responding to a crisis abroad try to work collaboratively and with grass-roots nonprofit organizations that they have nurtured as part of their efforts to build civil society and eradicate poverty.

Oxfam's foray into domestic disaster relief began with the local groups, like the Southern Mutual Help Association Inc., that it had been working with for several years to tackle poverty and promote economic development and with new groups its workers on the ground identified.

"I had never heard of them before," said Sarah Walker, executive director of Visions of Hope, a tiny nonprofit that provides a variety of housing support to low-income residents of Biloxi, Miss. "But they were here right away and wanting to know if we'd be willing to work with them and naturally, we said yes."

Oxfam made a $30,000 grant to Visions, which used the money to buy vouchers that families could use at the Home Depot, Lowe's and other retailers for brooms, mops, flashlights and other equipment to clear out their homes. For Visions, with an annual budget of about $125,000, the grant made a huge difference.


What did I tell you!

Thursday 5 January 2006, 1:50 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

In the Goncourt journals, Flaubert is reported as telling the tale of a man taken fishing by an atheist friend. The atheist casts the net and draws up a stone on which is carved: "I do not exist. Signed: God." And the atheist exclaims: "What did I tell you!"

Indiana lawmakers pray illegally

Indianapolis Star, Washington Post

Thursday 5 January 2006, 1:18 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A judge's ruling barred the Indiana House of Representatives from invoking the name of Jesus or any other specific deity in official prayers.

That didn't prevent the lawmakers for holding their own prayer, nor did it keep about 30 people from gathering in the Statehouse rotunda this morning to pray.

In fact, the ruling motivated them. Sitting in blue chairs in the marble rotunda, people began the prayer session at 10 a.m. by chanting "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus."


House Speaker Brian C. Bosma on Tuesday left open the possibility that today's opening-day invocation for the 2006 General Assembly might not comply with recent court orders barring references specific to Christianity.

In a Nov. 30 decision, U.S. District Judge David Hamilton found that the House violated the U.S. Constitution's clause prohibiting a government-established religion when at least 29 invocations last year were offered in the name of Jesus, the Savior or the Son.


The Indiana General Assembly will begin its 2006 session this week. Speaking from a federal bench, Judge David Hamilton ruled recently on a lawsuit brought by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union that any prayers offered at the Indiana House of Representatives must be nonsectarian and respectful of the diversity of religion of our state. Prayers should not seek to proselytize nor exclude members of other faiths. House Speaker Brian Bosma is challenging that ruling, suggesting that restricting clergy from praying in the name of Jesus Christ is an intrusion on their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and religion.


A federal court judge on Wednesday denied a request to amend his ruling banning sectarian prayer in the Indiana House of Representatives, clearing the way for an appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge David Hamilton rejected arguments by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, that Hamilton's ruling was too vague to enforce.

"If the speaker or those offering prayers seek to evade the injunction through indirect but well understood expressions of specifically Christian beliefs, the audience, the public, and the court will be able to see what is happening. In that unlikely event, the court will be able to take appropriate measures to enforce" the injunction.


In a spirited duel over prayer, members of the Indiana state House are at odds with a federal judge who ruled that the daily invocation appeals too often to Jesus Christ and a Christian god.

The "systematically sectarian" prayers, U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton concluded, are barred by the Constitution, which forbids the government to show preference for any religious denomination. He ordered the House to avoid mentioning Christ in the formal benedictions.

A number of politicians have vowed to defy Hamilton, whom they accuse of undermining a 188-year Indiana tradition and interfering in legislative branch affairs.


You don't get arrested unless you break the law

Christianity Today

Thursday 5 January 2006, 11:56 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Sheryl Henderson Blunt

Evangelist Luis Palau says he did not mean to "create problems" for Chinese house church members when he urged them to officially register their churches in order to "receive greater freedom and blessings from the government."

"Rev. Palau is either unaware of the problems that registration can cause, or perhaps he is aware that if he makes remarks too critical of China's government, it could severely restrict his ministry there," said Paul Marshall, senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. "Registration can require revealing all the church's members to the government and exposing all of the church's activities. If the government then wants to crack down, it has all the information it needs."

At a November press conference in Beijing, Palau said, "You don't get arrested unless you break the law." Palau has since said he regrets making the remarks. More recently he conceded, "It's not my role as an evangelist to suggest that churches in China should register."


Big Government Fix-It Plan for New Orleans

New York Times

Thursday 5 January 2006, 11:11 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Adam Nossiter

Representative Richard H. Baker is the champion of a housing recovery plan that would make the federal government the biggest landowner in New Orleans. Mr. Baker's proposed Louisiana Recovery Corporation would spend as much as $80 billion to pay off lenders, restore public works, buy huge ruined chunks of the city, clean them up and then sell them back to developers.

Property owners would not have to sell, but those who did would have an option to buy property back from the corporation. The federal corporation would have nothing to do with the redevelopment of the land; those plans would be drawn up by local authorities and developers.

A sobering early flyover of the ruined neighborhoods in New Orleans convinced him that ordinary solutions would not work. Here was a problem way beyond the capacity of private enterprise.

Desperate for a big-scale fix to the region's huge real estate problem, Louisiana officials and business leaders of all stripes have embraced the plan, calling its passage crucial.


Walking The Bible Again

Wednesday 4 January 2006, 9:12 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

"Walking the Bible" played tonight on PBS. The next two installments play next Wednesday, January 11, and the following Wednesday, January 18. In our area, that would be on KQED (Channel 9) at 8:00 pm.

The show was pretty good. I thought it was interesting how he argued with his guide about going up Mount Ararat. Not that I particularly believe all the stories about Jimmy Carter having seen Noah's Ark up there and all that.

The PBS site has a link to your nearest station with their schedule.


There is a transcript of Ray Suarez interviewing Bruce Felier about his book. The interview took place in 2001.


Here is another more recent interview of Mr. Felier by Tavis Smiley.


You can search the PBS web site to find more such stuff.

Walking The Bible

Wednesday 4 January 2006, 3:09 am
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Bruce Feiler, author of the book "Walking the Bible", hosts three-part documentary on PBS. The first installment of the "Walking the Bible" documentary airs tonight at 8 pm on PBS.


The book "Walking the Bible" on Amazon

Bitter Cold, Snow Blocking Relief Supplies in Kashmir

Washington Post

Tuesday 3 January 2006, 7:50 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Zarar Khan, Associated Press

Shivering with cold and beating the snow off their fragile tents with sticks, earthquake survivors struggled Monday to keep their children warm as the bitter winter hit Kashmir, grounding helicopter aid flights and blocking roads for the second straight day.

Dozens of tents, including ones housing a school and a mosque, collapsed under the weight of 10 inches of snow that blanketed the village of Mira Tanolian, about four miles south of Muzaffarabad. The settlement lies amid the ruins of houses destroyed by the Oct. 8 temblor that killed at least 73,000 people and left 3.5 million homeless.

The Pakistan meteorological office forecast continued rain and snow for the next two days and low temperatures of 21 degrees Fahrenheit in the plains and 7 degrees Fahrenheit above 5,000 feet. According to the meteorological office, Kashmir and northwestern Pakistan have had at least two feet of snow since Saturday evening.

For the second straight day, helicopters from the United Nations, foreign militaries and Pakistan's army were not able to deliver winterized tents, clothes, food and other provisions in the quake zone because of poor visibility, said Maj. Farooq Nasir, an army spokesman. They were trying to move supplies by truck, but mudslides and snow have also made some roads impassable, he said.

"It's what we have been fearing all along," Larry Hollingworth, the U.N. deputy humanitarian coordinator said by phone from Battagram. "The winter is now with us."


Help comes on little cat feet

Associated Press

Tuesday 3 January 2006, 6:58 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Associated Press

Police say that a cat dialed 911 to help his fallen owner.

Police aren't sure how else to explain it. But when an officer walked into an apartment Thursday night to answer a 911 call, an orange-and-tan striped cat was lying by a telephone on the living room floor. The cat's owner, Gary Rosheisen, was on the ground near his bed having fallen out of his wheelchair.

Rosheisen said his cat, Tommy, must have hit the right buttons to call 911.

Rosheisen said he couldn't get up because of pain from osteoporosis and ministrokes that disrupt his balance. He also wasn't wearing his medical-alert necklace and couldn't reach a cord above his pillow that alerts paramedics that he needs help.

Daugherty said police received a 911 call from Rosheisen's apartment, but there was no one on the phone. Police called back to make sure everything was OK, and when no one answered, they decided to check things out. That's when Daugherty found Tommy next to the phone.

Rosheisen got the cat three years ago to help lower his blood pressure. He tried to train him to call 911, unsure if the training ever stuck.

The phone in the living room is always on the floor, and there are 12 small buttons -- including a speed dial for 911 right above the button for the speaker phone.

"He's my hero," Rosheisen said.

Paradoxical Resolutions

Saturday 31 December 2005, 3:48 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Found while looking for other things ...

"The Paradoxical Commandments were written by Kent M. Keith in 1968 as part of a booklet for student leaders. For more than thirty years, the Paradoxical Commandments have circled the globe. They have been put on walls and refrigerator doors, featured in speeches and articles, preached from pulpits, and shared extensively on the web. They have been used by business leaders, military commanders, government officials, religious leaders, university presidents, social workers, teachers, rock stars, parents, coaches, and students. Mother Teresa thought the Paradoxical Commandments were important enough to put up on the wall of her children's home in Calcutta."

At a time when we make New Year's resolutions, these might form a useful template.

The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down
by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001


2006 to be delayed a wee bit

CNN News

Friday 30 December 2005, 9:20 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Get ready for a minute with 61 seconds. Scientists are delaying the start of 2006 by the first "leap second" since 1998.

The adjustment will be carried out by sticking an extra second into atomic clocks worldwide at the stroke of midnight Coordinated Universal Time, the widely adopted international standard, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology said this week.

"Enjoy New Year's Eve a second longer," the institute said in an explanatory notice. "You can toot your horn an extra second this year."

On the U.S. East Coast, the extra second occurs just before 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Atomic clocks at that moment will read 23:59:60 before rolling over to all zeros.

Deciding when to introduce a leap second is the responsibility of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, a standards-setting body. Under an international pact, the preference for leap seconds is December 31 or June 30. The first leap second was added on June 30, 1972.


The Lord's Resistance Army

Christianity Today

Friday 30 December 2005, 5:16 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by J. Carter Johnson in Kitgum, Uganda

Why the children of Uganda are killing one another in the name of the Lord.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is one of the larger terrorist organizations in the world. It has killed more people than many other violent groups, yet few Westerners have ever heard of it, since nearly all its violence is perpetrated in the border region between Uganda and Sudan in East Africa.

On a continent plagued with endless guerilla warfare, where war crimes are standard fighting fare, the LRA stands apart as an especially odious group. LRA crimes against humanity are so repulsive that its only former ally, the Islamic government of Sudan, jettisoned its relationship with the LRA to improve Sudan's international relations.

What began in 1986 as a rebellion against the Ugandan government has metamorphosed into a military millenarian cult. Its reason for existence is to perpetuate the power of its leader, a ruthless witchcraft practitioner named Joseph Kony, who envisions an Acholiland ruled by a warped interpretation of the Ten Commandments. He uses passages from the Pentateuch to justify mutilation and murder. He promotes a demonic spirituality crafted from an eclectic mix of Christianity, Islam, and African witchcraft.

Any resemblance to these religions is superficial: While the army observes rituals such as praying the rosary and bowing toward Mecca, there is no prescribed theology in the conventional sense. Kony's beliefs are a haphazard mix from the Bible and the Qur'an, tailored around his wishful thinking, personal desires, and practical needs of the moment. Jesus is the Son of God. But instead of saving the world from sin through his sacrificial love on the Cross, he is a source of power employed for killing those who oppose Kony. The Holy Spirit is not the Divine Comforter, but one who directs Kony's tactical military decisions.

Despite dabbling in the Bible and the Qur'an, Kony's real spiritual obsession is witchcraft. He burns toy military vehicles and figurines to predict the course of battles from their burn patterns. He uses reptiles in magic rituals to sicken those who anger him or to detect traitors in his midst. He claims to receive military direction from spirits of dead men from different countries, including Americans.

The rest of the article contains graphic descriptions of brutality, mostly descriptions of children required to kill other children, or be killed themselves.


How to Help

Here are key Christian and charitable organizations that work with the victims of the lra conflict in northern Uganda.

Far Reaching Ministries

World Vision

Save the Children


Jesuit Refugee Service

Write your congressman: www.house.gov/writerep

Here is another article about what American Christians can do to help resolve the LRA conflict.


Mix and match churches

Friday 30 December 2005, 5:04 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

This article by Neela Banerjee in the New York Times indicates that a number of Christians, particularly youth, are comfortable participating in multiple churches.

As examples, it tells about teenagers who attend a traditional church with their parents, then another more contemporary church service or youth group with their friends.

Particularly in the case of youth, but also more generally, it is my opinion that it is healthy for believers to expose themsevles to more than one Christian tradition. I grew up in the Lutheran church, but while in high school, I started attending a Pentecostal church that was part of the Charismatic movement. In later life, I believe I am now more informed by having participated in both traditions. I can see the validity of both points of view. I can understand why people can become comfortable with a church or tradition that they've been associated with for a long time. And, most importantly, it's easy now for me to allow others to enjoy their own tradition, without having to consider them suspect in order to bolster my own beliefs.

Of course, as I read the article, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. The other shoe, of course, being that religious leaders don't like for people to attend more than one church. And why would that be? Well, of course, they don't want to risk your money going to another church. Anyone who tries to say it's any more than that is fooling himself.

"Some critics, particularly conservative evangelicals and the ministers of various denominations, decry such practices as a consumerist approach to faith." OK, so I should keep going to a church, perhaps my parent's church, even if it puts me to sleep, if I disagree with what is being taught or how, or if I disagree with how the church is being run. Not.

"If families spread their loyalties around, it's been my experience that they don't benefit as well as they could," said Peter Beringer, a youth pastor at Pulpit Rock Church, which has about 1,000 adults in attendance every Sunday. "They don't seem to have relationships in the church that are as deep. From what I have seen of students who have done this, they find it easier to disengage and be the kid on the fringes."

I couldn't disagree more. The kids who are on the fringes are the ones who attend only one church, and that just barely. Why would someone who wants to stay on the fringe attend two different churches? Perhaps if they are dragged to both by their parents. But even in that case, the kids are getting double the exposure to the message, and they are likely getting that message in two different ways ... perhaps one of those ways will be effective at reaching to them.

Even the terminology Mr. Beringer uses, "families spreading their loyalty," confirms that each church wants to keep you close by to retain your loyalty, that is, for the well-being of the church, not to further your spiritual well-being. A church that is concerned about your spiritual condition will want you to be exposed to the gospel in as many settings as possible, so that perhaps the message might take root.

And when families attend multiple churches, it is usually the case that one is the "primary" church where strong relationships are formed, and the other is a church where other spiritual needs are met. In time, perhaps the roles of the different churches in one's life might reverse, and the formerly "primarly" church will take on a more secondary role. But this doesn't necessarily mean that personal relationships are being sacrificed. It simply means that new relationships are being formed.

News of subtle significance

New York Times Op-Ed

Friday 30 December 2005, 4:27 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

by William Falk

Developments that may have slipped your notice in 2005:

Scientists took ice cores from ancient glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica. Bubbles of air trapped in the ice provided a sampling of the atmosphere going back 650,000 years. A study, published last month in the journal Science, found that the level of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that can warm the planet, is now 27 percent higher than at any previous time. The level is even far higher now than it was in periods when the climate was much warmer and North America was largely tropical. Climatologists said the ice cores left no doubt that the atmosphere is being altered in a substantial and unprecedented way.

The rapid melting of the Arctic and Greenland ice caps, a new study finds, is causing freshwater to flood into the North Atlantic. That infusion of icy water appears to be deflecting the northward flow of the warming Gulf Stream, which moderates winter temperatures for Europe and the northeastern United States. The flow of the Gulf Stream has been reduced by 30 percent since 1957, the National Oceanography Center in Britain found.

This year, scientists developed a vaccine against human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that is the primary cause of cervical cancer. The vaccine produced 100 percent immunity in the 6,000 women who received it as part of a multinational trial. As soon as the vaccine is licensed, some health officials say, it should be administered to all girls at age 12. But the Family Research Council and other social conservative groups vowed to fight that plan, even though it could virtually eliminate cervical cancer. Vaccinating girls against a sexually transmitted disease, they say, would reduce their incentive to abstain from premarital sex.

American Web giants Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have all grabbed a piece of the lucrative Chinese market - but only after agreeing to help the government censor speech on the Web.

Statements by new C.I.A. Director Porter Goss seem to confirm the widespread suspicion that Osama bin Laden is hiding in the mountains of northern Pakistan but that President Pervez Musharraf, fearing the reaction of Islamic militants, is not eager for him to be captured within Pakistan.

A new study found that dormant infections can be activated when certain parts of the body, particularly the feet and the nose, get wet and cold. This confirms mom's notion that getting a chill can lead to a cold.


Angry Chihuahuas attack officer in Fremont

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 30 December 2005, 1:33 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A pack of angry Chihuahuas attacked a police officer who was escorting a teenager home following a traffic stop, authorities said.

The officer suffered minor injuries including bites to his ankle on Thursday when the five Chihuahuas escaped the 17-year-old boy's home and rushed the officer in the doorway.

The officer was treated at a local hospital and returned to work less than two hours later, Veteran said.


Katrina Victims Salvage Holiday Spirit

Yahoo News, AP

Friday 30 December 2005, 12:07 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Mary Foster, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS - The congregation of First Emmanuel Baptist Church drove from Baton Rouge, Houston and other points far and wide on Christmas, then walked past collapsed buildings and piles of storm wreckage to worship in their old church for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

Cheryl Anderson was only too happy to get up at 2 a.m. Christmas morning to begin cooking in the tiny kitchen of the trailer she shares with her husband, son and three grandchildren. Even the location, on the grounds of Metairie Cemetery, where her husband works, didn't bother her.

Anderson, 46, floated away from her house on a door when the water hit 9 feet. She spent two days on an overpass, then took shelter at the Superdome before being evacuated to Birmingham, Ala. Her family was scattered across four states and it took her months to find them.

"I didn't think I'd live to see this Christmas," Anderson said. "Now we're having everything like a regular Christmas — the gumbo, the ham, all of it. Everything except a tree. That won't fit in the trailer."

"You get 14 feet of water in your house and it don't leave much," said Harold Hansford, who had managed to salvage a few Christmas decorations from the attic. This year his house is decorated with the marks painted on by rescue workers as they made their way through the neighborhood looking for people and bodies.

"I never imagined Christmas like this," he said. "Not much left, but we'll be back."


Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

New York Times Op-Ed

Thursday 29 December 2005, 10:30 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

In this op-ed in the New York Times, Timothy D. Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, argues against our "annual ritual of introspection." His studies show that "too much analysis can confuse people about how they really feel." He shows that people who analyzed their relationships by "gut feeling" predicted the relationship's success better than those who listed specific factors within the relationship. Another study shows that "that when people are depressed, ruminating on their problems makes things worse." A third study showed that "participants who were given an opportunity to do a favor for another person ended up viewing themselves as kind, considerate people," but those who were asked to reflect on the favor did not view themselves as being so kind.

Dr. Wilson has this to say about the kind of debriefing procedure we underwent when we returned from Mississippi:

For years it was believed that emergency workers should undergo a debriefing process to focus on and relive their experiences; the idea was that this would make them feel better and prevent mental health problems down the road. After 9/11, for example, well-meaning counselors flocked to New York to help police officers, firefighters and rescue workers deal with the trauma of what they had seen.

But did it do any good? In an extensive review of the research, a team led by Richard McNally, a clinical psychologist at Harvard, concluded that debriefing procedures have little benefit and might even hurt by interrupting the normal healing process. People often distract themselves from thinking about painful events right after they occur, and this may be better than mentally reliving the events.

Oops ... no chimney

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 10:28 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Happy cacophony

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 10:19 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Tis the season to be nasty

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 10:13 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Americans concerned about commercialization of Christmas

Yahoo News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 9:36 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

More Americans are concerned about the commercialization of Christmas than about restrictions on public displays of religious symbols, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they were troubled by the commercialization of the holiday, while just 35 percent expressed concern about opposition to public religious displays.

In fact, 56 percent of respondents said they were not concerned at all about the controversies surrounding the displays, according to the poll.

If given the choice, a majority of those surveyed said they would prefer being greeted with "Merry Christmas" rather than "Season's Greetings" when they entered stores over the holidays. However, 45 percent said the greetings were of little consequence to them.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051222/ap_on_re/religion_briefs \

Condom-covered Madonna embarrasses Catholic weekly

Yahoo News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 8:43 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

"Another issue may be Catholic priests' unfamiliarity with what condoms look like."


'Santa Pope' woos Vatican crowds

BBC News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 8:40 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

At a chilly St Peter's Square, the Pope draped a red cloak over his shoulders and covered his head with a red velvet hat lined with white fur.

Vatican officials said the hat, known as a camauro, has been part of the papal wardrobe since the 12th century. But it has not been worn in public since the death of John XXIII in 1963.

Although missing Father Christmas' trademark white furry bobble, the pope's timely discovery of the long-forgotten camauro seemed as much a nod to the season as to the chilly weather.


Western states suffer flu first

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 12:20 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Barbara Feder Ostrov, Mercury News

California today is expected to join Utah as the two U.S. states with "widespread" influenza cases reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, state health officials said Tuesday.

Flu season typically hits the Eastern part of the country first before heading westward in January and February. This year, that pattern appears to be reversed, and while "it is indeed unusual, we don't know why," said California Department of Health Services spokeswoman Tacey Derenzy. "That's why we say the flu is unpredictable."


Rare birds mystify scientists

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 28 December 2005, 12:17 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Lisa M. Krieger, Mercury News

Pacific storms have blown thousands of rare sea birds into the Bay Area, many of them weak, emaciated and seeking refuge in rain puddles of suburban yards and parking lots. The small birds, called red phalaropes, ordinarily live many miles off the Pacific coast and are rarely seen on land.

Since the afternoon of Christmas Day, they've been sighted in Los Gatos, Palo Alto, San Francisco, even Campbell's percolation ponds at Budd Road and San Tomas Expressway. Most abundant on the coast, a flock of 1,200 was reported near Half Moon Bay.

Normally they are wary of humans. And they only come on land in the Arctic, where they briefly breed and raise their young. But many of these are weary, allowing people to approach closely. Some have been killed by cats and gulls. Along Highway 1, hundreds were reportedly struck by cars.

"They were emaciated, with anemia and low protein levels," suggesting long-term starvation, said Marie Travers of the Peninsula Humane Society. But the Bay Area's rich estuaries could offer badly needed food and rest.



Tuesday 27 December 2005, 3:43 pm
(Link to this article alone)

"Learning to shrug is the beginning of wisdom."
- Fortune from Ho Chow, where we ate last night

Yesterday we went to after-Christmas sales at Valley Fair in Santa Clara. The shopping center might have another name now, but for those of use who've been here since the 1950's, it will always be Valley Fair. Mary didn't want to go into Nordstrom or Macy's, where we probably would have found the best sales.

I did buy this little USB-powered keyboard vacuum cleaner just because it was half price and my keyboard has lots of food in and on it. The verdict is out so far ... it cleaned the top of the keyboard just fine, but I think I'll still have to take all the keys out to get to what's underneath. There is an attachment that looks like a one-inch piece of flexible heat-shrink tubing, but it won't reach between the keys.

The mall wasn't as busy as we expected it to be. I brought Mary in the secret back entrance and we parked on the street because the lines to get into the parking lot were too long.

Since Mary didn't want to go into Nordstrom, I didn't get to shop at the half-yearly men's sale. Will have to go back there later this week. Like many others, I shop for others before Christmas, for myself after. But since we won't see my brothers or sisters until next weekend at the earliest, there is still time to shop for them ... it has happened before (getting them something at after-Christmas sales, that is).

Rove Implicated In Santa Identity Leak

The Onion

Tuesday 27 December 2005, 12:18 pm
Keywords: Humor
(Link to this article alone)

WASHINGTON, DC—The recent leak revealing Santa Claus to be "your mommy and daddy" has been linked to President Bush's senior political adviser and deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.

The identity of the mythical holiday gift-giver, previously known only in grown-up circles, was published in the popular Timbertoes cartoon in the December issue of Highlights For Children. Jean Abrams, a conservative firebrand known to have close ties to Bush appointees in the Department of Education, revealed "Santa" to be a code name for anonymous parental gift-giving.

Abrams and several other children's-magazine journalists, including Ranger Rick's Kristin Brittany and Cricket managing editor Shaina Belowitz, have testified before a federal grand jury on the source of the leak. Sources say that Randall Polk, Washington bureau chief for Weekly Reader, named Rove after serving eight days in jail for refusing to divulge his sources.

The motivations behind the leak remain unclear, but some political observers have characterized it as a calculated act of retribution against Fairfax, VA second-grader Madison Harris. Harris, 7, wore an antiwar T-shirt to her elementary school during a Nov. 2 visit by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

"The shirt, decorated with doves and the word 'peace,' angered White House ideologues, who felt that Harris had undermined a tightly orchestrated visit," independent political media watchdog Ellen Applebee said. "An aggressive attempt to hit Harris where she lived was set in motion."


Retiming traffic lights helps eight South Bay commutes

San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday 27 December 2005, 12:07 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Gary Richards, Mercury News Staff Columnist

Santa Clara County road engineers recently completed the first major retiming of traffic signals on local expressways and adjacent streets in 11 years, 139 lights from Capitol Expressway in East San Jose to Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto.

Since Roadshow was born 14 years ago, badly timed traffic lights have been the No. 1 complaint. In a county survey three years ago, more than seven of 10 people said that improving traffic light synchronization was the most pressing need on the eight expressways.

A nasty spot will remain at Montague Expressway and First Street -- that signal is not tied into the new synchronization plan because timing has to be linked to VTA's nearby light-rail stop. Another crunch point is on San Tomas at Highway 17, where needs on state, county and city roads can conflict.

As a separate project, San Jose retimed 409 signals on city streets during the past two years and engineers were hoping for up to a 20 percent reduction in travel time and the number of red lights drivers regularly hit. They got much more than they expected -- as much as a 45 percent decline, according to a city follow-up report.


South Dakota Makes Abortion Rare Through Laws And Stigma

Washington Post

Tuesday 27 December 2005, 10:31 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls has one clinic day, the one day a week when the only facility in South Dakota that provides abortions could take in patients. The day changes depending on the schedules of four doctors from Minnesota who fly here on a rotating basis to perform abortions, something no doctor in South Dakota will do. The last doctor in South Dakota to perform abortions stopped about eight years ago; the consensus in the medical community is that offering the procedure is not worth the stigma of being branded a baby killer.

South Dakota, those on both sides of the abortion debate agree, has become one of the hardest states in the country in which to obtain an abortion. One of three states in the country to have only one abortion provider -- North Dakota and Mississippi are the others -- South Dakota, largely because of a strong antiabortion lobby, is also becoming a leading national laboratory for testing the limits of state laws restricting abortion, both opponents and advocates of abortion rights say.

In 2005, the South Dakota legislature passed five laws restricting abortion, after a bill to ban abortion outright had failed by one vote in 2004.

A 17-member abortion task force, made up largely of staunch abortion opponents, issued recommendations to the legislature earlier this month that included some of the most restrictive requirements for abortion in the country. The report states that science defines life as beginning at conception and recommends a law that gives fetuses the same protection that children get after birth, thus banning abortion.

State law forbids any public funding for the $450 procedure, even in the case of rape or incest. Beyond cost, there is the distance. It's a long slog here from places like Rapid City, about 350 miles away in the western part of the state. For some women, the only way to do it -- and not pay for a hotel room -- is to make the 700-mile trip in one day.

Many doctors in South Dakota say they have no personal objection to performing abortions but cannot risk their careers and community standing by offering the procedure.


For Some Victims of Katrina, The Bulldozer Is the Answer

Washington Post

Monday 26 December 2005, 8:41 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Staff Writer

In suburban, working-class, mostly white St. Bernard Parish, where the destruction was so complete that just 10 of 25,000 houses are inhabitable, there is a headlong rush to the wrecking ball. More than 300 houses have been tagged for a mass demolition project that will begin in the coming weeks, as soon as a monumental tangle of paperwork is unraveled. Yet that's just the start in a parish where the water rose so high -- 17 feet in some parts -- that nearly every house is considered a candidate to be knocked down.

Oil refinery workers and fishermen and suburban commuters line up each day, offering their stucco and brick and wood frames to be pulverized. The homeowners' enthusiasm is bolstered by assurances that they will be allowed to rebuild, a contrast with the situation just upriver in New Orleans, where leaders of the city's rebuilding commission have discussed abandoning parts of the city that suffered the worst flooding.

Ronnie Nunez offered his house to the parish as a guinea pig for its demolition project, helping officials determine exactly how long it will take to scrape away a house and how much it will cost -- probably about $5,000 per house, reimbursable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, parish officials say.


Little progress in Pass Christian

Mississippi Clarion-Ledger

Friday 23 December 2005, 8:43 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Lorinda Bullock

No water, piles of debris leave residents frustrated

PASS CHRISTIAN — Progress is a word that has taken on many meanings here. To some, it's the area's first gas station reopening three months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed 80 percent of this coastal city. To others, it's getting clean water, which many of the 6,500 residents won't see for a while because the city's water system was virtually destroyed. Some residents view progress as finally getting to move into FEMA trailers, while others continue to camp out in tents.

Dan Ellis, a local historian, said he will acknowledge progress when he can leave his apartment in Eureka Springs, Ark., find the debris removed from his yard in Pass Christian and have a permit in his hand to rebuild the house he lost. "Every time I started going back, there was so little change," he said of the tons of debris that remain to be cleared.

City Alderman Donald Moore said a large number of Pass Christian residents won't or can't come back because of the lack of clean water, infrastructure and one of the most coveted items in town — a building permit. With 80 percent of the city in ruins, you can't just pass out building permits, zoning director Peggy Johnson said.

Nearly 3,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, she said. So far, 193 building permits have been processed and, of those, about 160 issued. The office has approved 300 FEMA trailer permits.

One couple is living in a trailer they received three months after Katrina destroyed their house. "I got a brand new trailer, and it leaks. The heaters don't work, and the doors don't lock."


Pearlington Community Fears Losing Relief Center


Friday 23 December 2005, 6:34 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Trang Pham-Bui

Hundreds of people in Pearlington turn to the relief center at Charles Murphy Elementary for all their necessities, from washing their clothes to picking up groceries.

Paula Buhr has been in charge of the operation since mid-September.

"There's still people with no trailer, and there's people that don't have anything to put in the trailers," said Paula Buhr.

But the days may be numbered for the large relief operation. Buhr says Hancock County School Superintendent David Kopf told her she has until Thursday to move all the volunteers, supplies and donations off the school property. "He said that the people are pulling out and they don't want the liability of the volunteers here on the school property," said Buhr.

Buhr says three months after Katrina, the need in Pearlington is just too great to send the volunteers away. She says she's asking for churches and people in the community to give the volunteers another place to set up. In the meantime, she's hoping leaders in the school district will change their minds.


Habitat team to build homes for Gulf Coast victims

Poughkeepsie Journal

Friday 23 December 2005, 6:27 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Larry Fisher-Hertz

Hardly anybody lives in Pearlington, Miss., anymore. Some people from the Hudson Valley hope to change that soon.

The little Gulf Coast town (official population: 1,684) was leveled by Hurricane Katrina, its inhabitants scattered to makeshift shelters, motel rooms and mobile homes provided by emergency workers.

The rebuilding of Pearlington has begun, and local volunteers from Habitat for Humanity will soon join the effort. Starting Feb. 12, about 20 men and women, led by Rich Taylor, director of the local Habitat chapter, will spend about a week building more-suitable emergency housing for the people of Pearlington.

Habitat for Humanity, a nationwide nonprofit agency, typically builds full-sized homes for low-income families who otherwise could not afford a home of their own. The homes the volunteers will build in Mississippi will be a little smaller.

"These are basic, 450 square-foot, one-story houses," Taylor said. "They're not designed to be permanent, but the idea is to get people out of some of the places where they're living now. Some of these people are disabled, and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) put them in mobile homes that aren't handicapped-accessible."


One man's experience

Chickasaw Journal

Friday 23 December 2005, 6:13 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Pat Burgess, Chickasaw Journal

Rod Scheidel decided he would stay in Bay St. Louis in their townhouse and ride out the storm to protect their possessions if the worse happened.

"I will never forget the howling sound of the wind and of trees snapping," Scheidel said, "I hear it in my sleep." After the wind stopped, the water came. Scheidel had weathered many storms before, but the area had never flooded.

"I expected the wind, but not the water," said Scheidel, "it was coming from the back from Waveland and from the front from the beach. "I knew I was in trouble when the streets began flooding. Water was coming into the house from under the door."

Eventually the water receded. When it was safe to go outside, 90 percent of the buildings were gone. "There was a one-and-a-half to two-block strip of houses left," said Scheidel. "We were saved by the seawall, but all around was devastation, mud and debris."

There was no communication. Phone lines and cell towers were blown away. It would be a long two-week wait before help came to the area. "The neighbors and I sat on the corner of our street day after day waiting for help to come," said Scheidel.

"The first help we received was from churches. I don't know what we would have done without them. They were wonderful."

By this time, the house they previously shared was reeking with mold and mildew. There was no electricity. The Red Cross provided tents. The family slept outside in the tents for almost two months, fighting flies and mosquitoes.

They received their food from make-shift food distributors set up in parking lots. They protected their salvaged belongings while waiting for further assistance.

Then came Hurricane Rita ...


Hancock looks at shortening volunteer lifeline

South Mississippi Sun Herald

Friday 23 December 2005, 6:05 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

HANCOCK COUNTY - The hordes of volunteers, whose kindness has served as a lifeline for thousands of residents here since Katrina, could soon be leaving.

The county has fashioned a plan that could have some of the groups, and their free meals, gone in less than a month. The plan is designed to have all the free goods and services shut down in 90 days. The recovery plan, first made public last week during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, outlines what free goods and services will end, and when.

"We're not trying to phase anything out, it's just about getting back to normal," said Bryan Adam, director of the county's emergency management agency.

Thousands of volunteers and faith-based groups have come to Hancock County to help, and by now, locals know where to find food, cleaning supplies and donated clothes. Some of those groups already are headed in that direction.

Christian Life Church in Orange Beach, Ala., has given away hundreds of thousands of dollars in free supplies from the Kmart parking lot in Waveland, but the group is making plans to shift its focus. "We've gutted out about 40 or 50 homes already, and we plan to eventually move from giving away supplies and food to manual labor; helping people rebuild their homes," said Jimmy Blackwell, who leads the church's relief effort.

The concern is this: With so many volunteers in the county, local businesses, hoping to reopen, will struggle trying to sell many of the same items being offered for free.

But many people are still without transportation, making it difficult to get to the grocery store in Diamondhead, the Wal-Mart Express in Waveland, or one of the few restaurants that have reopened.

"If we still have just two grocery stores open, then people will still need some things," he said. "We are going to work with the volunteers to make it a smooth transition."


A place to call home

Lincoln Courier

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:59 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Gaye Maxson

While Joann Nicodemus spent six weeks as a volunteer relief worker at Hurricane Katrina’s ground zero in Waveland, Miss., she made a list of things she looked forward to doing again.

"Turn on a faucet.

"Take a hot shower.

"Not wear a hat.

"Sleep in a bed that’s not on the ground.

"Sit on a couch and watch TV.

"Flush a toilet."

Nicodemus worked at a distribution center in a strip mall parking lot in Waveland, Miss. The town at ground zero had been destroyed by the 35-foot storm surge.

"You can’t wrap your head around it," Nicodemus said. "(Survivors) came back to nothing. Not even any debris. That went inland for a quarter mile. Then you go inland, and those people lost everything, but their yard was filled with a stack of debris. Nothing can prepare you for it."

The strip mall was gutted and the parking lot had become a street fair of stations for food, first aid and supplies. Stations were run by various religious and governmental organizations as well as by individuals like her. The Rainbow Family – a self-professed non-organization from the hippie counterculture of the 1970s – was serving three square meals every day to anyone who came while musicians provided music to sooth the soul. Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, Methodists, Episcopalians and others worked together helping refugees who came back day after day for food and supplies from the piles of donations.

A couple with a recreational vehicle offered Nicodemus shelter. When they left a few weeks later, she found a tarp to sleep under, and later a tent – without a fly. "I have a degree in outdoor rec, so it was pretty much up my alley," Nicodemus said. "Everybody that was down there was either in an RV or a tent. Those were pretty much your only options."

"I came back to my life. I have all my stuff. I’m going to a place where houses are intact. (The folks in Waveland) are still waiting in line for a trailer from FEMA. There are no gas stations, no stores, no houses, no jobs. And winter – winter’s coming. I wish I could be back there helping them."


Caretaker pursues trailer for handicapped family

South Mississippi Sun Herald

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:53 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Anita Lee

BAY ST. LOUIS - The road home after Hurricane Katrina has been chaotic for the mentally handicapped Holden family and their caretakers. The Holdens know a hurricane destroyed their house, but they do not understand why they can't go home.

Their caretaker, Barbara Foreman, has been trying for months to get the Holdens a FEMA trailer.

Because the Holdens are mentally handicapped, Foreman thought they would go to the head of the list for temporary housing. But they're still waiting.

They visited the FEMA Disaster Relief Center in Waveland a week ago. They've been there a dozen times or more. This day, they sat once again to face a FEMA worker who checked their information in the computer. He had Foreman down as a Spanish-speaking renter, rather than an English-speaking homeowner. The information will be corrected only after she brings in proof that she owned her home.

FEMA determines whether someone needs a trailer and if it can be placed on their property; the agency contracts with Bechtel to deliver and set up trailers.

This is what one of the FEMA workers told Foreman: "It's a slow process. It's coming. What can I tell you? I submitted every piece of paperwork you gave me. Once it comes to us, it goes to Bechtel, then it's out of our hands. You need to go talk to (Rep.) Gene Taylor or (Sen.) Trent Lott. Once it comes election time, you can boot them out."

Sid Melton, FEMA's mobile home operations chief in Mississippi, said Maryetta Holden's file does not indicate that she and her children are mentally handicapped.

The Holdens had flood insurance because the house is in a flood zone, but the insurance company has not agreed to pay their claim, so there's little money for repairs.

Barbara Foreman plans to persevere with the insurance claim and FEMA. But she often feels overwhelmed. "All I get is promises and stalls," Foreman said. "It's not that I haven't been trying. I've sure been trying."


Repairs, revenue top needs in Bay St. Louis

Mississippi Clarion-Ledger

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:35 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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By Cathy Hayden

Although city services and most utilities have been restored to every place where a connection is viable, about 30 percent of Bay St. Louis homes and 80 percent of the businesses were wiped out.

Economic Director Buz Olsen had no estimate on lost tax revenue, but one of the biggest hits was Casino Magic, the city's only casino, which brought in $250,000 a month in taxes. The Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District is especially hurting because of the lost tax base.

The city has issued 1,800 building permits since Katrina hit on Aug. 29, so Olsen knows residents are trying to rebuild. His office is in one of four trailers the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved in about a month ago to house city services, including the mayor's office and public works. Along with the trailers, the corps provided chairs, desks, pencils and "everything to get you back to normal," Olsen said. "They didn't say they'd pay the electric bill."

Few damaged businesses have reopened. No fast-food restaurants and only a handful of gas stations are open.

Bay St. Louis had four grocery stories before Katrina. Now the only grocery shopping is in a Wal-Mart that partially has reopened. Otherwise, everyone is driving to Gulfport or Slidell and Mandeville, both across the state line in Louisiana. "Everybody in the city is almost on equal ground. Everywhere you go, you're standing in a line for gas, groceries and food," Olsen said.

He estimates of the 8,209 counted by the U.S. Census pre-Katrina, Bay St. Louis has lost about 30 percent of its residents, or about 2,700.

Although the five-campus Bay St. Louis-Waveland school district started back Nov. 7, only about half the 2,300 students are attending. The schools were the last Coast district to reopen. Bay High has the highest attendance, 59 percent, with Waveland Elementary at 38 percent. Most students are scattered among one of 68 portable classrooms that FEMA supplied.


No room for good cheer in FEMA trailers

Columbus Dispatch

Friday 23 December 2005, 5:27 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Mike Harden

WAVELAND, Miss. -- Throughout the storm-hammered Mississippi Gulf Coast, 25,371 travel trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are occupied by hurricane survivors who will spend the holidays in confines for which the word cozy is laughably euphemistic.

FEMA trailers are about half the size of a standard mobile home. The oven space in the kitchen range is slightly smaller than a legal pad. The bathtub is the size of an old-fash- ioned washtub — about 2 feet by 3 feet.

Because the hot-water tank holds only 5 gallons, showering requires certain precautions. "You wet your body," one resident said, "then shut off the water to soap up, then turn it back on to rinse off." The next in line must wait 25 minutes for more hot water.

It is not the fear of another Katrina that drives FEMAville residents to distraction, it is the 13-pound Thanksgiving turkey that won’t fit in the oven. It is dashing outside in a chilly downpour to fetch the food they’re keeping in plastic storage bins because there is no room inside. It is the 40-mile drive to Picayune for groceries, the routine trips to the coin-operated laundry.

Last weekend at a nearby park, at a holiday party for the storm-displaced, church members distributed live Christmas trees. They had the most gracious of intentions but the worst judgment about available square footage.


The future of Bay St. Louis could be prefabricated

South Mississippi Sun Herald

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:28 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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Associated Press

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. - The neighborhoods of Bay St. Louis could eventually contain hundreds of ready-made houses, said Bill Dennis, the architect who leads the area's design team. "I think these homes will play a big part in rebuilding on the Coast," Dennis said. "There's just not going to be enough builders to do all the construction that needs to be done."

The homes would be built in a factory in another part of the country and shipped to the area. It takes about four months to assemble the homes onsite.

A 1,000-square-foot house on the rubble-filled Ballentine Street is the first to appear in Bay St. Louis. It was built by Allen Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif., and delivered on trucks. The company is designing them to match the traditional feeling of Bay St. Louis homes.

Prefab homes tend to cost about 40 percent less, per square foot, than regular homes and they often are a better quality structure, Dennis said. "The construction is going to be much stronger than a stick-built house, because it has to be sturdy enough to travel on a truck," he said. "Also, the materials are usually inside during production, and not on a lot, exposed to the elements."


Hurricane drives couple north

Ironwood, MI Daily Globe

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:23 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Diane Montz

IRONWOOD -- Bob and Irma Rondeau fled hurricane Katrina in their Honda Accord on Aug. 27, with little more than an attache holding their important papers.

Two days later, that was all that was left of their life in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

It was nearly two months before the retired couple returned to their acre of waterfront property in Bay St. Louis. A partial concrete slab and battered 400-year-old live oak tree are all that remains of their spacious home, once filled with furnishings collected in their world travels, and surrounded by gardens they created over nearly 30 years.

"We said, 'we're going to flee.' Thank goodness we did," Irma Rondeau said. Fifty-two of their neighbors and friends died in the storm.

Katrina swept ashore in a 30-foot wall of water that destroyed Bay St. Louis and adjoining Waveland, as well as other Mississippi Gulf Coast communities. Waterfront homes like the Rondeaus' took the storm's first fury.

Bob Rondeau said an aerial survey shows new artificial reef offshore underwater, believed to have been created by debris sucked out to sea by powerful undertow currents during the storm.


Florida santas carry cheer to Mississippi

Orlando Sentinel

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:15 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Debbie Barr

John and Jan Williams of Apopka last week played Santa and Mrs. Claus to more than 1,200 schoolchildren and their siblings in the Hancock County school district of southern Mississippi, which was leveled by Hurricane Katrina in August.

The Williamses, who didn't have the luxury of flying reindeer, traveled about 580 miles to the town of Bay St. Louis, Miss., driving a 17-foot U-Haul and a Ford Explorer stuffed with presents.

There, the couple spent more than four hours at Bay High School distributing more than 2,000 gifts to the parents of district students and their siblings, as well as to teachers and staff. The couple also raffled off two new mountain bikes.

The Williamses, members of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Apopka, headed up a community drive through the church that provided holiday gifts to children 1 through 18.


Florida deputies help Waveland

Orlando Sentinel

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:09 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Maya Bell, Sentinel Staff Writer

Thanks to a $20,000 check from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, Christmas came a few days early for the Police Department of Waveland, Miss., the town all but wiped off the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

The donation, contributed mostly by Orange County deputies, was delivered Tuesday to Waveland police Chief James Varnell.

Waveland department personnel have plenty to be grumpy about. Katrina took their station, patrol cars, communications system, uniforms and weapons. The storm also left 25 of them without homes or personal belongings.

Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary was among the first to send help, dispatching officers to patrol the devastated community, keep order and assist in search-and-rescue efforts. He also sent eight refurbished patrol cars his office had planned to auction.

But the aid didn't stop there. Deputy sheriffs and their families also sent tactical uniforms, boots, clothing, personal-hygiene products, bedding and other essentials that Waveland officers and civilians needed to get back on their feet.


Mucking offers storm relief

Ironwood, MI Daily Globe

Thursday 22 December 2005, 6:00 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Diane Montz

A week spent mucking out flooded homes in Mississippi's Gulf Coast communities changed the lives of both storm victims and volunteers from Cornerstone Church.

"We've been changed," said Lois Tauer, one of eight people from the Ramsay church who traveled south in a two-vehicle caravan Nov. 4-13. "I know I've been changed. It changes you -- not that it has to, but you'd have to be awful hard-hearted not to be changed."

Otto Jensen, youth pastor at Cornerstone, said their ministry was simple. Wearing masks and double gloves, the volunteers hauled the contents of flood-ravaged homes to the curb. They emptied refrigerators untouched for 10 weeks. They removed sodden carpeting, sagging ceilings and moldy drywall.

They stripped homes down to a skeleton of 2-by-4 lumber framing enclosed by exterior siding on top of a concrete slab. In addition to the stench of mold, rotting upholstery and food, they encountered cockroaches and lizards. When the mucking crew was done, the pressure-washed, bleached interiors of the home looked like new construction, Rice said.

Gulfport's Church of the Good Shepherd provided a home for the Cornerstone volunteers, furnished with army cots and one shower for 10 people. Free lunch at a FEMA tent, where the food included Southern regional cuisine, helped the volunteers cut their out-of-pocket costs.

It was hard work that required no particular training. "We weren't a crew of highly specialized people," Jensen said. "We were housewives, a youth pastor, students."

Working in Long Beach, Pass Christian, Waveland and Gulfport, they gained skills on the job. "We can muck out a house," Tami Rice said. Jensen noted, "We're good at the destruction phase."

Because there was no power in the houses they were mucking out, work days ended around 5 p.m. when it got dark. The workers were too tired to do much more than clean up, eat, talk about their day and share devotions before turning in for the night.


Migration strain

Hattiesburg American

Thursday 22 December 2005, 5:48 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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By Rachel Leifer

The repercussions of South Mississippi's shifting population are definitely palpable, if not yet precisely quantifiable. It can be felt in the Bay-Waveland district's sparsely attended schools and in the snaking grocery store lines in Hattiesburg, in Gulfport's legions of temporary workers and the soaring real estate market in Wiggins.

Flanked by hurricane-devastated Hancock County and St. Tammany Parish, La., Pearl River County's population may have shot from about 52,000 to about 110,000, said county emergency management director Bobby Strahan.

"Law enforcement calls have doubled, fire calls have doubled, EMS calls have doubled," he said.

Meanwhile, Gulf Coast communities hope to regain their lost residents. Tracking population changes in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties has been nearly impossible between the thousands who have left and the thousands of temporary contractors and relief workers who have come in, officials said.

School enrollment in Hancock County offers some sense of how population levels have changed - but many residents are retirees without young children, school officials noted.

Enrollment in the hard-hit Bay-Waveland School District - which was the last Mississippi district to resume classes on Nov. 7 - is at about 50 percent of pre-Katrina levels, said Dominica Favre, assistant to the superintendent.

"We're kind of thinking more families could be back after Christmas," said Favre. "People are finding places to stay, and there are more and more FEMA trailers every day."


Three generations huddle to make a post-Katrina Christmas

Northeast Booster (MD)

Thursday 22 December 2005, 5:43 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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by Mary T. Robbins

It's an unusual Christmas for Julie Keith and son Jeremy after escaping from Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi gulf coast. They now live under crowded circumstances with Julie's mother.

In September, daughter Julie Keith, 42, left her ravaged mobile home in Bay Saint Louis, Miss., with her daughter Ashleigh, 14, and son, Jeremy, 7.

"It's hard for everybody," acknowledged Julie's mother, Lil Trumbull, 78. "It's a disaster and you can't expect everything to be sweetness and light when it maybe wouldn't be even under normal circumstances."

Keith, a 1979 graduate of Towson High School, is grateful for the hospitality, but would like one thing for Christmas - privacy.

"I don't know how long it's going to take for things to be rebuilt in Mississippi, and what we will do." she said.


God the refugee

The Guardian

Thursday 22 December 2005, 5:24 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor

In generation after generation, in an un-newsworthy way, people sit up straight and realise God was born to a refugee family, modelled pure love, and was killed by a violent society so we all might enter a relationship of intimacy with Him. And in generation after generation, that astonishing discovery leads to a turnaround in the way people live and think.


Banning Christmas - For Real


Thursday 22 December 2005, 5:08 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Andrew Santella

Liberal plots notwithstanding, the Americans who succeeded in banning the holiday were the Puritans of 17th-century Massachusetts. Between 1659 and 1681, Christmas celebrations were outlawed in the colony, and the law declared that anyone caught "observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way any such days as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings." The Puritan disdain for the holiday endured: As late as 1869, public-school kids in Boston could be expelled for skipping class on Christmas Day.

Quakers, too, took a pass, reasoning that, in the words of 17th-century Quaker apologist Robert Barclay, "All days are alike holy in the sight of God." As late as 1810, the Philadelphia Democratic Press reported that few Pennsylvanians celebrated the holiday.

Observance of Christmas, or the lack thereof, was one way to differentiate among the Christian sects of Colonial and 19th-century America. Anglicans, Moravians, Dutch Reformed, and Lutherans, to name just a few, did; Quakers, Puritans, Separatists, Baptists, and some Presbyterians did not. In 1867, Reformed Church minister Henry Harbaugh protested that Presbyterians in his Pennsylvania neighborhood "spend the day working as on any other day. Their children grow up knowing nothing of brightly lit Christmas trees, nor Christmas presents. God have mercy on these Presbyterians, these pagans."


The Christmas He Dreamed

Washington Post Op-Ed

Thursday 22 December 2005, 4:17 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Harold Meyerson

The white Christmases that Irving Berlin dreamed of weren't the earliest ones he used to know. He spent his first five Christmases in czarist Russia, and his only recollection of that time, at least the only one he'd acknowledge as an adult, was that of watching his neighbors burn his family's house to the ground in a good old-fashioned, Jew-hating pogrom.

So it's no surprise that when Berlin got around to writing his great Christmas song in 1941, nearly half a century after his family had fled the shtetl of Mohilev for New York's Lower East Side, it was flatly devoid of Christian imagery. It is, for all that, a religious song. It's just that Berlin's religion was America.

The success of "White Christmas" paved the way for a whole new genre of Christmas songs. Two years after Berlin's ballad first appeared, came "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Two years later came "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire"), and a year after that, "Let It Snow." By then the American Christmas song was about staying warm in winter, about staying connected to loved ones and traditions. It also practiced separation of church and song.

Many of those Christmas songwriters, of course, were Jewish and the children of immigrants; their deepest drive was to demonstrate beyond all doubt that they were assimilated, cosmopolitan, American. A Jew married to an Irish Catholic, Berlin raised his three daughters as nominal Protestants. Who better to write a non-Christian Christmas song? (Berlin's may have been an extreme case, but in the middle of the 20th century, Jewish assimilationism was so pervasive that it gave rise to the following crack: What's the difference between Reform Jews and Unitarians? Unitarians don't have Christmas trees.)

Berlin kept Christmas in the public square and, more than anyone before or since, sent it out over the public airwaves. But it was an American, not a Christian, Christmas. And by the crass index of number of recordings sold, and the not-so-crass index of number of spirits touched, Berlin's nonsectarian holiday has been the predominant version of Christmas in this country for the past 60 years.


Student allowed to share Christian message (after threat of lawsuit)

Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:43 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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by Eva-Marie Ayala, Start-Telegram Staff Writer

MANSFIELD - A fourth-grader who was initially told he could not share candy canes with religious messages did so at his class party Thursday morning.

Jaren Burch, a student at Tipps Elementary School, intended to bring the sweets with a story that told how they related to Jesus. Campus officials said he couldn't bring them with religious stories attached and a First Amendment discussion began.

On Wednesday, the Liberty Legal Institute, which was called by the Burches, sent the district a demand letter to comply with the student's First Amendment right to religious expression.

"Schools need to stop acting irrational and being overly paranoid," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of the Plano-based nonprofit organization. "The law itself is that schools cannot push religion but students themselves can be free in their religious expression."

"It was not a district policy but had been a practice, or guidelines for principals, to try and be sensitive to students from all different backgrounds and religions at this time of year," he said. "In this particular case, we determined that we've gone a little too far with those guidelines."


Christmas doesn't need special protection

Concord Monitor

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:32 pm
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by Ken Braiterman

"War" is too strong a word to describe what my father went through trying to raise Jewish kids in public school in the 1950s, but the Christmas celebration in our school in Baltimore certainly created a conflict for him. Teaching a 5-year-old that he and his neighbors are the same as people, equal as citizens, but different, is a hard job for a Jewish parent when the child's entire world transforms itself for weeks in honor of Christmas.

My father, Marvin Braiterman, was an intense (but not orthodox) Jew who felt commanded by the Bible to teach his religion diligently to his children. He was also a civil rights lawyer who, had he been there, would have included the First Amendment somewhere in the Ten Commandments.

He had nothing against people who lit up their homes, or merchants who decorated their stores, or TV stations that showed Christmas specials. All that was free speech and the free exercise of religion, protected by the First Amendment. He understood the beauty and power of Christmas for Christian believers, and also the vital role its traditions play in the lives of families who are not religious.

He wanted his children to learn about that when we were old enough to understand it, after we had a firm footing in our own tradition. But how could he explain the song we learned in second grade that said, "Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord?" Christ is not our lord, he told us. He is the neighbors' lord. But the neighbors believe in the same God we do. We just don't believe God had a son. Christmas is not our holiday. We have Hanukkah.

Because my school was half Jewish, we had both a Christmas and a Hanukkah play to promote tolerance, understanding and brotherhood. My father didn't think either one had any place in the public school.


Battles rages over celebrating holidays

Yahoo News

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:24 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Ellen Wulfhorst

Fox News anchor John Gibson wrote a book "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse than You Thought."

Bah humbug, said radio talk show host Bill Press, author of "How the Republicans Stole Christmas." "People have been saying 'Happy Holidays' for a hundred years at least," he said. "This is nothing new. It just celebrates the diversity of America."

He blames politics. "It is all by design," he said. "The more people are talking about who's saying 'Happy Holidays' and who's saying 'Merry Christmas,' the less people are talking about Karl Rove, torture, Tom DeLay, the war in Iraq and other hot issues.

The debate has become comic grist. "Every time you say 'Happy Holidays,' an angel gets AIDS," warned television comedian Jon Stewart.


Most Americans like Christmas cheer

Washington Times

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:15 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Jennifer Harper

It's nearly unanimous: 97 percent of Americans say they are not bothered by public references to Christmas according to a new Gallup poll released yesterday.

The practice also doesn't offend those of other faiths -- or no faith. The poll revealed that only 8 percent of non-Christians and 5 percent of those with no faith were perturbed by displays or advertisements which mention "Christmas" rather than a generic or secular equivalent.

The finding was "surprising, and perhaps counter to the inclusive rationale for saying 'happy holidays,'" the survey stated.


City Bars Christian Hip-Hop Dancers from Performing

San Diego Union-Tribune

Thursday 22 December 2005, 1:08 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
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By Shannon McMahon, Union-Tribune Staff Writer

CHULA VISTA – At the city's annual holiday celebration, a rabbi lighted a menorah. A dance troupe performed a traditional prayer to the gods. But six young girls were told they they couldn't perform because they were wearing shirts emblazoned with a silver cross and the words "Jesus Christ" on the front.

The "Jesus Christ Dancers," a group of 8-to 12-year-olds who describe themselves as Christian hip-hop dancers, were scheduled to make their citywide debut at the Dec. 3 holiday festival. Moments before the group was to take the stage, employees from the city's Parks and Recreation Department barred them from performing, saying they did not want to convey a religious message in the show.

In a council meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Steve Padilla said city staff members turned the dancers away "out of an overabundance of caution." "We sent the wrong message to a very important segment of our community," he said. Padilla then apologized on behalf of the city.

Dance instructor Lita Ramirez said that she described the group as a Christian hip-hop dance troupe when she sought permission to enter the festival. "There was a Hawaiian prayer dance that was allowed to perform," Ramirez said. "There was seductive belly dancing and songs saying 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' and 'Little Drummer Boy' and 'Feliz Navidad.'" A tree-lighting ceremony, sponsored by the mayor's office, followed the event. During that ceremony, the mayor introduced a rabbi, who lighted a menorah.

"The city created a holiday event and then they turned around and the only person who wasn't invited was Jesus," said Dean Broyles, an attorney.


Homesick 'Katrina Kid' finds a welcome

San Jose Mercury News

Thursday 22 December 2005, 11:36 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
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By Dana Hull, Mercury News

In his baggy shorts and navy blue school T-shirt, Troy Adam blends in with other students at Bellarmine College Prep -- until you hear his to-die-for Louisiana drawl.

Troy, 14, is a "Katrina Kid," one of thousands of Gulf Coast teenagers who fled Hurricane Katrina and are now adjusting to a new school, new teachers, new friends and an entirely new life thousands of miles from home.

Troy's parents had just closed on their new house in Chalmette, in St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, when Katrina hit. The family evacuated with just a few changes of clothes and Yeager, their Jack Russell terrier. They drove west for days, sleeping in rest stops along Interstate 10 because motels were booked or did not accept pets. They arrived, anxious and exhausted, at the East San Jose home of their extended family.

Bellarmine College Prep, the all-boys Jesuit school, took Troy as a student, waiving the $10,800 yearly tuition fee. Bellarmine then set the family up in a house it owns on Elm Street, right near campus.

Bellarmine's faculty and staff immediately comment on Troy's unflagging politeness. Everything is "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir," phrases rarely muttered in the corridors of most California high schools.

"He's a great kid. He's so polite," said John Scherbart, a religion teacher who arranged for Troy to speak at the school's Thanksgiving prayer service. "I asked Troy if he could share his story, and he told it very profoundly and very sincerely. He had the auditorium riveted."

Troy's parents flew home to check on their house in early October, as soon as the parish let residents back in, for the unpleasant job of throwing out rotting food and soiled possessions. The ground floor of the house was five feet deep in mud and muck; the upstairs bedrooms are fine. "It smelled like when you go to the zoo and visit the reptile exhibit."

Rebuilding is far from easy. Their homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, an enormous bone of contention among Katrina victims. They are almost tapped out financially. And though they are eager to repair their house, every electrician, plumber and contractor in the New Orleans area is booked solid for months.

"FEMA's giving out trailers, so we're waiting to get a trailer on our lot," said Troy. "But there's no grocery store open yet, so it's kind of hard to actually go back."


Santa's watching you; who's watching Santa?

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 9:03 pm
Keywords: Humor
(Link to this article alone)


Dazed By Disasters

Christianity Today editorial

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 12:27 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is reported to have said, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." Of course, a little emotional anesthesia right now may be understandable, given the extraordinary natural disasters the world has faced. Starting with the Florida hurricanes in 2004, to the devastating Asian tsunami a year ago and hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma last fall, Christians have given repeatedly, often putting overmatched government bureaucracies to shame.

Then, in Pakistan, more than 73,000 people perished and 100,000 were injured when an earthquake struck on October 8.

Yet after a brief burst of coverage, the media have moved on to other topics. Many American Christians apparently have, too. "Some people probably are becoming numb to these tragedies," Richard Stearns of World Vision told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "What we call 'compassion fatigue' may be setting in."

Christian workers in far-away Pakistan report that giving for earthquake relief is inadequate. Perhaps 80 villages in hard-to-reach Kaghan Valley have yet to see an aid worker, and the tent shelters and hospitals hastily set up in other areas provide the homeless with scant protection during the onset of winter.

"The [nongovernmental organizations] are facing significant funding crises," workers reported in a dispatch. "Entire villages and economies have collapsed, and it seems the West is already bored with it all."

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) warns that the risk of natural disasters worldwide is rising due to growing populations, increasing urbanization, inadequate infrastructure, and poverty.


Santa Robs Texas Bank

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 12:20 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A man dressed as Old St. Nick walked into a Wachovia Bank in Arlington, Texas early Tuesday and told the teller he had a gun. No weapon was produced, and no one was injured in the heist.

He was wearing a red Santa jacket with white fur around the wrists and collar and black buttons, khaki pants and white tennis shoes. He had the matching hat — red with the fur brim.

During the robbery, he pulled the Santa hat over his eyes and looked out through two holes cut into the hat.


Alaska Man Builds 16-Foot Snowzilla

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 12:17 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
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Anchorage, Alaska (AP) -- With the help of his kids and neighbors, Billy Ray Powers built more than just a snowman — they've dubbed his 16-plus-foot-tall creation "Snowzilla."

After using up all the snow in the family's yard, they turned to neighbors' yards and carried buckets on sleds. They hand-packed the snowman like an ice-cream cone.

It took a month to complete the project.


Seagate to Acquire Maxtor

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 12:06 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Therese Poletti, Mercury News

Seagate Technology, the world's largest disk drive maker, plans to announce today the purchase of its struggling rival, Maxtor of Milpitas, in a stock deal valued at about $1.9 billion, according to sources familiar with the transaction.

The deal would increase Seagate's manufacturing scale, which would help bring production costs down.

While the disk drive industry has been rebounding in the past year, due in part to the huge demand for more storage in consumer electronics devices, Maxtor has not benefited as much as Seagate or their other big rival, Western Digital of Irvine.

But after Apple Computer unveiled its iPod nano in September -- an ultra-thin digital music player that uses a flash memory card to store songs instead of a mini disk drive -- investors grew nervous again about disk drive stocks. Seagate was one of the suppliers of small disk drives for earlier iPods.


The Poor Need Not Apply

New York Times Editorial

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 10:58 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Federal loans to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina have been flowing to wealthy neighborhoods in New Orleans but not to poor ones.

The government has processed only a third of the 276,000 home loan applications it has received. And it has rejected a whopping 82 percent of those, a higher percentage than in previous disasters, on the grounds that applicants didn't have high enough incomes or good enough credit ratings.

The Bush administration encouraged poor people to apply for low-interest loans to rebuild their homes while keeping rules that would make it clearly impossible for most of them to qualify. It has engaged in the worst kind of cruelty - one that encourages the poor to think help is on the way, then swats down anyone who actually requests the promised assistance.



Teach, Don't Preach, the Bible

New York Times Op-Ed

Wednesday 21 December 2005, 10:47 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Bruce Feiler

In the landmark 1963 Abington case (which also involved Pennsylvania public schools), the Supreme Court outlawed reading the Bible as part of morning prayers but left the door open for studying the Bible. Writing for the 8-1 majority, Justice Thomas Clark stated that the Bible is "worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities," and added, "Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistent with the First Amendment."

Though the far right may complain that this academic approach to teaching the Bible locks God out of the classroom, and the far left may complain that it sneaks God in, the vast majority of Americans would embrace it.

The Fourth National Survey of Religion and Politics, completed in 2004 by the University of Akron, shows that only 12.6 percent of Americans consider themselves "traditionalist evangelical Protestants," which the survey equates with the term "religious right." A mere 10.7 percent of Americans define themselves as "secular" or "atheist, agnostic." The vast majority of Americans are what survey-takers term centrist or modernist in their religious views.


Mark says: I think these figures are suspect. The problem may be terminology. "Evangelicals" don't always consider themselves "mainstream" or "traditionalist." The combination of "traditionalist evangelical" may be unfamiliar to the poll respondents. Also, may traditional Catholics consider themselves part of the "religious right."

ACLU Objects to Wellington's Nativity Scene

Palm Beach Post

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 8:08 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Dwayne Robinson, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wellington has added a Nativity scene -- along with a Santa Claus, reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and dreidels -- to its holiday display. The crèche was donated, while the other items cost about $5,000.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, while acknowledging that the display probably meets the "silly standards the U.S. Supreme Court may have set 20 years ago" of having nonreligious components accompanying religious ones, has objections.

For one, Wellington opened up its Community Center as a public forum when it included the religious symbols of Christianity and Judaism and now must allow other religious groups, ranging from Wiccans or Buddhists, to also place emblems, the organization argues.

"It is one of the loveliest Nativity scenes I've ever seen," Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said. "What the city ought to do is donate it to a church."


Activist Judge Cancels Christmas

The Onion

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 7:50 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

In a sudden and unexpected blow to the Americans working to protect the holiday, liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt ruled the private celebration of Christmas unconstitutional Monday.

In addition to forbidding the celebration of Christmas in any form, Judge Reinhardt has made it illegal to say "Merry Christmas." Instead, he has ruled that Americans must say "Happy Holidays" or "Vacaciones Felices" if they wish to extend good tidings.

Within an hour of the judge's verdict, National Guard troops were mobilized to enforce the controversial ruling. Said Pvt. Stanley Cope: "We're fighting an unpopular war on Christmas, but what can we do? The military has no choice but to take orders from a lone activist judge."

"Why did the bad man take away Christmas?" 5-year-old Danny Dover said. "I made a card for my mommy out of paper and glue, and now I can't give it to her." Shortly after Dover issued his statement, police kicked down his door, removed his holiday tree, confiscated his presents, and crushed his homemade card underfoot.


'Happy Holidays' also has religious meaning

Chicago Tribune

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 7:41 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Nathan Bierma

While the White House, along with other government officials and retailers this year, opts to use the word "holiday" as its generic, non-religious alternative to "Christmas," linguists point out that the word "holiday" itself has religious etymological roots. In fact, religious references are buried in the histories of many words we now use without thinking about their history.

It's less than obvious that the word "holiday" has the word "holy" in it, as in "holy-day." It began in Old English as two words, "halig daeg" ("holy day") that were combined into one as early as 1,000 years ago, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

"The names of the days of the week commemorate the sun (Sunday) and the moon (Monday), and then five pagan gods: Tiw [Tuesday], Odin [or Woden, "Wednesday"], Thor [Thursday], Freya [Friday], and Saturn [Saturday]," Geoffrey Pullum writes. "If we were to start obsessively analyzing all of these names for religious links to object to, we would have our work cut out forever."


In Iran, religious freedom means keeping your mouth shut

National Review

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 7:11 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Kenneth R. Timmerman

A few weeks ago in Iran, an Iranian convert to Christianity was kidnapped from his home in northeastern Iran and stabbed to death. The vigilantes who took him tossed his bleeding body in front of his home a few hours later, a stark warning against any who would follow his example.

Ghorban Tori is the fifth Protestant pastor assassinated in Iran in the past eleven years. Three of the five were former Muslims, making them subject under Iranian law to the death penalty for having committed apostasy.

Tori's murder came just days after Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called an open meeting with the nation's 30 provincial governors, and vowed to crack down on the burgeoning movement of house churches across Iran.

"I will stop Christianity in this country," Ahmadinejad reportedly said.


Christmas Quotations

Christianity Today

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 6:22 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

From the human perspective, when you compare God to the other gods of the other religions in the world, you have to say our God is really sort of odd. He uses the most common of people, people that aren't any different from any of us here; he comes in the most common of ways, when by his Spirit an anonymous young woman is found to be with child. And the strangest thing is that he comes at all—he's not the Above-Us-God, too holy to come down. This God's love is so immense that he wants to come down. And he has proven his love by the fact that he did come down and touch our ground.

James R. Van Tholen, Where All Hope Lies

We do not believe that the virgin mother gave birth to a son and that he is the Lord and Savior unless, added to this, I believe the second thing, namely, that he is my Savior and Lord.

Martin Luther, Sermon on the Afternoon of Christmas Day 1530

Do you want to see the humility of God? Look in the manger and see him lying there. Surely this is our God. Seeing an infant, I wonder how this could be the one who says, "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" I see a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Is this the one who is clothed in the beautiful glory of unapproachable light?

Listen! He is crying. Is this the one who thunders in the heaven making the angels lower their wings? Yes, but he has emptied himself in order to fill us.

Guerric of Igny, Liturgical Sermons

Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin's womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked "No Entrance" and left through a door marked "No Exit."

Peter Larson, Prism (Jan-Feb 2001)


Jar-Jar's Bible

Christianity Today

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 6:11 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

I'm not sure if this is a joke or what, but this article by Nate Anderson in Christianity Today claims that the American Bible Society has translated "De Nyew Testament" into Gullah, an English Creole language spoken by 250,000 Americans in Georgia and the Carolinas.

We Fada wa dey een heaben,
leh ebrybody hona ya nyame.
We pray dat soon ya gwine
rule oba de wol.
Wasoneba ting ya wahn,
leh um be so een dis wol
same like dey een heaben.
Gii we de food wa we need
dis day yah an ebry day.
Fagib we fa we sin,
same like we da fagib dem people
wa do bad ta we.
Leh we dohn hab haad test
wen Satan try we.
Keep we fom ebil.

Is this for real?

Amid Devastation, Mounds of Toxic Waste

New York Times

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 5:54 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by John Schwartz

There is so much storm debris in Louisiana that some of it has to be destroyed again.

Bulldozers feed tree limbs and the jagged shards of homes into a trailer-size grinder. The manufacturer calls this machine the annihilator. It can chew iron sewer covers as if they were Necco wafers, and it transforms the chaotic mixture to something resembling mulch. It can reduce the volume of debris by two-thirds. It is part of an effort by the Army Corps of Engineers to make the most of landfills that have to accommodate an unprecedented onslaught of debris.

Dump trucks will be feeding the annihilator for some time to come. The pile so far is made up of debris cleared from roads, ditches and levees. Demolition of ruined homes here in Plaquemines Parish will not start until next month.

There have been 222,000 refrigerators, washers and dryers gathered, and more than a million containers of hazardous waste have been plucked from land and sea. There are fuel and lubricants, pesticides and solvents, medical waste, paint cans and more, and mystery fluids that must be categorized before disposal.


In Mississippi, Canvas Cities Rise Amid Hurricane's Rubble

New York Times

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 5:32 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Eric Lipton

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss., Dec. 18 - A stone's throw from the Gulf of Mexico, on a muddy gravel lot that used to be a Little League field, a makeshift village has emerged for some of the many families who, as winter approaches, are still homeless because of Hurricane Katrina.

The tent city here is one of three set up in recent weeks along the Mississippi coast, making room for families now that the emergency shelters have closed and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working through a backlog of some 5,000 families still on waiting lists for government-supplied travel trailers or mobile homes.

In Pass Christian, the need is especially dire. The city hall, the two public libraries, the local supermarket, a senior citizens' home and the schools are all either severely damaged or nothing but rubble. The work of clearing debris and the crushed remains of about 2,000 houses is far short of the halfway mark. As a result, construction of large amounts of new housing is still months off.

With the nighttime temperatures dropping as low as the 30's, local officials are trying to offer an alternative for families who want to stay in the area and would have few choices other than to sleep in cars.

The tents, built by the Navy Seabees at a cost of $1 million, can be heated and cooled, and have plywood floors and walls that create an 18-by-32-foot wooden box inside the exterior fabric.

Free meals, financed by the federal government, are served in a giant white tent. The toilets are portable, without running water, and are lined up near a tractor-trailer that serves as a shower house.

His tent "is a bit like a tomb," said Dave Frisby, 55, a handyman whose home and tools were washed away by Hurricane Katrina. "It can be depressing."

At another tent city in Long Beach, five miles east of Pass Christian, the entire inventory of Robert Stover's possessions consists of a mattress on the floor, a Bible, a few donated books and a plastic bucket that he turns upside down and tops with a small pillow to create a chair.

Desperate for work, Mr. Stover, 45, a former plumber at an area hospital, found a job at a cigarette distribution warehouse. But it is in Gulfport, miles away, and he has no car, so he spends three hours each day walking to work.


Hackers Break Into Computer-Security Firm's Customer Database

Washington Post

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 4:34 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Brian Krebs, Washington Post Staff Writer

Guidance Software -- the leading provider of software used to diagnose hacker break-ins -- has itself been hacked, resulting in the exposure of financial and personal data connected to thousands of customers.

Hackers broke into a company database and made off with approximately 3,800 customer credit card numbers. The Pasadena, Calif.-based company said the incident occurred sometime in November.

Guidance stored customer records in unencrypted databases, and indefinitely retained customers' "card value verification" (CVV) numbers, the three-digit codes on the back of credit cards that are meant to protect against fraud in online and telephone sales, according to Colbert and the notification letter sent to customers.

Merchant guidelines published by both Visa and Mastercard require sellers to encrypt customer credit-card databases. They are also prohibited from retaining CVV numbers for any longer than it takes to verify a given transaction. Companies that violate those standards can be fined $500,000 per violation.


New cue sheets added to database

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 4:14 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

I've recently synchronized the cue sheet database with most of the web sites that have cue sheets. This adds about 200 new cue sheets since early October. These are not cue sheets posted on this site, but cue sheets posted on other sites, and I've recently cataloged them.

Some people have asked for a way to see which are the most-recently posted or added cue sheets from other sites. Unfortunately, I don't have a mechanism for tracking that. There are several ways of doing this and I'm trying to figure out which would be the fastest. One way is to compare an older database with the newest one, and add a field that flags the cue sheets that have been added since the older database was saved. This would have to be done ahead of time, because doing such a comparison in real time would slow the web site down.

Here is a brief summary of the cue sheets added (by site, not necessarily by choreographer):

  • Shibata - 62
  • Voelkl - 43
  • Idaho - 30 (in addition to 150 added in September)
  • CRDA - 27
  • Tennant - 17
  • Hurd - 16
  • Langer - 14
  • Ward - 10
  • other sites - 42

You can see all the various cue sheet sites and their statistics here:

The Christmas Kerfuffle

San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday 20 December 2005, 9:58 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

(The most coherent discussion I've seen yet.)

By Cinnamon Stillwell

Upon leaving a San Francisco shop last week, I wished the clerk a cheery "Merry Christmas," only to be met with a surly "Happy Holidays" in return. With that simple exchange, our positions at opposite ends of the political spectrum were revealed.

The celebration of Christmas has indeed been overshadowed by politics in recent years, to the point where every greeting is pregnant with meaning. And even non-Christians are swept up in the Christmas kerfuffle.

As a member of the Jewish faith, I've never once felt intimidated, bothered or offended by Christmas. In fact, I grew up celebrating Christmas and still do to this day. Not the religious aspects, but rather the festive trappings of the holiday. I also light the menorah candles each year to mark Hanukkah. While this might earn me the disapproval of traditionalists on both sides of the fence, I confess it simply to illustrate that one holiday need not endanger another.

Yet the political battle over Christmas rages on. Conservatives are upset over what has been dubbed the "war on Christmas," while liberals accuse them of overreacting to what is essentially a non-event. But who's right?

All across the country, city halls, chain stores, and public squares are erecting "holiday trees" in lieu of Christmas trees. Nativity scenes are being banned in town squares, public buildings and even some malls. The singing of Christmas carols such as "Silent Night" in public schools and caroling in public parks and public housing are becoming rarities. Court cases brought by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have taken the clause that never appeared in the constitution to ridiculous levels -- and chipping away at Christmas is just one of the results.

Why is it that Christmas is the only holiday that must be downplayed so that other religions feel more "included"? We don't insist on calling the Muslim holiday of Ramadan by any other name, nor do we impose such restrictions on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. In all fairness, we would have to label all religious and cultural occasions "holidays," not just Christmas. I wonder how long it would take for members of other religions to express their outrage? Yet when Christians fight back, as they are now with a concerted campaign to stem the anti-Christmas tide, they are ridiculed or vilified by their opponents.

This double standard when it comes to Christians can be seen in many spheres. A friend was shopping recently in one of those cute little neighborhood stores San Francisco prides itself on when she noticed that the man ringing her up was wearing a T-shirt that read, "So Many Rightwing Christians, So Few Lions." No doubt this was intended to be humorous, but the message has serious implications. Simply substitute the words "Jews," "blacks" or "gays" and the outrage would be immediate. But when it comes to Christians, such offensive rhetoric is somehow acceptable. There's even a term for it -- Christianophobia.


Read the Bible in a Year

Monday 19 December 2005, 3:39 am
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Recently I finished reading the Bible that I've had for about 2-1/2 years. I bought a new Bible so that I can read it again in a different translation. (I just finished the New International Version/NIV, and I'm starting the New American Standard Bible/NASB.)

Anyway, I've used this as an opportunity to put together a more coherent reading strategy than I used the first time. Also, having been exposed to several different such strategies lately helps me appreciate how different people might find different strategies useful.

So ... here's the Bible reading schedule that I'm now starting. The page includes links to other Bible reading schedules and links to sites that discuss different English Bible translations.

I hope you enjoy it!


America's Most Popular Christmas Music

New York Times

Sunday 18 December 2005, 2:03 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Judy Rosen

Mannheim Steamroller has sold more than 27 million albums, more than Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M. or Eminem, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Producer Chip Davis has racked up these astonishing sales figures operating out of his home base in Omaha, Neb., releasing all his records on his own label, American Gramaphone.

"Chip Davis owns Christmas," says Sean Compton, programming vice president of Clear Channel Communications, which owns more than 1,200 commercial radio stations. "He is the Christmas king." Years ago, Mannheim Steamroller surpassed Elvis Presley as the top-selling Christmas artist of all time; even those who've never heard of Mannheim Steamroller have most likely heard its music. This year, more than 160 radio stations around the country have switched to an all-Christmas music format during the holiday season, some beginning as early as the first week of November. Mannheim Steamroller dominates those radio playlists, with as many as 15 songs in regular rotation on some stations. If you've wandered down a department-store aisle in the last few weeks, Davis's versions of "Silent Night" or "Deck the Halls" have probably drifted into earshot. The music is strange: a hodgepodge of rock rhythms, blipping synthesizers, Renaissance instrumentation and orchestral extravagance - a big, bright and, even by Christmas standards, fearlessly schlocky sound that Davis has called "18th-century classical rock." In Davis's reworked carols, the showy time-signature changes and keyboard passages of 70's progressive rock rub up against lutes, cornemuses and other 15th-century instruments; classical piano filigrees and gusty Muzak strings rise over a thudding backbeat.


This Year, the Meaning of Dec. 25 Is Twofold

Washington Post

Thursday 15 December 2005, 10:27 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Sue Anne Pressley, Washington Post Staff Writer

The first night of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, falls on Christmas Day for the first time since 1959 and for only the fourth time in 100 years.

For kids and retailers, there should be no argument with the dual fete because it means a bonanza in some cases: double the presents.

But in some households, there may be a few debates: Will it be mashed potatoes with that big meal or potato latkes?

Perhaps the best thing about the holiday coincidence is the obvious point: fewer people left out of festivities that day.

Interfaith families appreciate what the two holidays share: Both are happy social occasions, they say, and both emphasize the beauty of lights. The central story of Hanukkah is the miracle of the lights, when oil that seemed sufficient to light a temple menorah for one night managed to last for eight.

"Both Christmas and Hanukkah are celebrations of joy. In fact, having them together, except for the fact that people might have to race around from one table to another, might be a way of underscoring our common ground: 'Let's bring everybody closer together.' "


If you don’t want to be merry, then to hell with you.

The Call (Woonsocket. RI)

Thursday 15 December 2005, 10:13 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jim Baron

I celebrate Christmas. I am happy at this time of the year and I wish you merriment as well. That’s all. What’s to be bothered about there? I’m not saying that you have to celebrate Christmas, too. I am not insisting that you recognize Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal savior, and mark this as the time of His birth.

I’m just saying be merry. If you don’t want to be merry, then to hell with you. Just don’t blame me because you’re miserable. This is Christmastime and I wished you a merry one. You can wish me a merry whatever holiday you are celebrating and I will accept that sentiment in the spirit in which you offered it. Even if I don’t personally celebrate Chanukah or Kwanzaa or whatever, I am not going to get insulted if you wish me a happy one. I’m going to consider it a token of brotherhood and good cheer and say something nice back to you.


Happy A'Phabet Day

Dayton Daily News

Thursday 15 December 2005, 9:57 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jeff Bruce

"No L Day." Get it?

If nothing else, all this fuss about how to greet one another, address our Christmas, er, holiday cards or name the, uh, national illuminated pine tree should remind us what a great thing it is to live in America.

You take your life in your hands in some corners of this planet should you question the accepted theological norms. Try out a cheery "Merry Christmas" in Tehran or a hearty "Happy Hanukkah" in Damascus and see how long it takes before you discover the validity of your personal beliefs in the afterlife.

We're spoiled. You have to enjoy a highly elevated quality of life for something this silly to rise as a serious topic of conversation.


Getting Around, Made Easier

New York Times

Thursday 15 December 2005, 4:04 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

This article about Global Positioning System navigation, by Michael Marriott in the New York Times, notes that

In some instances, roofers helping to rebuild homes and businesses in Hurricane Katrina's wake have been using hand-held G.P.S. devices to locate job sites in areas where street addresses have been blown away, workers say.

Travel Light, but Well

New York Times

Thursday 15 December 2005, 3:56 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Mary and I might be doing some traveling next year, and the references in this article by Michelle Slatalla might come in handy.

It's interesting what some consider "cheap" travel. On our road trip from San Jose, California to San Antonio, Texas last July, we tried really hard to stay at what we called "flea bag" motels along Route 66. These were usually about $30 per night.

But Ms. Slatalla considers $20 cheap for rubber rain boots from Target. Sigh. I would buy that kind of stuff at Goodwill if I couldn't find it at the Dollar Store. On the other hand, it really is hard to find a decent umbrella for less than $25.

The article is really more suited to air travel than road travel, but we intend to do a fair amount of both.

From the article:

Internet sites - like Packinglight.com, Orvis.com and Travelessentials.com - sell a wide array of travel gear. I saw lightweight luggage ( Magellans.com's eight-pound rolling tote is $129) and a hemp fanny pack ($14.95 at Goodhumans.com ) and even foldable travel high chairs ($19.99 at Burlingtoncoatfactory.com).

I resisted the urge to buy an adorable little travel sewing kit ($3) at Walkabouttravelgear.com and instead focused on the more pressing need to make my husband's huge collection of electronic equipment fully operational in Paris. Walkabouttravelgear.com's comprehensive guide, "Solving the Riddle of International Electricity," included a voltage and adapter index with a pull-down menu to enable customers to shop by country.

The Wind-Defying Auto-Open umbrella from Hammacher Schlemmer is attractive and sturdy and has a "patented vented mesh system" to "eliminate umbrella inversion" on windy days. At Hammacher.com, I found a collapsible one-pound version ($24.95)

Oops ... Mixed-Up.com was down for a few hours

Thursday 15 December 2005, 3:43 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Oops ... some PHP files were being redirected indefinitely, which spawned thousands of processes and slowed down the web server until my ISP shut down the site.

I've reverted things to an earlier December version that runs well. You shouldn't notice any change.

I was trying to speed up searches by using a more efficient method. Back to the drawing board ...


It's OK to say Merry Christmas

Tuesday 13 December 2005, 10:20 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Order Your "Merry Christmas" Bumper Sticker Today!


Retailers and governments heed the wrath of Christians

Los Angeles Times Commentary

Tuesday 13 December 2005, 10:07 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer

For the third year in a row, Christians nationwide have mobilized to put the holy back in the holiday. And they are winning battle after battle.

Their most publicized victories have come in the retail realm, where they have urged stores to acknowledge that the December shopping frenzy is not just about scoring a cheap DVD player, but also about celebrating Christ's birth.

But they haven't stopped at the mall door.

At least 1,500 attorneys have volunteered to sue any town that tries to keep Nativity scenes out of its holiday displays. About 8,000 public school teachers stand ready to report any principal who removes "Silent Night" from the choir program.

The volunteers are armed with a seven-page memo that lays out the case for Jesus in public school concerts, for creches in the classroom and for mangers in city parks (as long as the religious references are balanced with secular songs and decorations).

That message has even made its way into politics. After a decade as a generic holiday tree, the twinkling conifer at the Capitol is a Christmas tree once more, thanks to a request by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).


FEMA Ordered to Extend Hotel Stays

Washington Post

Tuesday 13 December 2005, 3:46 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post Staff Writer

A federal judge in New Orleans yesterday ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to continue paying the hotel bills of thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees until as late as Feb. 7, criticizing the government for inaction 15 weeks after the storm.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval ordered the disaster response agency to pay for storm victims' rooms for at least two weeks once a decision is made on granting them rental housing assistance or until Feb. 7, whichever comes first. The agency had planned to stop subsidizing hotel rooms for evacuees on Jan. 7, in an effort to push them into longer-term housing, which it says is better for them and less costly to the government.

Duval's order applies to thousands of the estimated 85,000 evacuee households whose housing aid applications FEMA has not yet processed.

In a 27-page order, Duval issued a stern rebuke to FEMA and the Bush administration for responding sluggishly to a catastrophe that has killed more than 1,200 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of people from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

FEMA is paying for about 42,000 hotel rooms in 47 states and the District in a program that has cost about $350 million so far. The agency last month announced a Dec. 1 deadline for ending the hotel program and moving evacuees into a rental assistance program, but extended it to Dec. 15 after widespread criticism.


FEMA Expands Hotel Aid Of Evacuees

Washington Post

Monday 12 December 2005, 11:03 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Associated Press

Evacuees from hurricanes Rita and Katrina may remain in hotels at the government's expense while their applications for rental assistance are processed, officials announced Saturday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to pay for an estimated 42,000 hotel rooms in 47 states and the District. FEMA recently pledged to continue paying hotel bills until Jan. 7, after its previous Dec. 1 deadline was met with widespread criticism.

FEMA has spent about $325 million on its hotel housing program since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, followed by Rita on Sept. 24. At the program's height, FEMA was housing 85,000 families in hotels.


Residents Fight Shift in Zoning for Gulf Coast

New York Times

Monday 12 December 2005, 10:53 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Eric Lipton

Some residents of the Mississippi coast intend to ignore a plea from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that new homes be elevated on stilts.

The conflict between FEMA's request and resident desires demonstrates a broad clash here along the Gulf Coast over whether to cede large swaths of land to nature, to rebuild much as it was, or to rebuild homes, at a higher price, with more robust foundations and on structures that raise them above the ground.

In Mississippi, elected officials from Long Beach, Pass Christian and unincorporated sections of Hancock County have decided to allow residents to rebuild, at least for now, according to the existing flood maps. In Jackson County and communities including Waveland, D'Iberville and Bay St. Louis, local officials have agreed to add about four feet to the required minimum elevations in existing flood zones, but have declined, so far, to expand the flood zones according to FEMA's recommended boundaries.

In communities that have resisted, elected officials say they fear now is the worst time to radically increase land-use standards, forcing residents who have already lost almost everything to dig deeper into their pockets to rebuild.

Raising a new house off the ground to comply with the proposed FEMA standards would cost $2,000 to $30,000 depending on the value of the house and the type of foundation required to meet the potential flood intensity. The work could be as simple as an elevated foundation or as complex as reinforced, deep-set structural columns that would support a house entirely on tall stilts. How high the house would be off the ground would depend on its location, but the heights would be from a few feet to 20 feet, with more typical range being 8 to 14 feet.


The (Urban) Legend of the Candy Cane

Sunday 11 December 2005, 2:00 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Claim: Candy canes were created to symbolize Jesus, their shape representing the letter "J" and their colors standing for the purity and blood of Christ.

Status: False.


A candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.

In fact, the strongest connection one can make between the origins of the candy cane and intentional Christian symbolism is to note that legend says someone took an existing form of candy which was already being used as a Christmas decoration (i.e., straight white sticks of sugar candy) and produced bent versions which represented a shepherd's crook and were handed out to children at church to ensure their good behavior.


Christians scramble to aid earthquake victims before worst of winter hits

Christianity Today

Thursday 8 December 2005, 4:08 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Deann Alford

Evangelical ministries are hurriedly responding to Operation Winter Race, a U.N. effort to gather and distribute aid to Kashmir and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province before snow and ice cut off devastated mountain villages from transport trucks and helicopters.

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake and aftershocks devastated these regions on October 8. By mid-November, the U.N. reported more than 87,000 dead and 100,000 injured in about 11,500 square miles of some of the world's most rugged terrain. Len Stitt, director of Shelter Now Pakistan, said at least as many people as died in the earthquake may now perish from illness and exposure to harsh winter weather. Children are most vulnerable. Some 3 million people are homeless, the U.N. reports.

Stitt said that Shelter Now has supplied 8,500 tents equipped with stoves, blankets, and mattresses. Shelter Now has employed 54 Pakistanis in unaffected Peshawar to build 1,200 Quonset-hut-style tents from layers of parachute and rubberized plastic fabric and pvc pipe. Each tent, which costs $135, can house an average six-person family for at least six months.


'Podcast' Is the Word of the Year

Yahoo News, Newswire

Tuesday 6 December 2005, 8:15 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Only a year ago, podcasting was an arcane activity, the domain of a few techies and self-admitted "geeks." Now you can hear everything from NASCAR coverage to NPR's All Things Considered in downloadable audio files called "podcasts". That's why the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary have selected "podcast" as the Word of the Year for 2005. Podcast, defined as "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player."

Runners-up for the 2005 Word of the Year include: bird flu, ICE, IDP, IED, lifehack, persistent vegetative state, reggaeton, rootkit, squick, sudoku, trans fat.


Mark says: I still haven't listened to one! However, I have lots of mp3 files of messages from Calvary Chapel San Jose, and I recently bought two versions of the Bible on mp3 (New King James version and New Living Translation, each available in the Calvary Chapel bookstore for about $2).

Study Concludes Beethoven Died From Lead Poisoning

Washington Post

Tuesday 6 December 2005, 7:49 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer

By focusing the most powerful X-ray beam in the Western Hemisphere on six of Ludwig van Beethoven's hairs and a few pieces of his skull, scientists have gathered what they say is conclusive evidence that the famous composer died of lead poisoning.

The work, done at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago, confirms earlier hints that lead may have caused Beethoven's decades of poor health, which culminated in a long and painful death in 1827 at age 56.

"There's no doubt in my mind . . . he was a victim of lead poisoning," said Bill Walsh, an expert in forensic analysis and chief scientist at Pfeiffer Treatment Center in Warrenville, Ill., who led the study with energy department researcher Ken Kemner.

Still a mystery, however, is the source of Beethoven's lead exposure, which evidence now suggests occurred over many years. Among the possibilities are his liberal indulgence in wine consumed from lead cups or perhaps a lifetime of medical treatments, which in the 19th century were often laced with heavy metals.

Beethoven developed serious health problems in his early twenties, which grew worse over time and reflected many of the symptoms of lead poisoning, including severe stomach problems.

The composer was deaf by his late twenties, a problem of questionable relevance because deafness has only rarely been associated with lead poisoning.


We know terrorism, and this ain't it

Washington Post

Tuesday 6 December 2005, 3:48 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press

Saddam, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt and clutching a Quran, complained that he and the seven other defendants were tired and had been deprived of opportunities to shower, have a change of clothes, exercise or go for a smoke.

"This is terrorism," he declared.


Some retailers give the word 'Christmas' a nod

USA Today

Monday 5 December 2005, 8:26 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The American Family Association cited 10 retailers (Kroger, Dell, Target, OfficeMax, Walgreens, Sears, Staples, Lowe's, J.C. Penney and Best Buy) for omitting Christmas in ads. It urges shoppers to go where Christmas is recognized.

Chains that are giving Christmas a nod:

  • The Catholic League says it scored a victory when it pushed Wal-Mart to have a Christmas category on its website, which had Kwanzaa and Hanukkah gift sections.

  • Federated Department Stores — owner of Macy's and Bloomingdale's — is making sure its Christmas message is heard after consumer backlash last year over a supposed policy forbidding employees to wish shoppers "Merry Christmas."

  • Ads for Dillard's department stores say: "Discover Christmas. Discover Dillard's."

  • Christmas songs and trees are two of the things Victoria's Secret won't be bashful about in its lingerie show airing Tuesday on CBS.


And now it's Christmas

Salt Lake Tribune

Friday 2 December 2005, 8:38 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Robert Kirby, Tribune Columnist

And now it's Christmas, celebrated throughout America by maxing out credit cards and brawling over parking spaces at the mall.

Let's not kid ourselves. Giving gifts is what Christmas is all about. Without this blatant materialism, Christmas would be just another Thanksgiving where everyone sat around and ate and pretended to be grateful.

The most expensive Christmas gift I typically give goes to my wife. Not because she demands it, but because she deserves it. No one, not even God, has put up with more crap from me than she has.

The coolest gifts are the ones that you don't have to budget for. You can always afford them.

  • Forgiveness: We all have someone in our lives who could do with a nice box of this under the tree. Whatever it is, let it go.

  • Apology: It can be painful, but maybe it's time to start budgeting for it.

  • Kindness: How about being a little nicer to people you have to be around, people you might previously ignore because they're on the periphery of your life?

  • Empathy: Here's where you start giving gifts to people you don't even know - a street bum, some kid in Iraq, even criminals. Just once try seeing them as your brothers and sisters.


Found a pic of Don

Wednesday 30 November 2005, 3:10 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

I found this pic of Don Schottman at Powerhouse of Deliverance:


Don is sitting, with the laptop, wearing glasses. Don is one who is primarily responsible for us having gone to Mississippi.

It's part of a larger set of pics from early on.



Wednesday 30 November 2005, 2:59 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Be sure to check out Lawrence's picture album. You can see the team, the camp, and the destruction:


Tonight (Wednesday) is debriefing. The rest of the group got the 15-minute version on Saturday when they returned, but Mary and I missed it because we came in on a different flight. Tonight is the longer version. We still don't know what it's all about.

Don Schottman told me there is supposed to be a reunion dinner for everyone who has gone to Mississippi. It will be this coming Saturday at 6:30 pm at the Zanker offices. I haven't heard anything about it directly from CityTeam, but I suppose they'll let us know about it tonight.

News from the front

Wednesday 30 November 2005, 2:54 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

From Hester, Sunday Nov 27:

I talked with Pete today and for all those who were concerned, the House Of Grace ladies faired well despite the downpour which lasted all night long. James and Richard placed pallets in their tents to get them off the ground to stay dry. They are off on a tour of New Orleans today - so, we have to go back if we want that tour :-) Also, the rain caused the Calvary Chapel group to evacuate.  

From Marvette, Monday Nov 28:

A couple of links that brought back memories:



From Lawrence, Monday Nov 28:

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I know there is much to thank God for. Well, I finally posted up my pics on my yahoo photo albums for you to take a look at. For those of you in San Jose, see you on Wednesday! Enjoy!


From Carol, Tuesday Nov 29:

God has filled me with so much joy. Employees asked me how it went and all I can say is “It was one of the top 5 Thanksgivings of my life” – it compared with the first thanksgiving I spent at CityTeam where I handed my first food box to an eight year old boy that was trying to gather enough food for his family all by himself.

Target and The Salvation Army create charity Web site

Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal

Wednesday 30 November 2005, 10:54 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A year after banning The Salvation Army's trademark red kettles from its storefronts, Target Corp. has forged a new partnership with the nonprofit.

Target and The Salvation Army have created The Target/Salvation Army Wish List, a Web site providing essential items for those affected by recent hurricanes, and other less-fortunate individuals and families.

From Nov. 25 to Jan. 25, 2006, visitors to Target.com/salvationarmy can purchase clothing, household items, gift cards and more for donation to families across the country. The Salvation Army will distribute the items.


Hurricane season ends today

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 30 November 2005, 8:57 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By John Pain, Associated Press

MIAMI - The victims of the busiest and costliest Atlantic hurricane season on record may be comforted now that it's finally ending Wednesday: No hurricane has been known to hit the United States between December and May.

But despite the end of the June 1-to-Nov. 30 season, tens of thousands of Americans are still dealing with the devastation from Hurricanes Wilma, Rita and Katrina, the nation's worst natural disaster in modern times.

Thousands remain homeless along the Gulf Coast, where Katrina hit three months ago. The storm plunged New Orleans into the kind of chaos usually seen in developing countries, exposing the gap between rich and poor, and raising serious doubts about the country's readiness for another catastrophe, caused by man or nature.

Forecasters say 2006 could be another brutal year because the Atlantic is in a period of frenzied hurricane activity that began in 1995 and could last at least another decade.

Government hurricane experts say the increase is due to a natural cycle of higher sea temperatures, lower wind shear and other factors, though some scientists blame global warming.

In 154 years of record-keeping, this year had the most named storms (26, including Tropical Storm Epsilon, which formed Tuesday), the most hurricanes (13), the highest number of major hurricanes hitting the U.S. (4), and the most top-scale Category 5 hurricanes (3).

Katrina was the deadliest U.S. hurricane since 1928 (more than 1,300 dead) and replaced 1992's Andrew as the most expensive one on record ($34.4 billion in insured losses).

The worst damage, of course, was inflicted by Katrina. Miles of coastal Mississippi towns such as Waveland and Gulfport were smashed. Eighty percent of New Orleans was under water after its levees broke. The world saw families stranded on roofs, and hungry and thirsty refugees stuck in the Superdome and Convention Center. Bodies lay on streets for days or floated in the fetid floodwaters. Hundreds of thousands of people have yet to return to their homes - or have no homes to return to.


County jail is being sold on eBay

Associated Press

Wednesday 30 November 2005, 8:39 am
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, MO. -- Along with concert tickets, sports memorabilia and designer handbags, add a Missouri jail to the list of things you can buy on eBay.

Randolph County officials have decided to sell their old jail on the auction site as soon as Wednesday. Bidding starts at $32,500, said Jim Myles, a county commissioner.

County leaders say they got the idea to sell the jail from neighboring Howard County, which sold its jail to a Los Angeles lawyer who plans to renovate it into a country getaway.

"After Howard County sold their jail, we were kind of jealous," said Myles. "We wished we had been first."

The two-story structure resembles a quaint home more than a secure lockdown That's because until 1989, the jail doubled as home to the county sheriff and his family, with a separate living quarters including a full kitchen and fireplace. The sheriff's wife even cooked meals for prisoners.

How Katrina Made Me Thankful

Christianity Today

Tuesday 29 November 2005, 4:58 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

When the deadly hurricane tore me apart from my young son, I reached out to God like never before.

By Stacy Nolan as told to Berta Delgado-Young

I was in a caravan of three cars with two of my children—4-year-old Jeremiah and 1-year-old Ashanti—and 17 other people from our extended family. The goal was to get out of the city. But first, I had to find my youngest child.

My 7-month-old son, A'Mahd, had been staying with his godmother, my friend Nikolle. When it became clear Katrina was definitely coming, I scrambled to contact Nikolle, who lived on the other side of town. I punched her cell phone number repeatedly and heard the same message over and over—"No signal; call again later." We tried to drive to Nikolle's house, but the streets were too jammed with traffic. My heart raced in panic. I have to get to my son!

Suddenly, I faced the most painful decision any mother could imagine: Stay or leave? Wiping the tears from my eyes, I prayed to God that He would keep A'Mahd and Nikolle safe in His hands. I trusted Him to watch over them.


Turning to Bibles for Divine Returns

Yahoo News

Tuesday 29 November 2005, 4:48 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

More people are turning to the Bible as a safe refuge from a struggling stock market and rising inflation, pouring large sums of cash into rare 1611 King James Bibles, centuries-old Matthew-Tyndale Bible leaves, Hebrew scrolls, prayer books and other ancient liturgical texts.

At Sotheby's Western Manuscripts sale in London in June, a three-volume, 13th century Bible in Latin with prologues attributed to Saint Jerome sold for $1.8 million, while an 11th century Bible sold for $164,081, well above the estimate.

Rare biblical work "is like California coastline real estate — there's a finite quantity of it," says John L. Jeffcoat, Greatsite's owner, who estimates that the value of most rare Bibles appreciates by 15 percent each year, and first editions sometimes rise 25 percent.

"The biggest concern could be the hassle of protecting it," said Mark Ferris, an Old Saybrook, Conn., financial planner. "If you really had a Gutenberg Bible — could you keep it in your house on a stand?"

But as collectibles go, some people swear on the Bible for its steady and stable returns. "There is probably nothing out there that has done better as an investment than rare Bibles," said Tom Cloud, founder of Turamali Inc., a Duluth, Ga., tangible-asset investment manager.

A popular investment — the rare 1611 King James Bible — sold five years ago for $50,000. Now, the same Bible would sell for between $250,000 and $400,000, according to Cloud. Meanwhile, pages from an original Gutenberg Bible are selling for $100,000 to $150,000 a page, almost double what they sold for five years ago, he said.


Meet Arthur Blessitt: The man who helped George W. find Jesus.

Mother Jones

Tuesday 29 November 2005, 11:44 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Tim Dickinson

There's more than a touch of irony in a story that has George W. Bush being converted by a self-described liberal fundamentalist who in the 1960s was known as the "Minister of Sunset Strip," preaching to Hollywood's hookers and hippies from a free coffeehouse called His Place. In footage from the era, Arthur Blessitt possesses all the gawky grace and comic overearnest intensity of a Will Ferrell character. Then, on Christmas Day in 1969, Blessitt says, he answered a call from Jesus. He lifted the 90-pound cross off of the coffeehouse wall and began his trek across the United States.

Blessitt says he's been turned away from more than half the churches where he's asked to spend the night (though he claims he has never been denied lodging in a bar or nightclub anywhere in the world). Seeing him walk with his giant cross, he says, "people always roll down their windows and say, 'You're a nut!' And I say, 'But at least I'm screwed on the right bolt. How 'bout you!?' "


Habitat For Humanity Frames Houses Offsite

Yahoo News, AP

Tuesday 29 November 2005, 10:29 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Elliott Minor, Associated Press Writer

To speed up the recovery, Habitat volunteers around the country have been building house frames that are being shipped to the Gulf Coast, where they'll eventually become homes for hurricane survivors in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

In partnership with NBC's "Today" show and Warner Music Group, volunteers in September worked around the clock to frame 65 homes at New York's Rockefeller Plaza. The effort was nationally televised each morning and featured dozens of celebrities.

Similar house-framing drives have occurred in Jackson, Miss., and Burbank, Calif. A partnership with Major League Baseball also resulted in more homes being framed in Houston during the World Series.

Habitat's latest build took volunteers to the Washington Mall last week, where they planned to assemble another 51 house frames in partnership with Freddie Mac, which assists institutions that grant home mortgages.

Despite the focus on the recent disasters, Habitat affiliates have been able to maintain their normal home-building pace elsewhere in the past year. Worldwide, Habitat volunteers build about 20,000 homes a year, including 5,000 in the United States.

It took 26 years to build 100,000 homes, but only five years to build the second 100,000.


Consider the alternatives to compact discs

San Francisco Chronicle

Monday 28 November 2005, 10:33 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Aidin Vaziri, Chronicle Pop Music Critic

The music industry has declared war on its customers. Now it's time to fight back. There's really no reason to buy another compact disc ever again.

Consider the alternatives: Free music available online legally. Online radio. iTunes and other digital music services. Amazon.com free music downloads. Buy tapes and LPs at Goodwill.

And the best of all ... get out and enjoy some live music direct from the source.


Housing Prices Higher But Sales Are Slowing

San Jose Mercury News

Sunday 27 November 2005, 9:59 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Pete Carey, Mercury News

Santa Clara County's sizzling housing market cooled a little bit last month, but the median price of a single-family home jumped to a record of $714,250, bucking speculation of a downturn or bursting bubble.

That's a 19 percent increase from October of last year, when the median price was what now seems a modest $600,000.

But sales of single-family homes were nearly 10 percent below last October's, suggesting the continuation of a slow move toward balance in a market that just a few months ago was so hot homes sold almost overnight.

One reason for the slowdown could be mortgage rates. They've been climbing steadily, this week reaching an average 6.37 percent nationally for 30-year fixed loans, the highest level since 2003. That's nearly a percentage point above this year's low of 5.53 percent.

The fall months typically produce slower home sales than the spring and summer, so the slowdown is not entirely unexpected. The median price edged above the previous record of $714,000, set in August, and topped September's median of $705,000.

In the nine-county Bay Area, the median price for a single-family home was up 16.7 percent over last year, to $644,000, but sales were down 6.2 percent. The number of homes sold dropped for the seventh month in a row.


Fresno Tackling Poverty

Washington Post

Sunday 27 November 2005, 9:43 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Evelyn Nieves, Washington Post Staff Writer

Fresno, the largest city in California's expansive Central Valley, may have gleaming new office buildings and an award-winning baseball stadium, but it remains a poor city overwhelmed by need. A short hop from City Hall, people live in slum buildings where roaches crawl in tenants' ears, the black mold looks like wallpaper and families split the rent by sleeping in walk-in closets, laundry rooms and bathtubs.

This city at the heart of the richest farmland in the world has been poor for so long, no one can remember it otherwise. Last month, when the Brookings Institution issued a report that said a higher proportion of poor people in Fresno lived in areas of concentrated poverty than in any other major city in the country -- pre-Katrina New Orleans was number two -- no one here was surprised.

But fighting poverty in Fresno (which ranks 16th among the nation's largest cities in terms of its overall poverty rate) may prove more than daunting. Unlike the other cities the Brookings report found with the most concentrated poverty -- New Orleans, Louisville, Miami and Atlanta -- Fresno is still, in many ways, a farm town. The city's dominant industry, agriculture, depends on a cheap, seasonal work force that keeps renewing itself as successive new waves of immigrants arrive.

Rising rents are sending full-time workers to soup kitchens. Poverello House estimates that 70 percent of the average of 1,200 meals it serves each day are to people with minimum-wage jobs who cannot get by without help.

The Fresno Rescue Mission, which operates the largest homeless shelter in the region, providing 300 beds a night, has found the lines longer at its soup kitchen and the demand for shelter greater than ever. About one quarter of the people who now come to the mission for meals work full time but cannot pay all their bills. "Apartments that were $400 two years ago are now $800 to $900 a month," said the Rev. Larry Arce, director of the mission.


Course Casting


Sunday 27 November 2005, 6:49 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Peg Tyre

This fall, a dozen colleges across the country have introduced a controversial new teaching tool called course casting, aimed at supplementing—and in some cases replacing—large, impersonal lectures. Students at Purdue University have downloaded 40,000 lectures since the start of the semester -- not bad for a school with an enrollment of 38,000. Drexel, Stanford, Duke and American University have begun course-casting programs, too. But critics complain that digital lectures delivered through earphones cut down on the vital interaction between professors and students.

Some academics worry that much is lost when sophomores scroll between audio files of a philosophy lecture and the latest hit by Franz Ferdinand. Students learn an important skill when they are required to show up for a lecture: creating a schedule and sticking to it. Being in class keeps them in regular contact with professors, which, experts say, is a key to keeping dropout rates low. Lectures, too, force students to focus for long, uninterrupted stretches. A topnotch lecture should be provocative, catch you up short and make you think in ways you never have before. Those kinds of intellectual epiphanies rarely happen at the laundromat.

But converts say course casting is an easy way to add a much-needed jolt to the large introductory courses most departments must offer to underclassmen each semester. Weaned on fast-paced music videos and thrill-a-minute game systems, students often complain that 90-minute lectures are mind-numbingly dull. The technology makes it easier for professors to enliven lectures with guest speakers and primary-source material. Some professors actually act more like DJs than Ph.D.s, composing musical intros, adding gong sounds, jokes and other aural cues to emphasize important ideas on the digitalized version of their lectures.


Recovery Is Stagnant In Mississippi Coast Towns

Washington Post

Sunday 27 November 2005, 5:28 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Michael Powell, Washington Post Staff Writer

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. -- Three months ago, Katrina all but scoured this old beach town of 8,000 off the face of the Earth. To walk its streets today is to see acres of wreckage almost as untouched as the day the hurricane passed.

No new houses are framed out. No lots cleared. There is just devastation and a lingering stench and a tent city in which hundreds of residents huddle against the first chill of winter and wonder where they'll find the money to rebuild their lives.

Like New Orleans to the west, hundreds of square miles of Mississippi coastland look little better than they did in early September. At least 200,000 Mississippians remain displaced, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is short at least 13,000 trailers to house them.

Fifty thousand homeowners lack federal flood insurance and cannot rebuild. The unemployment rate has quadrupled, now topping 23 percent in the coastal counties.

The personal shock of it all hasn't subsided. Locals say it's not uncommon to hear perfectly rational people talk of suicide.

Not all the news is grim. Workers in Biloxi have carted away 1 million cubic yards of debris. They have stretched blue tarps over tens of thousands of damaged roofs. Every town along the Gulf Coast has an operating school -- the last one opened in Bay St. Louis on Nov. 6, albeit with only 100 of its original 300 students.

There are twin devastations in Mississippi, and it would take Solomon to pick the worse of the two. There are the coastal cities and there are such places as tiny Pearlington, deep in the woods and marshlands along the Louisiana border. Here a 35-foot-high storm surge roared up the Pearl River.

This is a self-reliant corner of the state, and neighbors sawed and hauled debris -- one even shot a 12-foot alligator lolling in a living room. But the local school remains shredded, its roof a spaghetti of metal beams. Everyone lost cars and trucks, and there's no money for replacements. Many people sleep in tents or shacks that have been roughly thrown together.


'Tis the season to be cautious

San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday 27 November 2005, 1:58 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By David Lazarus

Tim Kasser isn't surprised that Americans are once more turning out in droves to spend money they don't have for products they or their loved ones don't need.

Kasser is an associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois who focuses on consumer behavior. Economic conditions might be uncertain, he told me, but most people will be unable to resist the impulse to shop that's cultivated by corporate and political interests.

"We think we're all individualists," he said. "But we're actually being manipulated by the largest and most expensive propaganda system ever developed."

Americans are constantly bombarded with messages promoting a sense that materialism will foster feelings of satisfaction and contentment. "It's always the same: Buy stuff and you'll be happy, buy stuff and you'll be complete," he said. "And it works. People are buying stuff. But studies show that it doesn't really make them feel happy."

Kasser likens our culture's powerful materialism to a drug addiction. Momentary euphoria gives way to feelings of emptiness, and then to a burning need to go out and buy something else.

"Christmas is a time when we're supposed to be celebrating the birth of one of the greatest anti-materialists who ever lived," he observed. "Instead, it's become a time to go out and spend a lot."


We are home

Saturday 26 November 2005, 1:59 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

We arrived at San Jose airport at noon. Kathleen and David picked us up and brought us out for lunch. We got to our house about 1 pm. It was very cold inside. Mary turned off the furnace while we were away. It's just starting to warm up now. Been reading email and fixing a couple things on the blog.

Photos are FIXED

Saturday 26 November 2005, 1:28 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

I'm terribly sorry. The photos in some previous articles showed up just fine for me, but I did make a mistake in the URLs. Here are the articles with photos, and the links are now fixed:

Homeward Bound

Friday 25 November 2005, 9:03 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Because of a family emergency, we'll be coming home early from our mission here in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It's now about 11 pm and we'll be leaving here around 4 am to catch a 6 pm flight back home. Another large group has been here since Monday and they are also leaving tomorrow. We'll be traveling with them as far as Houston, but then we split up because the last-minute travel changes put us on a different flight back to California.

While we're home, I hope to continue to collect information about the situation here in Mississippi and post it here in this notebook. It might be news that I find in the newspaper, and it might be news that I obtain from continued contact with CityTeam or new contacts with Calvary Chapel Relief.

We hope to come back here after the holidays, possibly as early as the first of January. By then, the group might have transitioned into doing "mucking" work instead of the food back. Mucking involves removing the damaged sheetrock from homes, and treating the frame to remove and inhibit mold growth. But based on conversations I've had with many people here, it seems the mucking stage is about done for most, and the next stage is actual rebuilding of the homes.

I talked to one gentleman today whose home has been cleared, but he needs to rebuild it himself. He can't afford to pay anyone to do it. He is 62 years old and in poor health. The only help he has to rebuild his home is his older brother, who is 65 years old but in better health. He figures that he will be living in the FEMA trailer for another 8 to 12 months before finishing his house.

This will probably be my last post from Mississippi for now. Mary and I still have about an hour of computer entry that we need to do before we can go to bed. We both got showers today so they won't toss us off the plane tomorrow. But we can't wait to get back to a real shower at home. I hope Mary finishes her shower soon ... I feel like I'm up all alone and everyone else has gone to bed. The lights are out. Everyone's bracing for a very early morning tomorrow.

Good night ...

In The News

Friday 25 November 2005, 7:53 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

The newspaper for southern Mississippi is the Sun Herald. Their web site is


The headline story was the Thanksgiving meal we helped to serve yesterday.


Here are some quotes:

Cooks responsible for community meals had to prepare a whole bunch of food simultaneously, and they needed a whole team of people to get it done.

In Bay St. Louis, three volunteer groups - Rotary International, Calvary Chapel Relief and WBIR-TV 10 of Knoxville, Tenn. - set about the task of feeding the entire town - and doing it with restaurant service.

Troy Haynes arrived at the Depot grounds expecting to stand in a line. Instead, he was asked to please take a seat and had volunteer waitstaff making sure his glass was full and piling seconds and thirds on his plate.

"I know I've been getting in lines ever since the hurricane," he said. "Everything has lines, even to pay a bill."

Mayor Eddie Favre showed up in his apron to help serve the meal, but the volunteers insisted he take a seat in the shade so he could spend time with his friends, neighbors and other townspeople. Favre said Calvary Chapel is the second religious organization to adopt his city.

"In spite of all our losses, we have so much to be thankful for," Favre said. "We wanted Thanksgiving to be special."

The turkeys came courtesy of Rotary International, particularly three clubs from Jonesboro, Ark.

Calvary Chapel Relief is involved in all types of recovery help. The Rev. John Milhouse of Moreno Valley, Calif., said volunteers from Calvary churches have been in Bay St. Louis since the third week of September.

"I can't say we know what we're doing," Milhouse said. "We came to the city and said 'what can we do to help?'

The help has included serving hot meals, distributing clothing, helping people repair homes and giving them new family portraits. After the hurricane, Bryan and Judy Howell of Waveland had watched precious pictures dissipate before their eyes as they carefully removed them from glass frames or gingerly tried to pry apart stacks of snapshots. They had a portrait made with their daughter and son-in-law.

"It's a new beginning really," Bryan Howell said. "We lost basically all our portraits."


Thursday 24 November 2005, 3:30 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Imagine ...

Imagine that your house has been damaged and that you need to work on it to fix it. Now imagine that you have no place to live while working on your house, or that you have only a trailer for a family of five. Imagine that you've had no running water for a couple of months while trying to repair your house. Imagine that you have to tear out the sheetrock from the inside of your house, but when your house was damaged, all your power tools were lost or damaged, including a nice saw and a drill, but you are left only with a small hammer and a crowbar.

Now imagine that the tools and supplies you need are double the price they were a few weeks ago, unless you are able to go to a neighboring state like Alabama where prices are normal. Imagine that you have no job and you have to spend an hour in line at the food bank only to find out that the specific item you need is in short supply and ran out earlier in the day. Imagine that all your mementoes like photographs have been destroyed. Imagine that you get up every morning and try to find the energy to clean it up a little more. Imagine depression like you've never experienced in your life.

Give up yet? Well, that is the life these people have been living for the last 12 weeks. Any kind of electical equipment like stoves, washing machines, power tools, and computers is inoperable. The salt water left most vehicles still running but not for very long. Wet homes have to have drywall removed up to the water line, then the entire interior washed and treated to destroy and prevent mold. Sheetrock must be replaced, then floors, then carpet, then appliances.

I talked to lots of people on Monday and Wednesday. Their stories are sad but their will is strong. Many know Jesus and know they will find their way out of this mess. Some see the entire flood and "mucking" phenomenon as a grand metaphor for the way God cleans up our lives.

We're tired today ... I'll stop now and let you contemplate the things you are thankful for. If nothing else, be thankful you're not here.

Thanksgiving Take Out

Thursday 24 November 2005, 3:28 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Today the city held a Thanksgiving dinner for all the community. The dinner was sponsored by Calvary Chapel Relief, Rotary International, and Channel 10 WBIR-TV of Knoxville. In particular, the volunteers were well represented by three different Rotary Clubs of Jonesboro, Arkansas. The dinner was free for all and consisted of everything ... turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green beans, cranberries, and, of course, peCAN pie. (I'm told the pronunciation varies depending on what state you're from, but most of the pie servers were from Arkansas, the peCAN capital.

The purpose of this dinner was not just to serve the community, but to serve them in a special way. First, you must understand that everything around here revolves around waiting in lines. I've heard that it take two hours just to check out of Wal-Mart once you've got in line. Even at the CityTeam food bank, you must wait in line in order to be processed (present ID, etc.)

So the object of this dinner was to seat people at tables in the park, and they would be served by volunteers who would wait in line for them and bring them food. Each table had servers assigned.

The CityTeam group stayed together and staffed the "take out" booth. Mostly other volunteers would deliver meals to the elderly and shut-ins, and we would be putting them together first. I worked "the line" for only a few minutes, and I think I was part of making over 100, perhaps 200 meals during that time.

The leadership expected at least 1000 people to show up, and as many as 7000. I don't know the actual numbers, but I think they served 1000 people in the park, and delivered as many as 500 meals to others offsite.

Due to a family emergency at home, Mary and I will going home to San Jose early, perhaps as early as tomorrow or Saturday. We both feel that it really took until Monday or Tuesday until we began to feel comfortable here, and we also agree that we will come back later when family circumstances allow it, perhaps as early as the first of January. We've heard that by that time the volunteers might be housed in buildings instead of tents, but we might still prefer the tents because of the mold situation in the buildings. If CityTeam has transitioned to doing "mucking" work (tearing out the insides of buildings), we might have to ask for another assignment because neither of us can really do that and stay in good health.

Being here has really caused us to reflect and be more thankful for even the little things we take for granted, like a soft bed, a change of clothes, and a shower. While eating lunch today, Mary and I spoke with a new volunteer from another organization I won't name. He complained a lot about some vandalism that had been done to his car in NYC while working, and he complained about little job annoyances at home. He had just arrived, and he hadn't really seen the full scope of things here. After he's been here a few days, he'll appreciated more that he has a car at all, that he has a job to go to, and that he has a house to go home to at night.

Second Time Around

Tuesday 22 November 2005, 8:12 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

I typed up this page one time already, then I lost it. Let's see if I can remember what I said.

We got a new crew today. Actually, they arrived around 11 pm last night, but we didn't get to meet them until this morning. They include two other married couples, a family that consists of father, son (a youth pastor) and daughter (a student at Cal Poly SLO), and a few other people. They are a friendly group and I expect this week to work out really well.

Mary and I are now the "old hands" here who are supposed to know everything and teach the next group. By some weird fate of scheduling, most of these people will be leaving before we will. That means we must train them, then we must again train the group that arrives on the first of December, when we finish up. Also, there will be a few lean days we might be understaffed after this group leaves but before the next arrives. We might volunteer to stay here a few extra days to help provide some continuity.

We ate breakfast at the Calvary Chapel tent today. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I personally am very thankful for them. The volunteers come from Calvary Chapels all over the country. I found this web site for them:


We ate lunch and dinner at the Waveland Cafe, another volunteer setup in nearby Waveland. They have a restaurant, food bank, hospital, and all kinds of other assistance. It is set up in huge domes in a shopping center parking lot. I couldn't find an official web page, but I did find this:


They must close up after Thanksgiving, but they plan to relocate near New Orleans and continue similar operations there.

The group got a tour through some particularly devastated areas today. Mary and I missed the tour because we were working in the comptuer tent and missed the bus. Just as well, because Mary had paperwork to catch up on and I was able to help her. I was also able to take a shower and do laundry. Since another group is coming in on Saturday, we expect that they'll do another tour on Sunday and we'll catch it then. I'll certainly have some interesting photos to post then. (BTW, we also bought some disposable cameras, and we'll have some real photos to share after we get home.)

Tomorrow promises to be a particularly busy day: new crew, extra special goodies to pass out, and today we were closed.

We really need your prayers right now. We are personally doing very well but we miss our families and they miss us. Thanks to all of you who have sent emails. We really appreciate it.

More Photos

Tuesday 22 November 2005, 7:06 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Here are more photos from today.

Waveland Cafe, where we ate lunch and dinner. Run by a bunch of "hippie christians." I don't even know what that means. These people are all over, but the current crew has a lot of people from Wisconsin, well known as "hippie central."

Choir at St Rose de Lima Catholic Church, a black Catholic church that did a free concert just for encouragement to the community.


Tuesday 22 November 2005, 12:51 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

I took a few photos from my cell phone so you can see where we are. The photos are not very good quality, and I don't have the capability right now to edit them in any way or make thumbnails.


Monday 21 November 2005, 6:33 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

The last group went home today after lunch. We had a teary-eyed meeting for devotions early this morning. John served communion. He reminded us how both the bread and the wine are symbolic of Christ because they are created by crushing, and out of that crushing comes life. Several members shared ways in which they have been crushed over the years (not just the last two weeks), and they also shared how life has come from their experiences. It was a lot to think about.

Today was much like the other days I have worked in the food bank. It looks like Mary might take over Alice's logistics job, which involves among other things ordering the materials we will distribute. I will probably remain working in the store, because the new crew coming tonight is almost all women. We need to train one of them to take over Mary's job after she leaves, and stocking the store with canned goods is primarily a "guy job."

Today I had the job of "toilet paper cop." This is an important job in the store! We have limited amounts of toilet paper, paper towels, bleach, and certain other items. We allow each family to take only one of each product, and without a "cop" a few people would just clean us out. The unfortunate thing about this job is that it brings you face to face with the less friendly element in the community here. Some people will argue, lie, and steal. I don't like to dwell on it, but it does happen. Mary's job has some of the same drawbacks because she has to process each person who comes into the store. She has to verify that they are Hancock County residents, and after Thanksgiving, they will have to be Bay St. Louis residents. It's difficult because people will lie and present obviously false papers.

Tonight Shirley made us a dinner of spaghetti, sausage, and apple cobbler. She is an angel! I've mentioned Shirley several times, and I thought I'd tell you a little about her. She has a house across the street from the ballpark where we are camping. It is a rental house, she actually lives on "the river" on near "the kill" but I don't know what that means. I don't know the geography here. Anyway, her sister has a FEMA trailer in front of this house and they are trying to fix the damage to the house. Shirley says she is one of the few people in the entire county who has electicity and water inside a house, with working washing machine, stove, and shower. She feels she owes it to the people around her to let them use the things she has but others do not. Also, she says she gets some food stamps every month but she can't eat that much food, so she decided to use them to buy food for us in order to keep the food stamps coming. The previous group became quite attached to Shirley and I'm sure our group will feel the same way.

Shirley has a friend Deb, whose mother started the Hancock County food bank many years ago. The food bank fed about 50 families per day before its building was damaged in the storm. Since the county has a population of perhaps 20 thousand, that is a proportionately large number of people here living in poverty.

I did have some fun today. I finished putting the books in boxes so that they are displayed attractively. Also, we got a few boxes of stuffed animals, and instead of just tossing them in the toy box, I put the nicest ones on a low shelf, about a child's eye level. Then they really started flying off the shelf!

Tuesday is supposed to be only half a work day. Normally Tuesdays and Thursdays are "stocking days" when trucks might come, and we'd spend the morning unloading the trucks and stocking the shelves, and then have the afternoon off. I hope to take another shower tomorrow. Last night it rained pretty fiercely and I woke up at 4:30 am to take a potty break, to discover the entire field a mud hole. Because of the mess, I decided to wear old dirty clothes from last week today. I also hope to put those clothes in the laundry tomorrow.

I still don't know what is happening on Thursday for Thanksgiving.

What else ... we are sharing the ballfield with Disaster Corps, a volunteer organization that is stripping the damaged drywall out of homes and disinfecting the remaining interior. I think their URL is http://www.disastercorps.org/. I haven't really met anyone from there, but I thought you might want to know what other relief agencies are doing here.

City Team supposedly has their own blog, but I don't remember finding it before. You might go to their main web site http://www.cityteam.org/ and just clicking around a bit.

After the last group left today, they reorganized the sleeping arrangements. One major change is to let the married couples each share a tent! So Mary and I will be together starting tonight. Mary took a shower tonight at Shirley's house, so she is pretty happy. But we also got some bad news about health problems at the Bacho household, and we're trying to phone home to find out what happened.

Oh ... one more story. I met a deaf lady today and got to talk to her a little bit. Two ladies were shopping together and one was taking two of everything. She said the second set was for her deaf friend, with her but silent. I thoght they might be trying to pull one over on me, but I asked whether the deaf lady could read lips. I was able to tell her about my own sisters, Susan and Carol, who were born hard of hearing and are now deaf. I communicated using a combination of speaking, finger spelling, and a little signing. Her eyes lit up and she just asked whether we all signed. I told her that my sisters signed but I could just fingerspell. She seemed happy to hear about other deaf people. Every day I've been able to talk to one person with whom I share an experience ... playing piano, quilting, knowing a deaf person. It gives me a lot of joy too, and it renders the people here more than just another face, and me more than just another face to them too, I'm sure.

The Big Queasy

Sunday 20 November 2005, 7:36 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Today we went to church at the Powerhouse of Deliverance. It is a black church here in Bay St. Louis. The local City Team offices are there in a trailer. The story I heard is that City Team donors specifically requested City Team investigate helping out here only three days after the hurricane hit. City Team leaders came here to see where they could help, see who they could hook up with. Within 48 hours they had found friends and supporters at Powerhouse.

This is also the church where Don Schottman helped put on the roof. Right now the church is meeting in their sanctuary, but nothing is in the sanctuary. They set up folding chairs and I would estimate today's attendance about 80 including us. The church has no carpets, piano, organ, or any other instruments, not even a guitar. But they sure know how to clap their hands vigorously to praise the Lord! I attended a pentecostal bible college in the 1970's so I know how to praise the Lord with high energy when the situation calls for it.

The pastor showed samples of the new chairs and carpet they have picked out. It was exciting to see that they plan to rebuild.

For lunch we went to a potluck at a Methodist church on the beach in nearby Waveland. All that remains of the church is the steeple with the cross on top. Sitting on the ground, the steeple doesn't seem so tall or impressive, but it's a powerful symbol of the resilience of these people who continue to serve the Lord in the face of these adversities. The funny thing about this potluck is that it is normally a holiday fund-raiser, but this time they served a free Thanksgiving meal to the community. It was a real blessing, and we are thankful that Shirley and her friends invited us even though we aren't living or working in Waveland.

Waveland was hard hit by the storm. Most of it seems closer to the gulf beach than Bay St. Louis, which is on a small bay right off the gulf. The ruins there were indescribable. Bay St. Louis was fortunate in comparison. It is estimated that 60-70 percent of the 8500 Bay St. Louis residents have returned to their homes, although the vast majority of those are living in FEMA trailers (which are simply RV's hooked up directly to electricity and sewer, although not always potable water). By way of contrast, only 10 percent of Waveland's residents have been able to return. The houses there are entirely shattered. We saw many roofs without houses underneath, and many houses sitting on their sides. Mary says she saw one house sitting on its edge and resting against a telephone pole. On a previous trip, the earlier group saw a house along the beach with the entire front torn off, but everything else intact and exposed, much like a doll house. There were piles of rubble everywhere, and we even saw a vacant lot full of damaged automobiles.

Here is a web page about what has happened here in Hancock County: http://risingfromruin.msnbc.com/the_towns.html

Since we had the day off and most of the group returns to California tomorrow, they decided to see New Orleans, which is only about 50 miles away from here. The first sign of distress there was the causeway, which had only one lane of traffic in each direction on the same side, since the other side was destroyed on the New Orleans end. After "landing" again on the north edge of the city, the freeway passed over what seemed like miles of uninhabited houses, apartments, and hotels. Apart from a few work trucks parked in front of shopping centers and warehouses, the streets seemed deserted of people and even cars. We saw one abandoned auto dealership with all the lights on and all the cars still sitting on the lot. It was eerie.

We walked around the French Quarter for hours. It is apparently one of the few places in the city still functioning, and still yet not fully. There were many stores still closed, but some had signs that they will be opening again shortly. Many of the restaurants and trinket stores are now open. The aquarium is still closed. The day we arrived last Thursday, the previous group had the treat of seeing the dolphins that had been rescued from there. Anyway, we had coffee at Cafe du Monde and dinner at Desire, an unfamiliar restaurant. After emerging from dinner, the group got to see the "real" New Orleans night life, which can be a little unsavory. There were lots of drunks and one man walking down the sidewalk yelling obscenities to his friend. I joked that he was just reading the t-shirts in the windows, which was half true. We had a hard time finding "clean" t-shirts to buy.

Thanks to Kathleen Brandt and Susan Coulter who sent me more emails today. In answer to some questions, no, Mary is not looking over my shoulder tonight, nor especially not last night, when I finished at midnight central time. We love you all! We bought disposable cameras and took a few photos today, but we'll have no way to post them until we return home December 2.

Day 2

Saturday 19 November 2005, 10:10 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

I was really tired when I was posting last night, and a little distracted. There are actually two computers sitting here next to each other, and someone was playing games on the other. Mary was looking over my shoulder and "back seat editing" as I went along. And the keyboard is a straight keyboard, which I find difficult to type on when tired. (At home I use a split keyboard.) Anyway, the reason for the title "Field of Dreams" is because that is actually what they call the project ... "if you build it, they will come." (I guess this is a line from some famous movie :-) I believe the ball field is located approximately here.

Today was very similar to yesterday. Our job consists of stocking a "store" that is a food bank. They are constantly improving the entire process, but stocking shelves is pretty much a boring job no matter how much you try to improve it.

Mary woke up with a sinus headache so she slept in and missed breakfast. She did come to devotions at 8:30 and we prayed for her. They put her at the processing table so she could learn the computer and not be on her feet all day. They are entering everyone into an Excel spreadsheet so they can more quickly verify people in the future. The people are not eligible for this food bank unless they are residents of Hancock County. After Thanksgiving, they will not be eligible unless they are residents of Bay St. Louis. So everyone must provide ID verifying their address. This can be difficult because so many people try to gain access when they are not really eligible. We must try to maintain a balance between showing compassion and not being taken advantage of. It is a tightrope. I'm glad I don't have that job.

I did get to help unload about ten pallets from a large truck today. A construction worker from Jackson, Mississippi used his day off to drive four hours each way to and from Jackson to deliver donations. Since this was much-needed material, we spend all afternoon moving these supplies from the supply tent into the food bank tent. It was hard work because the pallets had to be unloaded in one tent and the contents moved in smaller loads into the other tent, because there isn't room to move an entire pallet from one tent into the other. But the work is boring. I feel like I'm at a job and I have to "look busy" even thought I don't have to worry about getting fired. :-) But how many cans of tomato soup can one stack on a shelf without becoming bored?

Breakfast this morning was grits (a morning staple), pancakes, ham, and grapefruit. Lunch was a hamburger (yummy!), pork 'n' beans, and ... I can't remember. After the store closed at 5:00, a group of use went to downtown Bay St. Louis to a "block party" that turned out to be just an open art store that was hosting a potluck dinner. Since we didn't have a contribution for the potluck, we purloined a couple chicken wings then headed back to the Calvary Chapel tent again for a dinner of fish patties, rice, and cole slaw. The food has been wonderful and I am really grateful to Calvary Chapel volunteers for providing it.

We showed another moving tonight, "Herbie Fully Loaded" or something like that. Another group promised to pass out a free blanket to everyone who attended the also-free movie. I understand they had a large turnout. But a group of about ten of us went across the street to help Shirley clean up her house. She has become a kind of "mother" to the team here over the last couple of weeks and they wanted to show her some appreciation. We were tearing wood veneer off her walls for about three hours. In return, she let us use her shower and I got my first shower since leaving home.

What else? Today I found that one of the team members is the former Lori Mach (I hope I spelled her name correctly), who attended Holy Cross Lutheran Church at the same time I did, and who graduated from high school the same year as my younger sisters Susan and Carol. In addition, she later attended Westminster Presbyterian Church and was friends with Frank Mitchell at the same time that I lived with him in the infamous 12th Street House near San Jose Bible College. What a small world! Lori said she recognized me and we both puzzled over our histories until we figured it out. Lori is now married and she attends Calvary Chapel Gilroy. But her wonderful pastor Matt Valencia spoke in my church last Sunday instead of hers, neener neener!

We really appreciate your prayers for us. We really don't take anything for granted, and we don't expect that we can even stock shelves in a gospel-effective way without a lot of prayer behind it. As always when you are working in a close group of 15-20 people, there are differences of opinion, unintensionally hurt feelings, and true interpersonal conflict. But I'm finding that with pre-emptive prayer most of the situations resolve themselves in unanticipated ways.

Today I received emails from Kathleen Brandt, Brenda Boston, and Susan Coulter. Thanks to all of you for being mindful of us.

Tomorrow we will attend church at what I understand is a hand-clapping foot-stomping holy-rolling all-black church. I'm told we'll be "ready for lunch" after the workout. We're supposed to eat lunch at a Methodist church in Waveland where the steeple is all that is left of the building. But they serve lunch in the parking lot. Waveland was much harder hit than Bay St. Louis and they say it will be a real eye-opener for those of us who haven't been there yet. In the afternoon, I understand we might go to New Orleans, which is only about one hour away from here. The team just wants to see the French Quarter and stuff, but I've been to NO before on vacation and seen all that.

On Monday the current team will leave around noon, leaving only a skeleton crew including us to run the food bank all day. On Monday night the next team will arrive. Since Mary and I and one other gentlemen, Jim, got here a few days earlier, we will be the "old hands" and we will have to train the new people. I personally feel quite un-equipped to do this but we'll work it out.

In addition to the normal food bank hours on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday this week, we will serve some kind of Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, and most of the logistics are still being worked out. We don't know whether we will serve a large group here, a number of smaller groups all over town, a large group at another location, or some combination of the above. There are some senior citizens and shut-ins who may have Thanksgiving dinner delivered to them personally.

It was warmer today and there were a few problems with gnats. They don't seem to like me but others couldn't keep them away. One lady "shopping" in the food bank kept complaining to me about gnats, but I said they didn't like me, they must like her because she is sweeter than me. She laughed and said that I made her day. I talked to another lady who was happy to get a quilted blanket from the new supply of blankets delivered today. As I helped her bring stuff out to her car, I told her about the quilt I am making back home. She said I must keep it since it is my first quilt. We'll see! I would have donated it to the relief effort had I finished it in time.

Well, lights are out and I have to be up in seven hours ... hopefully there will even more interesting tidbits to share with you tomorrow! If there is something specific you'd like to ask or hear about please send me an email, and I'll try to answer.

Love to all, Mary and Mark

Field Of Dreams

Friday 18 November 2005, 8:09 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Regarding the flight:

We flew Continental with a connection in Houston. We arrived in Gulfport at 8:20 pm. The only ones flying this day from San Jose were Mary, myself, and Sal, whoh works at Camp Maymac in the Scotts Valley area. John, who is in charge of the operation here, took us to Applebee's then he drove us here to Bay St. Louis.

The accomodations:

We are staying in a baseball field that was donated by the mayor of Bay St. Louis. They have erected what they like to call "tents" but in some cases are just tarps lashed together to poles. We do have generators for electricity, and small electic heaters in all the tents. The "tent" I'm sharing with Sal also has a propane heater.

Fortunately Mary and I were prepared for cold nights because we had been led to believe we'd be staying in a facility with cold A/C at night. Because we're actually outside and a cold snap hit within the last week. Last night it got down to 30 degrees. (F, for those in the US; for Annette, that would be about -1 degrees C.)

What we're doing:

They pretty much have a food bank set up here in large tents. They are open four days per week, but for seven hours each days. About 250-300 people show up every day. It's not really a lot of work to keep the shelves stocked, but no trucks arrived today either. There will be a lot of work when more stuff gets delivered. Stuff can be canned goods, dry goods, toiletries, and clothing. The clothing is the most difficult to stock because it comes in random assortments of sizes and colors for men, women, and children.

Calvary Chapel has set up a kitchen in another part of town. They feed anyone from the community and also all the volunteers. We can eat breakfast and lunch there every day.

Today, Shirley, who lives across the street, made us a dinner of black eyed peas, rice, cornbread, and apple and pineapple cobblers. Someone else sent a pot of gumbo.

Our day starts at 7:30 when we leave for breakfast at the Calvary Chapel tents. Then we return at 8:30 for devotions. At 10:00 the food bank opens, and it stays open until 5:00. Then we had dinner, and at 6:30 they showed "Star Wars Episode 1" on a large screen in one of the tents. These movie showings are open to the public for free as a family activity. But not many people showed up tonight because they changed the location recently. Some of the equipment was donated by a stunt actor who was a stunt double on "Diagnosis Murder." I guess they live nearby here.

They pointed out a few damaged houses and automobiles to us, but mostly I would not have noticed a lot had it not been pointed out. But there is a lot of trash by the side of the road. Mary saw more damage than I did. Someone who came to the food bank showed me pictures of her collapsed house and dead goats. Apparently she had a farm or ranch and she lost all her animals. I also met a piano teacher who lost her parlour grand piano. Ouch!

Well, it's only 10:00 pm now but we're tired!

Obviously, we do have internet access. Please feel free to send us emails! We have heard only from Annette in Belgium. And I have exchanged some text messages with my sisters Susan and Carol. If you'd like us to send you a personal email, you'll have to send us one first. We didn't bring anyone's email address with us.

God bless ... Good night!


Thursday 17 November 2005, 9:24 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Kathleen and David are here to whisk us away. All computers off now. Thanks for your prayers and talk to y'all later!

Off We Go

Thursday 17 November 2005, 8:12 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Mark and Mary will be in Mississippi for the next two weeks. We will be involved with CityTeam who is doing hurricane relief work in the Gulfport area. The web site won't receive any significant updates during that time. The exception would be that I hope to post our experiences to the blog if we can obtain computer access.

CityTeam started running a shelter and kitchen called the San Jose Rescue Mission over 20 years ago. Their specialty is running shelters for the homeless and those with substance abuse problems. They now run shelters in several cities around the country. The government specifically asked them to help in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina due to their experience running shelters. They are committed to remaining in the gulf area for one year.

CityTeam brings groups of about 20 volunteers to Mississippi in two-week shifts. Our group leaves today (Nov 17) and returns Dec 2. We don't know exactly what we'll be doing, but I hope to let you know as it happens if possible.

A few things we do know: CityTeam is working with at least one shelter in the Gulfport area that has housed up to 500 people at one time in the past. (The numbers housed in the shelters vary widely as new shelters are opened and closed.) They are also working with a couple of churches in the area. One early project involved putting a roof on a church that had been damaged. It was during this project that hurricane Rita hit, causing an evacuation of the team and the destruction of their encampment, but miraculously, no damage to the church or its new but unfinished roof. Most of the current projects involve cleaning the interior of buildings that have been damaged but repaired, helping the displaced to find their families and apply for government resources, and helping to retrieve personal belongings from properties that have been destroyed.

You can read more about this project in this blog topic:

Buddhism and Science

San Jose Mercury News

Thursday 17 November 2005, 1:52 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

"In the Buddhist investigation of reality, at least in principle, empirical evidence should triumph over scriptural authority, no matter how deeply venerated a scripture may be."

-- The Dalai Lama at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last Saturday.


Doing the tango keeps the brain in step, too

USA Today

Thursday 17 November 2005, 1:49 am
Keywords: News Articles , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

By Kathleen Fackelmann, USA TODAY

The hot moves of the Argentine Tango not only keep the aging body in shape, they also may help sharpen the aging brain, according to a study out Tuesday.

That study, presented in Washington at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that such challenging leisure activities as dancing may offer a boost in brainpower that could offset the declines that can come with old age.

The tango is a dance that's both fun to do and involves a series of complex moves that can improve balance. A team recruited 30 seniors ages 68 to 91. Half the group got tango lessons, and the other half were assigned to a walking group.

After 10 weeks, the team looked for improvements in brainpower. Both walkers and tango dancers had better scores on memory tests, but only the tango dancers improved on a multitasking test.


FEMA Tells 150,000 in Hotels to Exit In 15 Days

Washington Post

Wednesday 16 November 2005, 11:19 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

No More Free Rooms For Katrina Evacuees

By Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post Staff Writer

The Federal Emergency Management Agency yesterday warned an estimated 150,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees living in government-subsidized hotels that they have until Dec. 1 to find other housing before it stops paying for their rooms.

The announcement effectively starts the clock ticking toward a new exodus of Gulf Coast storm victims who have been living rent-free in 5,700 hotels in 51 states and U.S. territories under the $273 million program.

Under FEMA's decision, the evacuees will have 15 days to lease apartments, make other arrangements or begin paying their own bills.

Families in 12,338 hotel rooms in Louisiana and Mississippi may get a reprieve. Because of those states' devastated housing stocks, officials may seek extensions of hotel aid two weeks at a time until Jan. 7, at the discretion of the top FEMA official in each state, officials said.

The phaseout of the hotel program marks the latest effort by FEMA to manage the largest national housing crisis since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

"Unless they have some serious plan for helping move people from hotels into apartments ... as of December 1, there's going to be a lot of homeless people," said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. "It appears that FEMA is working very hard to make itself so unreliable that state and local governments will say, 'We can't depend on FEMA in the future.' I can't imagine what other explanation there can be for this level of incompetence."

Nationwide, the number of Katrina evacuees living in shelters has fallen to 2,491, down from a high of 321,000 shortly after the storm, FEMA said.


Spam correction

Wednesday 16 November 2005, 11:09 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Correction: on average, a spam message that gets through to my computer has size about 800 bytes. Over the last five hours, the average spam message caught in the Spam Assassin filter had size about 6900 bytes.

The shorter messages are more likely to get through because there is less "there" to trigger the filters.

Eudora allows me to filter messages into separate mailboxes based on various criteria. I can filter a message directly into the trash if I think it is spam. Here's how I deal with spam:

  • First, make sure I filter out all the mail I know is good. Emails from my wife, my friends, and mailing lists I'm subscribed to. Don't forget good commercial emails like Ebay or Amazon if you're a customer.

    Now, anything that's left is suspect.

  • Filter out any message that has an attachment of type PIF, SCR, or ZIP. It's spam. Not only that, it's a virus. Get rid of it. Only my known friends would send me a ZIP file attachment. Those were filtered out in the first step.

  • Filter out any message that has a link. Yeah, I know my own messages almost always have a link to my blog. But you've already filtered out my messages as a friend in the first step, right? RIGHT? GOOD! Anyway, the easiest way to find a link is to look for "html" or "http".

  • There are words that are more commonly contained in spam emails I receive than in legitimate emails I receive. You might think they would be words like body parts or "Rolex." But no. the two most common words that spell SPAM to me are "free" and "best." Searching for the string "est " will also find variations like "fastest," "strongest," etc.

  • Spam emails frequently have characters like []|*@#! in the subject of the email. Get rid of all those. Especially "!"

  • Lots of spam comes from certain domains, actually certain countries. I get rid of anything from ZY (???), SE (Sweden), SG (Singapore), PT (Portugal), RU (Russia), NO (Norway), PL (Poland), MX (Mexico), NL (Netherlands), HU (Hungary), IT (Italy), ES (Spain), FR (France), CN (China), DE (Germany), AR (Argentina), and AU (Australia).

    You might know people from those countries. I don't, except Susie R from the Netherlands, and I filter her out as a friend in the first step.

    Don't forget that if you use a service like Ebay or Yahoo where you might buy things from someone in another country, you won't want to filter out their emails. So you must treat Ebay or Yahoo as a mailing list and filter those emails into the "good" pile.

  • Lots of spam comes from certain IP blocks. I filter out anything from 61, 211, 217, and 218. It's all spam.

Spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam

Wednesday 16 November 2005, 10:41 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics
(Link to this article alone)

My ISP uses SpamAssassin to get rid of fully 1 MB of spam addressed to me every six hours. I figure that on average, a spam email addressed to me has size less than 1K bytes. This means I'm getting about 4000 spam emails per day!

SpamAssassin gets rid of most of my spam, but about 4500 messages per month still get through, which is about 150 messages per day, or about three percent of the spam that gets into my spool.

Our wonderful tech guru Mike has taken steps to reduce my spam. Since we'll be gone a couple of weeks, this is a great chance to evaluate the changes. Without his changes of today, I'd expect to get about 2000 spam emails in my inbox after two weeks away. So we'll see.

Spam was down early in 2005 but has exploded the last couple of months. Here are my figures this year. This is what got past SpamAssassin and onto my computer at home.

2005 January .... 1900 ... 100%
2005 February ... 2400 ... 126%
2005 March ...... 1100 ...  58%
2005 April ...... 1100 ...  58%
2005 May ........ 1700 ...  89%
2005 June ....... 1700 ...  89%
2005 July ....... 1600 ...  84%
2005 August ..... 1800 ...  95%
2005 September .. 2600 ... 136%
2005 October .... 4800 ... 252%
2005 November ... 3100 (so far; anticipate 5700 or 300% for the entire month)

I wish I knew enough Java to draw a chart with this data.

Why did God create mosquitos, anyway?

Wednesday 16 November 2005, 9:34 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

We had to go to REI in Fremont to find it, but it was worth the extra mileage on the truck. (And we made a side trip to Ho Chow to pick up Honey Walnut Prawns for dinner. Highly recommended.)

What is it?

Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent. New active ingredient. Insect protection without the odor. Active ingredient: Picairdin 7.0%. Keep out of reach of children and other small animals. Now available in the U.S. Won't harm plastics. It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Misuse will cause a 50-game suspension on the first offence. Do not apply to hands. (I guess you're supposed to spray it on your elbows then rub them all over your body.) Never place unused product down any indoor or outdoor drain.


De plane! De plane!

Wednesday 16 November 2005, 9:27 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

Several people have asked us what airline we are flying, what flight, etc.

We don't know!

CityTeam has our tickets. Kathleen and David will take us to the CityTeam offices around 10:00 tomorrow morning. We leave around 12:20 pm from San Jose airport. CityTeam will bus us to the airport.

Don Schottman says that we will probably be flying on Southwest, possibly on Continental. We will probably make one stop; my WAG would be Dallas-Fort Worth. We'll end up at the Gulfport-Biloxi airport in Mississippi.

I believe we will be working in either Waveland or Bay St. Louis. Here is a map:


We expect to be working with a team of about 20 people. CityTeam deploys the teams as needed when they arrive. The team will probably serve together, but we don't know yet what project we will be working on. Most of the CityTeam work consists of assisting people in the shelters. Most of the heavy work like putting on roofs is done. But there is still a lot of cleanup to do, and we've been advised to bring strong work gloves. The cleanup will probably happen mostly within a church that was damaged, within a shelter that has been over-used, or at a school that was being used as an emergency shelter. I'm really guessing here.

Contacting us while we are in Mississippi

Wednesday 16 November 2005, 1:37 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

If you need to contact us while we are away:

  • If you call our number at home, your call will be forwarded to our cell phone.
  • If you call our cell phone, we may or may not have service, so leave a message if necessary. Even if there is no cell phone service, we should be able to retrieve our messages from a land-line phone if we find one.
  • You can contact us through Debra Reyes at CityTeam.

We are told that one of the shelters or churches has computers and internet access, so I hope to post our daily activities and special blessings on this blog. We have no guarantee that this will happen, but I feel confident that we should be able to post somehow. When we gain internet access, I should be able to retrieve emails. But ... recently I've been getting about 150 spam emails per day, and only about 20 legitimate emails. (This is after SpamAssassin which the ISP provides.) So, while I'm away, I don't have all the extra spam filters that are on my home computer. This makes away-from-home email difficult.

Prayer Requests

Wednesday 16 November 2005, 1:31 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

We are so ignorant that we don't even know what to pray for or what to ask others to pray for. But here are some things that come to mind:

  • Please pray that our travels will be smooth and safe.

  • Please pray that we will be kept healthy throughout the trip. We both have food allergies, and we won't be able to eat much of the food that will be provided for us, but we are praying that God will "suspend" our food allergies while we are working for him. Also, my back has been acting up and it might limit the kinds of work I can do, so we're praying for divine healing.

  • Please pray that God will bring us in contact with just the people that our own experience will enable us to help. We feel that God has chosen us for this mission, and he will use us to accomplish things that others could not.

  • Please pray for courage in witnessing and evangelism. We are both weak in this area but we expect God to use this experience to encourage us.

  • Please pray for those who are ministering in Mississippi now, and those who will be coming to Mississippi after we leave. Also pray for the CityTeam volunteers who are there longer term. Pray that God will give them wisdom, grace, encouragement, and power to do God's work.

  • Please pray that we will not be discouraged.

  • Please pray for the people in the shelters, that God will use this situation to change their lives in a good way.

May God bless all of you who are praying for us. Thanks!

One day to go ...

Wednesday 16 November 2005, 12:36 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief
(Link to this article alone)

OK! We leave tomorrow! We leave Thursday, November 17 around noon. We must be at the CityTeam offices at 10:00 am. We return on Friday, December 2 around noon. Kathleen and David Brandt are giving us rides to and from the CityTeam office. Thanks, David and Kathleen!

Our schedule has been really cramped. We visited Mary's family in Vacaville on Monday afternoon. They were having a birthday party for Brenda Boston. We couldn't stay into the evening because our on-again-off-again C3 tape group was meeting in Concord at Gail's house. On Tuesday evenings, I've been taking a quilting class for men only with instructor Kathleen Crittenden at Fabrics 'n' Fun in Milpitas; Mary attends the ladies bible study at Calvary Chapel San Jose. I will attend the men's Bible study after the quilting class is over. Last night was the final session of the current class, but they might start a second class for men in January.

Right now, Mary and I are at Network Appliance in Sunnyvale. Mary makes hand-stamped cards and silk scarves, and she occasionally sells them at holiday boutiques. We are selling them in the NetApp lunchroom. Well, Mary is selling them, and I help set up (read: drag stuff in from the truck into the building). They set me up with a blue cable and here we go. (They have WiFi in the cafeteria but it is password secured.)

We also had an appointment with our financial advisor Michael Hubbert on Monday morning, and my truck was in the shop at Piercey Toyota all day Monday and half the day Tuesday. It needed major service, an oxygen sensor, and a new timing belt, which is always expensive. The truck has 105K miles, and its original timing belt was really living on borrowed time. The total came to almost $1000, but that was after a "coupon discount" they gave me because a friend of mine works there.

On Sunday night we were shopping at Wal-Mart for strange things like flat sheets, work gloves, and insect repellent. These are all among the items CityTeam asked us to bring to Mississippi. CityTeam suggested getting a mosquito repellent with DEET, but Don Schottman said Mississippi has a new strain of mosquito that is actually attracted to DEET. He suggested we find something called "advanced formula" or something like that, but we couldn't find anything except DEET.

Yesterday, Mary spent all day getting ready for today's boutique, and I spent most of the day making sure all the bills are paid up through the time we return.

SO, we haven't really had to be anxious about this trip. We still really don't know what to expect. Some things they covered at the training meeting:

  • How to deal with the media, who might try to interview us while we are there.
  • Expect the living situation to be "like camping but even worse."
  • Bring a celll phone, but expect that there will be no signal and no power for charging the phone.
  • Southern culture: "Miss," "Mister," "Sir," "Ma'am," how not to offend.
  • Pack small; you need to be mobile. You might have to move several times.
  • Banks and ATMs may not be available, but don't carry cash anyway. CityTeam will provide for all transportation, lodging, and meals. Also, don't wear jewelry.
  • "If you can't afford to lose it, don't bring it."
  • How to detect if someone is using drugs or alcohol, so you can pass them off to someone trained to deal with that.
  • There will be no TV! (What about my weekly fix of House and Crossing Jordan? (and should I even admit to watching South Park?)
  • How to do counseling, evangelism, discipleship, and bible study.
  • The necessity of multi-tier "debriefing" upon return.

U.S., Darfur Have Shouting Match

Yahoo News, AP

Tuesday 15 November 2005, 11:58 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Rodrique Ngowi, Associated Press Writer

SHEK EN NIL, Sudan - A senior U.S. envoy got into a shouting match with a Darfur government official Thursday over peacemaking in the restive region of western Sudan.

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick had just listened to African Union military observers describe a recent outbreak of violence that had turned southern Darfur's Shek en Nil into a ghost village of burned out homes, and heard local leaders profess their commitment to peace.

Regional commissioner Sadiek Abdel Nabi followed as Zoellick stepped away for what was to have been a private additional African Union briefing in the remnants of a village home.

An angry Zoellick ordered Nabi out, saying: "I want to hear a straight story ... and I can't trust your government."

When Nabi refused, Zoellick said he would protest to President Omar el-Bashir.

"I am Bashir here!" Nabi shouted three times in English, standing inches from Zoellick. Nabi previously had relied on an Arab translator.

An AU officer persuaded Nabi to back off, and Zoellick heard details of three attacks on Shek en Nil in late September — all violations of a tattered cease-fire.


Wrist Slap

World Magazine

Tuesday 15 November 2005, 11:53 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

SAUDI ARABIA: The Bush administration grants diplomatic waivers to its kingpin Arab ally while evidence of religious oppression grows

by Priya Abraham

In 2004—and again on Nov. 8 this year—the United States named Saudi Arabia one of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world, in an exclusive band of just eight countries. By law, the United States must take action to pressure such "countries of particular concern," which can include sanctions.

Saudi Arabia, however, so far has won a free pass, receiving a six-month waiver on Sept. 30. In the meantime, abuses against minorities remain. The question is whether the Saudis will make systemic reforms in the coming months—and whether the United States will penalize them if they do not.

After the Trafficking in Persons office succeeded in ranking Saudi Arabia as a country doing little to combat rampant slavery, U.S. sanctions or suspended aid could have followed. Instead, the kingdom received a "national interest" waiver.

John Hanford, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, emphasizes that the Saudis' extension is only 180 days. "We feel like our discussions are productive, unlike discussions with some other countries," he said. "We feel like the government of Saudi Arabia is moving in the right direction. . . . My heart and passion in this is to advance religious freedom as far as we can. And if I feel like some additional time to discuss some important issues may yield some meaningful change, I want to give that a try."


Relief Update

Saturday 12 November 2005, 8:38 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

We leave for Mississippi on Thursday November 17, but we're far from ready!

Mary and I got shots on Tuesday October 18. We had to get Hepatitis A and B and Tetanus TD. We were able to get the shots at our doctor's office. We are supposed to get booster shots after 30 days ... we're told we can do that on Monday November 14, a few days early. We want to make sure that if we have any reaction, it will be before we leave.

We went to what they call "training" on October 25. It was really just an orientation. They talked about what we need to bring (and not bring), what kinds of things we might be doing, what kind of people we might meet (and their problems), and how we can easily talk to people about Jesus.

We have to pack some odd things like "shower shoes" (flip flops to wear while using a grungy shower), our own toilet paper, just one flat sheet, and strong work gloves. On the other hand, we probably don't want to bring expensive cameras or electronics, since there is no way to lock them up.

Don Schottman says that he spent part of his stay in a tent, but for the most part they are housing the relief workers in churches. These are not the same locations where they housing the homeless.

BTW, Don also says we should have computer and internet access, so I hope to continue posting to the blog while there.

Since the orientation, we have not heard much from CityTeam. We did hear a week ago that they were buying our airplane tickets and we would hear from them soon. I think they are really swamped but we have confidence that everything will come together this week.

Flu Shots

Saturday 12 November 2005, 7:25 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Don Schottman suggested we get flu shots before going to Mississippi. He said he came home with the flu. He was in Mississippi only three weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

We had been thinking about getting flu shots for a while. CityTeam said we needed only Hepatitis A and B and Tetanus TD. But they said some others were also getting Typhoid shots. We could not find a source for Typhoid shots. Web sites were mixed ... some relief agencies say Typhoid shots are not necessary, while others refuse to send you unless you have taken them. We have chosen not to because there is no time to find them.

Anyway, by snooping around on the Longs Drugs web site, I found these links:

Centers For Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

American Lung Association Flu Clinic Locator: http://www.flucliniclocator.org/

We found that in the San Jose area, flu shots are being offered at Valley Fair mall and Oakridge mall on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

We went to Valley Fair but the line was quite long ... 40 people or more. Mary timed them at about 2-1/2 minutes per person. This was on Friday November 11, and we had forgotten that this would be a school holiday. Valley Fair was packed.

We left and went to Oakridge instead. There were only about 12 people in line there, and the line went much more quickly, only about one minute per person. We easily made up whatever time we had lost by driving from one mall to the other.

We met a nice woman named Marge. (I forgot her last name.) Marge goes to Los Gatos Christian Church and she knows my Aunt Katie and Uncle Phil, who is an usher at the church. She was happy to get information about CityTeam's relief efforts. CityTeam had made an appearance at her church also, but she hadn't got all the information.

You can find more information about CityTeam here: http://www.cityteam.org

God, politics and taxes

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Guest Commentary

Friday 11 November 2005, 5:22 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

ON OCT. 31 LAST YEAR, the Sunday before the 2004 presidential election, former Texas legislator Rick Green spoke before 3,500 congregants at the Calvary Chapel, an evangelical church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Vote for righteousness,” Mr. Green urged, and directed people to voters guides published by the conservative Christian Coalition that were on display in the hallway of the church.

Meanwhile, in St. Paul, Minn., at the Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, the Rev. Christopher Wenthe simply declared that love of humanity “must begin with the protection of life, from conception to natural birth.”

Across the country in Pasadena, Calif., at All Saints Episcopal Church, former Rector George F. Regas delivered a guest sermon. He said that “good people of profound faith” could vote for either candidate, but then proceeded to blast Mr. Bush’s policies on Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Three churches, three sermons. Now one of these churches has been notified by the Internal Revenue Service that it may have its tax-exempt status revoked for intervening in political campaigns and elections.

Guess which one?

Those with suspicious minds will guess that the IRS has political motivations for singling out All Saints, one of Southern California’s largest and most liberal congregations. “It seems ludicrous to suggest that a pastor cannot preach about the value of promoting peace simply because the nation happens to be at war during an election season,” the church’s tax attorney told the L.A. Times.


Zondervan Launches New iPod Bible

Publishers Weekly

Friday 11 November 2005, 5:14 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Lori Smith, Religion BookLine

In a move being billed as "twenty-first century technology meets a 2,000-year-old book," Zondervan will release a TNIV Bible designed specifically for the iPod in February. The TNIV Audio Bible for iPod will be the first audio Bible available in Apple retail stores. It will also be sold through Christian and general market bookstores and other retail outlets.

The new format will allow users to listen to the audio version, view Bible text on their iPod screen, and link to study notes from the bestselling TNIV Student Bible.


U.S. Cites Top Violators of Religious Liberties

Washington Post

Friday 11 November 2005, 4:51 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Alan Cooperman, Washington Post Staff Writer

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named eight countries yesterday as the world's worst violators of religious liberty and denied that there has been any wavering in the U.S. commitment to global human rights, despite disclosures of secret prisons run by the CIA in Eastern Europe.

The State Department's seventh annual report on religious freedom listed the same eight countries that it did last year as the most egregious violators, or "countries of particular concern." They are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan panel established by Congress, had recommended adding Uzbekistan to the category of worst abusers because of its mistreatment of Muslims, including the brutal suppression of a demonstration in the city of Andijan in May.


Be the one!

Christianity Today

Friday 11 November 2005, 4:17 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Ellen Vaughn

In America, we tend to tell our neighbors how thankful we are if we get a great deal on deck furniture or find a big sale on gas grills. We would do well to strip off our sophistication, remember in thanks our own rescue, and get back to the really good news like our brother in Cuba—or that first-century leper whom Jesus healed.

One day about two thousand years ago, Jesus is on the road when ten tattered lepers call to him from afar. They dare not draw nearer.

"Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

Jesus' heart moves for them. He tells them to go show themselves to the local priest.

Off they go. Faltering but hopeful.

And as they are going, the Scriptures say, they are healed.

Piling to a stop, slamming into one another like clowns at the circus, they stare at each other's faces, mouths wide open. They unwind the rags from their hands, shouting because they have fingers again. They leap into the air; they land, sure-footed. They strip off their bonds and clap their arms around each other's shoulders, laughing with joy. They can't wait to find their families. They sprint toward town.

But one whirls and turns in the other direction, back toward Jesus. He runs fast with his new feet. Weeping, he falls and kisses Jesus' perfect ones.

"Thank you!" he sobs.

Thank you. Thank you.

Ten were rescued, cleansed, given a brand-new beginning. Yet nine ran the wrong way. Only one ran for home base, where Jesus was.

Friends of ours have a family mantra. "Be the one!" they tell their kids and each other. "Be the one who thanks Jesus. Let others go where they may. You be the one who is grateful."

Be the one!

Some believers seem to be looking for life principles that are just a little more spiritually sexy. Be thankful? Oh, of course. But give me something more exciting, more dramatic, something remarkable that I can do to change my life.

Developing the meditative habit of constantly whispering thanks to him—no matter the situation—is, in fact, a mustard seed of life-changing power. Radical, for it goes to the root of who we are. Small, seemingly insignificant, yet it has the power to change our lives and blow our socks off, right in the midst of the everyday. When we really give God thanks in everything, we are acknowledging that he is sovereign and that we trust him. And we find that it changes us.

Truly grateful people can't be stopped. They bubble and overflow, refreshing others. Their habitual gratitude serves as a springboard to give a reason for the buoyant hope bouncing within them. They attract those who are stuck in the cares of this world and woo them to the eternal good.


Cat Show Plans Memorial Service for Dog

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 11 November 2005, 10:33 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jim Fitzgerald, Associated Press Writer

This will probably be the first time a dog's memorial service is attended by 300 cats. A schnauzer-Siberian husky mix named Ginny will be eulogized Nov. 19 at the Westchester Cat Show, where she was named Cat of the Year in 1998 for her uncanny skill and bravery in finding and rescuing endangered tabbies.

Ginny died in August at age 17, after a long career as a one-dog rescue party for cats on Long Island's South Shore. The club says she saved hundreds of cats who were abandoned, injured or in harm's way.

Among the best-known rescues is the time Ginny threw herself against a vertical pipe at a construction site to topple it and reveal the kittens trapped inside. She once ignored the cuts on her paws as she dug through a box full of broken glass to find an injured cat inside.


The Real New Orleans

Washington Post

Friday 11 November 2005, 7:53 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Peter Slevin and Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post Staff Writers

The litany of problems faced by New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is unmatched by any other U.S. city in recent history. Billions of dollars in public and private funds are going to be spent on rebuilding New Orleans, but those efforts could be undermined by forces that have long beset the city -- a tradition of corruption and dysfunction and a weak economy that clouded New Orleans's future years before the rains began in August.

"Always broke. Worst school system in the state. Highest crime rate in the nation. Shrinking population. All the corporations have moved out," said Bernie Pinsonat, a political analyst in Baton Rouge. "Any poll I do, the rest of Louisiana thinks, 'New Orleans is a deep, dark hole, and no matter how much money we send, it doesn't seem to get better.' "

In a recent Louisiana State University poll of 419 business executives, corruption was ranked among the worst aspects of doing business in Louisiana. Investors and managers elsewhere are reluctant to come "because they don't want to pay the corruption tax," said Rafael C. Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

"We've seen every type of corruption imaginable," said U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, whose office indicted 44 public officials in the past fiscal year alone. He pointed to skimming, bribery and shakedowns across a spectrum of government employment: judges, police, teachers, administrators and traffic court workers.


Upon the cross, an iPod cleaves

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wednesday 9 November 2005, 9:04 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Scott Wilson invented the iBelieve --- an attachment that turns an iPod Shuffle into a cross that can be worn around your neck --- as a comment on how we worship consumer products. The iBelieve, he felt, was "a social commentary on the fastest growing religion on the planet" --- meaning iPod-mania.

Rather than take offense, however, Christians have embraced the new gizmo. He says he has been deluged with orders from people who wanted to buy one ($12.95, 10 percent of which goes to charity, at www.devoted1.com), as well as e-mails from churches and media.


In Quiet Protest

San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday 9 November 2005, 8:58 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Tom Lanham

For fans of this composer's typically vitriolic invective, a nonvocal set might come as a shock. As far back as 1984's Central America-themed "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," Canadian folk firebrand Bruce Cockburn has railed against social and political injustices, often visiting the foreign lands he sings about to more fully empathize with their problems. It's difficult for anyone to keep this Canuck quiet.

Within five minutes of discussing his new instrumental anthology "Speechless," Cockburn's muzzle unstraps, and his powder keg of leftist opinions explodes.

"I've seen reviews of my albums that say, 'Too much political bull -- . What does this guy know? He's just an artist.' Like somehow journalists are the only people who are qualified to write about politics."

Years ago, Cockburn growls, he was trying to warn listeners via songs like "Gospel of Bondage" about the encroachment of evangelical Christianity. "It was totally clear to me then, even though Pat Robertson had not yet said, 'Go out and kill that Venezuelan head of state because he's an annoyance.' But he had said equally ludicrous and equally un-Christian things over and over again, and people were still respecting him as this Christian leader."

Cockburn used to deem himself a devout Christian, too -- much of his earlier work is suffused with spirituality. He's no longer affiliated with any one church, he says, thanks to "my understanding of spirituality being added to that, a lot of things that didn't come from Christian sources."


Evolution Slate Outpolls Rivals

New York Times

Wednesday 9 November 2005, 8:01 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Laurie Goodstein

All eight members up for re-election to the Pennsylvania school board that had been sued for introducing the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in biology class were swept out of office yesterday by a slate of challengers who campaigned against the intelligent design policy.

The election results were a repudiation of the first school district in the nation to order the introduction of intelligent design in a science class curriculum. The policy was the subject of a trial in Federal District Court that ended last Friday. A verdict by Judge John E. Jones III is expected by early January.

"I think voters were tired of the trial, they were tired of intelligent design, they were tired of everything that this school board brought about," said Bernadette Reinking, who was among the winners.

The school board voted in October 2004 to require ninth grade biology students to hear a brief statement at the start of the semester saying that there were "gaps" in the theory of evolution, [and] that intelligent design was an alternative.

The board was sued by 11 Dover parents who contended that intelligent design was religious creationism in new packaging, and that the board was trying to impose its religion on students.


Frankenstein vs Dracula

Scotland Sunday Herald

Tuesday 8 November 2005, 12:27 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jenifer Johnston

Their fictional alter-egos have terrified and entertained for more than 100 years, but new evidence unearthed by a leading historian suggests that the real-life Dracula and Frankenstein crossed paths centuries ago and fought a bloody battle to the death.

In a collapsed, moss-covered crypt in St Mary’s Evangelical church in the Romanian town of Sibiu lie the earthly remains of Frank Baron von Frankenstein where he was buried following his execution by Vlad Dracula the Impaler in the early 15th century.

The discovery, by celebrated historian and Sunday Herald correspondent Gabriel Ronay, establishes an extraordinary historical connection between the real-life inspirations for two of the literary world’s most loved creations.

Count Dracula was modelled on Vlad Dracula the Impaler, an exceptionally cruel 15th century warlord, whom author Bram Stoker endowed with fictional, vampire traits to suit the British taste for the supernatural.

Frankenstein, as imagined in Mary Shelley’s novel, was named after the ancient German noble family of von Frankenstein. The von Frankensteins’ ancestral hill-top chateau, built near the Rhine, had deeply impressed Mary and Percy Shelley during their first romantic journey there in 1816.


Copernicus' Grave Found in Polish Church

Yahoo News

Monday 7 November 2005, 11:29 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

WARSAW, Poland - Polish archeologists believe they have located the grave of 16th-century astronomer and solar-system proponent Nicolaus Copernicus in a Polish church, one of the scientists announced Thursday.

Copernicus, who died in 1543 at 70 after challenging the ancient belief that the sun revolved around the earth, was buried at the Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of Frombork, 180 miles north of the capital, Warsaw.




Terminator vs. Gerrymander

New York Times

Monday 7 November 2005, 12:02 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jill Stewart

In seeking to have a panel of retired judges take over drawing electoral districts, the governor is clearly looking out for the voters' best interests.

Honest observers on the left and right have long complained that California's voting district map is a masterwork of cynicism that assures victories for incumbents as well as party hacks seeking open seats. The fix is so complete that in 2004 not one of the 173 state legislative and Congressional seats being contested in California changed party hands. Robert Stern, president of the liberal-leaning Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, told me that California's elections are "less democratic than the Soviet Politburo."

Democrats, led by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, have aggressively tried to paint Proposition 77 as a power grab by shady retired judges and the Republicans. The fact is, to maintain the undemocratic system that now exists, the Democrats need to distract voters from the truth: that Proposition 77 is a series of fair-minded steps that assures elected leaders reasonable input in creating the panel of judges, none of whom are running for office in the voting districts they fashion.

Unfortunately, the governor is not just up against the Democrats. Many Republicans are also fighting him. After all, the "fix" also guarantees elected Republicans their automatic re-elections.

These dishonest voting districts slash across communities of interest and geography. One State Assembly district sprawls from the upscale Westside area of Los Angeles, across some mountains, to the farms of Oxnard. One Congressional district looks like a noodle draped along the coast, so skinny it is jokingly said to disappear beneath the waves of the Pacific at high tide.

Once voters are herded, by party, into these trumped-up districts, the parties feed them an incumbent or pre-selected party crony. And they are getting sick of it.

They have to realize that in the long run, this isn't about Arnold Schwarzenegger; it's about California's long-ruling Democrats, who have decided democracy is no longer part of their agenda.


After 34 Years, His Antiwar Song Is Still Not Out of Style

New York Times

Monday 7 November 2005, 11:40 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Andrew C. Revkin

In 1971, with Australia embroiled in Vietnam alongside the United States, Eric Bogle sat down to write what would become one of the most admired songs about war: "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda."

"I wanted to write an antiwar song but didn't want to denigrate the courage of the soldier," Mr. Bogle recalled in an interview on Wednesday before a show at the Manhattan nightclub Satalla. "There was too much of that 'baby killer' stuff going on."

Now 61, he is the archetypal touring folk singer, burly and balding and bearded, with a remarkably similar-looking sideman, John Munro, and a repertory ranging from wrenching to raunchy.

But at every stop, the audiences, many having grown gray along with Mr. Bogle, await the tune he wrote 34 years ago.

The song is in the voice of an innocent rural lad who joined the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or Anzac, in 1915, was handed a tin hat and a gun and was shipped with 17,000 others to the killing shores of Suvla Bay, where they were "butchered like lambs at the slaughter." The refrain recounts how at every turn - when troops were dispatched, when the maimed came home, when the dead were buried, when the dying veterans marched - some martial band played "Waltzing Matilda," the unofficial Australian anthem.

The song, almost independent of Mr. Bogle's career as a folk performer, took on its own life as an antiwar standard. In a telephone interview from his home in Beacon, N.Y., Pete Seeger called it "one of the world's greatest songs."

Mr. Bogle's songbook is as variegated as folk music itself (details are at ericbogle.net). Songs range from a searing account of an apartheid prison hanging to a satirical romp on the nasal style of Bob Dylan and audiences' persistent habit of asking Mr. Bogle to play a Dylan song. (He doesn't play any.)


US Post Office Releases New Stamps Featuring Latin Dances

Saturday 5 November 2005, 3:55 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

September 17, 2005

The US post office has released a set of dance stamps that include Merengue, Salsa, Cha Cha, & Mambo. On the back paper of the stamps is also included a brief factoid in both English & Spanish.

Kicking off National Hispanic Heritage month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated the Let's DanceBailemos stamps which brings to life four sassy Latin dances. The 37-cent Let's DanceBailemos commemorative stamps are available nationwide today.

"At the Postal Service, we understand the power our stamps have in helping to celebrate American history and culture - in this case, the contributions of Latin American art and dance to American culture," said David L. Solomon, Vice President, Area Operations, New York Metro, U.S. Postal Service, who dedicated the stamps in New York.

"Now, people all around the country will be able to sway to the left and right, and accent their mail and packages with these high energy stamps that capture the enthusiasm of dancers moving to the beat," said Anita Bizzotto, Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, U.S. Postal Service, who dedicated the stamps in Miami.



Sassy Sisters

Friday 4 November 2005, 8:55 pm
(Link to this article alone)

My wife Mary is participating in a Holiday Boutique tomorrow, Saturday, November 5 from 10 am - 6 pm. The show continues on Sunday November 6, 10 am - 5 pm.

The creative art consists of jewelry, acrylic, fabrics, handmade quilts, ceramics, and a special display of polymer clay items.

Mary makes hand-dyed scarves and rubber-stamped notecards. I made this business card for her by scanning one of her scarves:

Mary has her own web page here:

Check out her gallery on Split Coast Stampers.

This weekend's show is sponsored by Sassy Sisters Studios, a collaboration of several Silicon Valley women. They have a web site:

The show is held in Willow Glen, at 1678 Fairwood Avenue in San Jose. The nearest cross streets are Curtner and Booksin Avenues.

Congatulation, You're "Way Retro"

Tuesday 1 November 2005, 12:53 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

In secondhand store, woman finds prom dress she made 33 years ago

Associated Press


Marlene Wyatt went to a secondhand store to buy a Halloween costume last week. What she found could be just as scary: the prom dress she had made 33 years ago.

"I thought, this material looks familiar," Wyatt said. "Then I thought, 'Surely not' and finally, 'That's my dress!'"

Melissa Martin, proprietor of the Fashion Exchange, said she knew something special had happened because of the look on Wyatt's face.

"This is amazing," she said. "What are the odds of something like this happening?"

Wyatt, from Yellville, sewed the white double-knit polyester dress when she was in high school.

"We come from a large family, 12 kids," she said. "There were five girls at home at the time, so sewing my own clothes was helpful, but I always loved doing it." Wyatt said the dress has one of the first invisible zippers she ever sewed.

Martin opened the Fashion Exchange about a month ago. She doesn't remember where she got the dress, which she had labeled "Way Retro" in her inventory.

Wyatt now has it in her sewing room.

Carve your pumpkin online

Tuesday 1 November 2005, 12:45 pm
Keywords: Humor
(Link to this article alone)

Well, maybe it's a little late for this year ...


Happy Halloween

Monday 31 October 2005, 11:54 am
Keywords: Humor
(Link to this article alone)

Thanks to David Brandt for forwarding these to me!

Microwaves proven to cause brain damage

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 28 October 2005, 12:28 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Women Brawl Over Using Microwave


A Walgreens employee allegedly stabbed a co-worker in an argument over who could microwave her soup first, authorities said.

Both women wanted to use the microwave in the employee break room Wednesday afternoon, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office.

While they were fighting over who could use the microwave first, Mellesia Grant grabbed a large kitchen knife off the counter and stabbed Merloze Tilme in the abdomen, the sheriff's office said.


Church Agrees to Ban Swallowing Goldfish

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 28 October 2005, 12:22 pm
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Florence, Ala. (AP)

The First Assembly of God Church has agreed to discontinue its practice of swallowing live goldfish as part of its Fear Factor ministry.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked for a ban on the practice.

As part of the Fear Factor ministry at the church, teenage participants were asked to swallow live goldfish. No one reportedly became ill during the goldfish phase of the program that concludes this week.

Youth minister Anthony Martin said earlier the goal of the exercise was to teach teens about fear.

PETA thanked the church for the ban by sending a gift basket of vegan Swedish fish, a gummy candy, as an alternative to live fish.


Please don't drink and fly

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Friday 28 October 2005, 12:18 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Superman Hospitalized After Leap

GRAZ, Austria

A man who claimed he was Superman and could fly was hospitalized early Tuesday after leaping from a fourth-floor window, authorities said.

They said the man — who apparently had drunk several bottles of red wine before attempting the jump — appeared at the window ledge at around 4 a.m. and shouted: "I am Superman! Nothing can happen to me!"


Mapping project updates

Thursday 27 October 2005, 6:37 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

I have fixed a bug in my Google Mapping Project. The bug prevented the viewing of maps by those using Internet Explorer 6. I hope you can all view the maps now.

I don't hesitate at all to add that using Internet Explorer is a known security risk if you have a PC. I suggest using Firefox instead. Firefox is quite fast and doesn't have the security holes that IE does.

The site also works with Mozilla and Netscape 7 on either Mac or PC.

Also on the Mac, Safari and Camino render the page well.

The mapping project, as well as much of the rest of this site, look really crappy on any version of Opera, which doesn't render tables the way I specify.


60 new cue sheets by Kenji and Nobuko Shibata

Thursday 27 October 2005, 6:32 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Kenji and Nobuko Shibata have a beautiful new web site. They posted over cue sheets, some of which are quite old. I have indexed all those cue sheets.



Are religious societies better than secular ones?


Tuesday 25 October 2005, 11:07 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By George Monbiot, AlterNet

Christian fundamentalists claim religion is associated with lower rates of violence, teen pregnancy and divorce. A new study says they couldn't be more wrong.

We know that the most dangerous human trait is an absence of self-doubt, and that self-doubt is more likely to be absent from the mind of the believer than the non-religious infidel.

But it is hard to dismiss Dostoyevsky's suspicion that "If God does not exist, then everything is permissible." If our lives have no purpose, why should we care about other people's?

In the current edition of the Journal of Religion and Society, a researcher called Gregory Paul tests the hypothesis propounded by evangelists in the Bush administration, that religion is associated with lower rates of "lethal violence, suicide, non-monogamous sexual activity and abortion." He compared data from 18 developed democracies, and discovered that the Christian fundamentalists couldn't have got it more wrong.

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion ... None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction."

Within the United States "the strongly theistic, anti-evolution South and Midwest" have "markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast where ... secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms."

Strangest of all for those who believe that Christian societies are "pro-life" is the finding that "increasing adolescent abortion rates show positive correlation with increasing belief and worship of a creator ... Claims that secular cultures aggravate abortion rates (John Paul II) are therefore contradicted by the quantitative data."

The rich countries in which sexual abstinence campaigns, generally inspired by religious belief, are strongest have the highest early pregnancy rates. The U.S. is the only rich nation with teenage pregnancy levels comparable to those of developing nations: it has a worse record than India, the Philippines and Rwanda. Because they're poorly educated about sex and in denial about what they're doing (and so less likely to use contraceptives), boys who participate in abstinence programmes are more likely to get their partners pregnant than those who don't.

If we are to accept the findings of this one -- and so far only -- wide survey of belief and human welfare, the message to those who claim in any sense to be pro-life is unequivocal. If you want people to behave as Christians advocate, you should tell them that God does not exist.


Hip-hop ministry

San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday 25 October 2005, 10:36 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Glenn Lovell, Mercury News

A popular fixture on the local scene since February, The Firehouse has become a safe haven for "all young people at risk," explains San Jose pastor-activist Sonny Lara. "We're an alternative to the thug life, man. When they come here, they don't need to stand with their guard up; they can relax . . . be themselves."

The free, non-denominational nightspot meets the last Friday of each month at the old Oasis disco or, if that's taken, the St. James Community Center down the street. The club has been hailed by San Jose Recreation Superintendent Angel Rios Jr. as "cutting edge" and "a positive alternative" for kids who are confused or have lost their way.

Pastor Lara rents the St. James Street club from downtown developer Barry Swenson for a token $375 or "as close to that as we can come." He calls The Firehouse "neutral ground," a place where different religions and ethnicities can mingle without fear of the kind of gun violence that erupted Saturday morning outside the Ambassador Lounge on San Pedro Street.


New England braces for Wilma, nor'easter

San Jose Mercury News

Tuesday 25 October 2005, 10:30 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Brooke Donald, Associated Press

The remnants of Hurricane Wilma plus a nasty nor'easter began kicking up high winds, heavy rains and coastal flooding Tuesday across New England, a region already saturated by days of rain.

The storm may produce 20-foot seas and a 3-foot storm surge, causing minor to moderate coastal flooding during high tide late Tuesday. A coastal flood warning was in effect through the evening.

The weather service also issued a winter storm watch for the Berkshires beginning Tuesday evening, with the potential for up to seven inches of snow at elevations above 1,500 feet. The expected wet, heavy snow, could bring down tree limbs and power lines.


Mark says: I hope everyone got into and home from the Berkshires dance safely.

New Mapping Project

Saturday 22 October 2005, 6:05 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

I have added a new page where you can search for square or round dance clubs in California or Nevada, and the results are displayed on a Google map.


When you use the "advanced search" page to search for square or round dance clubs, you can also specify that results will be displayed on a map.


When you have searched for clubs using the standard search page, you can then elect to "show these results on a map." Here is an example of such a search:


Cowboy church rounds 'em up

Orlando Sentinel

Thursday 20 October 2005, 10:24 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Mark I. Pinsky, Sentinel Staff Writer

The Rev. Gene Blankenship Jr. pulls up to the Kissimmee Valley Livestock Show building in Osceola Heritage Park every first and third Thursday evening of the month to preside at the Cowboy Church of Central Florida.

The cowboy ministry, which is supported by New Hope Southern Baptist Church in St. Cloud, began six weeks ago, after several years of planning. Blankenship says he feels called to "outside evangelism" -- nontraditional approaches to saving souls. He heard about cowboy churches in the West and Midwest, and thought the concept might work in Central Florida, with its long tradition of "cracker cowboys."

"Our goal is to reach those who enjoy the Western culture with the gospel of Christ, whether they're a working cowboy or a cowboy at heart," says Blankenship, 43, whose day job is running an audio-production company.


Theology On Tap

San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday 20 October 2005, 9:18 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

A priest walks into a bar -- and serves up some theology

by Marianne Costantinou

Not all is typical on this Tuesday night at Ireland's 32, one of the city's most popular bars, on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond District. On one side of the bar, about two dozen folks are gathered round, and while most are nursing beers, they're wearing name tags and speaking softly when they're speaking at all. But mostly they're just listening to two speakers. The crowd is made up of young people in their 20s and 30s. The speakers are old enough to be their mothers -- if they didn't happen to be nuns.

This is "Theology on Tap," a national series of seminars run in bars and restaurants by the Catholic Church. The program began 25 years ago in the Archdiocese of Chicago as a way to reach out to young people who either didn't attend church regularly or had questions that they didn't feel comfortable discussing on church grounds. Today, parishes in at least 30 cities host the seminars. In San Francisco, they're run by the archdiocese's Office of Young Adult Ministry and the University of San Francisco's Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought.

"This is where Jesus would be, with the people," said Mary Criscione, a lecturer at St. Patrick's Seminary and at Santa Clara University.

"You always get in debates in a pub. Heck, this pub would traditionally have political discussions," Eileen Salinas added, pointing to the bar's ceiling, covered with protest signs championing the Irish Republican Army. "Why not have a theological discussion?"



Wednesday 19 October 2005, 5:53 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Died: Oswald C.J. Hoffmann, voice of "The Lutheran Hour" radio show from 1955 to 1988, on September 8 in St. Louis after a brief illness. He was 91. Hoffmann represented the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at the Second Vatican Council and served as North American chairman for the 1974 World Congress on Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. He served on the board of Christianity Today International from 1981 to 2000.




(He was the father of Paul Hoffmann, who serves at Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Los Gatos, California, the church where I grew up in the late 60's and early 70's. -- Mark)

Latest numbers signal softening of red-hot home market

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 19 October 2005, 12:27 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Margaret Steen, Mercury News

The median house price in Santa Clara County dropped to $705,000 in September amid signs this month that Silicon Valley's red-hot real estate market is cooling.

New data available Tuesday also shows it's taking longer to sell homes. At the beginning of the year, it would have taken 28 days to sell all the homes on the market in the county, given the pace of sales then. It would take more than 54 days today.

The median price of a single-family resale home in Santa Clara County dipped in September to $705,000 from a record $714,000 in August, according to DataQuick. The median price of a condo was $480,000, up 23.7 percent from a year earlier but down from $490,000 in August.


Abolishing the Poll Tax Again

New York Times Editorial

Wednesday 19 October 2005, 11:21 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Critics of Georgia's new voter-identification law, which forces many citizens to pay $20 or more for the documentation necessary to vote, have called it a modern-day poll tax, intended to keep blacks and poor people from voting. A federal judge supported these claims yesterday and blocked the law from taking effect. Instead of continuing to defend the statute in court, Georgia should remove this throwback to the days of Jim Crow from its lawbooks.

Under the new law, voters with driver's licenses were not inconvenienced. But it put up huge obstacles for voters without licenses, who are disproportionately poor and black. Most of them would have to get official state picture-identification cards and pay processing fees of $20 or more. Incredibly - beyond the cost imposed on such voters - there was not a single office in Atlanta where the identification cards were for sale.

Republicans claimed the law was intended to prevent fraud, but that was just a pretext. According to Georgia's secretary of state, Cathy Cox, in recent years there have been no documented cases of fraud through voter impersonation.


Silence on Suffering

Christianity Today guest opinion

Tuesday 18 October 2005, 12:38 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Where are the voices from the Christian community on cruel and degrading treatment of detainees?

by Gary A. Haugen

President Bush faces a defining question of morality on which he has yet to receive any discernible guidance from the faith-based coalition that helped put him in office. The question: whether it is ever right for Americans to inflict cruel and degrading treatment on suspected terrorist detainees.

We read credible reports—some from FBI agents—that prisoners have been stripped naked, sexually humiliated, chained to the floor, and left to defecate on themselves. These and other practices like "waterboarding" (in which a detainee is made to feel as if he is being drowned) may or may not meet the technical definition of torture, but no one denies that these practices are cruel, inhuman, and degrading.

Today, the practical application of that question is whether the President should fight the efforts of a group of Republican senators, led by John McCain, who has introduced amendments to a defense bill that would outlaw such abuse. Two weeks ago, the Senate passed the McCain amendment, but whether it is put into place will be determined by the conference committee charged with resolving differences between the Senate and House defense bills.

Recent survey results from the Pew Research Center indicated that, in rating the importance of Supreme Court issues, the treatment of terrorist detainees is a close second only to abortion on the list of concerns of evangelical and Catholic voters. Where, then, are the robust voices of theological reflection and moral reasoning that we have come to expect in these debates?

While the President may have ruled out torture, the administration is currently reserving the right to treat some of its detainees with "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment." The U.S. government is a signatory to an international treaty that bars such treatment, but the administration has maintained that such standards only apply to detainees held on U.S. soil. In fact, since April 16, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has explicitly authorized interrogation techniques that constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

How ought the President, as a man of faith and moral conviction, think through the ethical questions posed by these practices? In shaping practical answers, the President should be able to draw upon the serious theological reflections of leaders from his religious base.

Gary A. Haugen is President of International Justice Mission (IJM), a human rights agency that rescues victims of illegal detention, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression around the world.


Estonians Break Ground, Vote Online

Washington Post

Tuesday 18 October 2005, 12:03 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jari Tanner, The Associated Press

TALLINN, Estonia -- This tiny former Soviet republic nicknamed "e-Stonia" because of its tech-savvy population is breaking new ground in digital democracy. This week, Estonia became the first country in the world to hold an election allowing voters nationwide to cast ballots over the Internet.

Thousands of people voted online in Democratic primaries in Arizona in 2000 and Michigan in 2004. The city of Geneva, Switzerland, has held several online referendums, the first in January 2003. But Estonia is the first to extend it to voters nationwide, experts said.

Estonia has the most advanced information infrastructure of any formerly communist eastern European state. It gave the Linux-based voting system a trial run in January, when about 600 people voted online in a referendum in the capital, Tallinn. The plan is to allow online voting in the next parliamentary elections in 2007.

To cast an online ballot, voters need a special ID card, a $24 device that reads the card and a computer with Internet access. Some 80 percent of Estonian voters have the ID cards, which have been used since 2002 for online access to bank accounts and tax records.

In the United States, the Pentagon canceled an Internet voting plan for military and overseas citizens in 2004 because of security concerns. Plans for large-scale voting in Britain have also been dropped.


What A Relief

Monday 17 October 2005, 8:20 pm
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

CityTeam came to our church, Calvary Chapel of San Jose, to talk about opportunities for volunteers to do relief work on the Gulf coast. One of our members, Don Schottman, had already been to Mississippi even before CityTeam gave their presentation. Mary said she wanted to go. Now that she is no longer working, we both have the free time to do this. We had considered spending this autumn in New England, the winter in Arizona, and the spring in Italy, but God has other plans for us, for the autumn, anyway.

Debra Reyes of CityTeam was happy to talk to us this afternoon. In addition to Don, CCSJ members Joe Smith and his wife have also gone to Mississippi. CityTeam has ongoing relief efforts in both Mississippi and Louisiana, but right now they are mostly sending people to Mississippi.

They put Don to work putting on a roof, but I think that building has been finished and most of the "heavy lifting" is done. Right now it seems they are working mostly on light construction, fixing the building interiors, cleaning up, feeding the homeless, and helping people find their families, which requires some computer skills. But we're willing to help out however we can.

Because of other activities, we were trying to position our window between November 16 and January 20, hopefully not right at Christmas. (Mary's brother Robert Boston is a missionary to Paraguay but home on furlough until February, and we want to spend as much time with his family as possible.)

But because of conflicts trying to get all our families together at Thanksgiving, we told Debra that we would be available then. She was very happy because it is apparently difficult to find volunteers during that period.

We will attend a training meeting for two hours the evening of Tuesday, October 25. These training meetings are open to all, and if you're thinking you might like to be involved in this work, you are welcome to come by the meeting as a drop-in. It's the best way to get the whole scoop about everything that's happening. In fact, Mary and I still know very little about what we're getting ourselves in for, and we'll remain ignorant until the Tuesday meeting.

Debra advised us to get shots, Hepatitis A/B and Tetanus TD. She says some also get Typhoid, but we don't know why. We have already called our doctor and we can get these shots as walk-ins at his clinic. We plan to do that right away tomorrow morning.

It costs CityTeam $1500 to send one person to Mississippi for two weeks. We are not required to pay the $3000 for our own passage. But the money does come from donations. We can probably afford to make a donation to help pay our expenses, but not everyone can. We don't need your money since this isn't costing us anything. But your donation might make it possible for some other volunteer to go.

We really appreciate your prayers!

CityTeam has a web page about their hurricane relief efforts:

CityTeam San jose has a powerful ministry to the homeless:

Calvary Chapel San Jose is sending help to hurricane victims through Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain in Georgia which is coordinating relief efforts on behalf of Calvary Chapels.

Floor It

Monday 17 October 2005, 7:46 pm
(Link to this article alone)

We got a quote of $250 to "possibly" fix some small damage to our vinyl floor near the dishwasher, but the repairman never called back. Sigh. We also got a ballpark quote of $2500-3500 to replace our 200 square foot kitchen floor with anything else. Bah.

Well, after pricing out laminate flooring at Home Depot, Lowe's, and Costco, we found this place in Fremont, Universal Floor Covering at 4500 Automall Parkway near Fremont Blvd. We worked with a gentleman named Sam, and his number is 510-659-9553. He had some Armstrong brand laminate flooring for only $1.74 per square foot. The entire price including underlayment and tax came to less than $500. When we picked it up, we bought an extra couple of boxes with which we hope to later replace the hallway tile as well.

Mary found this web page that shows how to install an Armstrong laminate floor:

She also found this page that shows how to remove a ceramic tile floor, possibly the hardest part of the process, but something we will save until later anyway:

Mary's brother-in-law Jerry Bacho installed a floating hardwood floor when they remodeled last winter. There are some big differences between hardwood and laminate, mostly when it comes to cutting, but the preparation is the same and the installation procedures are similar. I'm sure he will be big help to us when we start this project. Jerry? Jerry? Where are you?

The nice guy in the "Tool Corral" at OSH found us the proper circular saw blade for cutting laminate. It takes a little searching to find the right one.

Self Storage

Monday 17 October 2005, 7:14 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics
(Link to this article alone)

I bought a Powerbook G4 in July, but eventually its 40 GB drive became too confining. This is due to 12 GB of MP3 sermons on the drive, 11 GB of audio in AIFF format that I have recorded myself at round dances, and over 1 GB of photographs from the Vacation Bible School in August. (Note that the system itself takes up 5 GB, and my Applications folder account for 3 GB more. And the 40 GB drive really holds only about 37 GB.)

The sermons are files I brought home from church with the promise that eventually I would edit and downsample them to allow their posting on the CCSJ web site.

Recording audio at round dances was one of the main reasons I bought the thing. Previously, I had been recording to mini disk. But this method required me to play the entire dance again in real time at home if I wanted to copy it to a CD or convert it to MP3. The portable mini disc recorder/players do not allow fast digital audio out. Even the true digital optical input can accept data only in real time.

Anyway, while at Fry's on another errand, I found a 100 GB Seagate drive for only $179. Installing it myself was an adventure. I'd heard that installation in the Titatium Powerbooks was pretty simple, but installation in the Aluminum Powerbooks was Fear Factor fodder.

A brief searched turned up this detailed instruction page:

Note in particular Page 6, which requires the removal of 14 screws of five different types. Also note that two of the screws require a Torx T6 driver to remove. A quick trip to OSH yielded the proper tool, and the young gentleman in the "Tool Corral" was well acquianted with the tools required for both computer disassembly and laminate floor installation (see separate article elsewhere). The hardest part of disassembly was the last picture on Page 7, removing the upper case, because something was catching on the front just to the left of the latch. I tried to bend the rest of the upper case forward, but this only made things worse. Eventually I bent it back down as far as possible, and it came unstuck.

These instructions cover disassembly but not re-assembly. Presumably one can undo everything in reverse order. Since I'm a bit of a klutz, I found it easiest to use a pile of identical plastic boxes to store the screws as they were removed. I put only one type of screw in each box, and I stacked up the boxes in order as I went along. When it came time to re-assemble, the first screws I needed were in the top box. The hardest part about re-assembly was the three battery compartment screws on Page 5, because it is not possible to position the screwdriver perpendicular to the surface. Thus the screws wanted to go in a little crooked.

Even though I'd used Carbon Copy Cloner and CpMac -r -p to copy the contents of one drive to the other, the computer would not boot from the new drive after I installed it inside the case. I fixed this by installing 10.3.3 from the DVD, and then applying the 10.3.9 combo updater. Of course, the nastiest part of this sort of update is adding all the security patches and application updates, about one-third of which require reboots.

It's all done now, the PB is humming along, and I can add one more Mac to the list of those whose warranties I've voided with a Torx driver.

Mortgage deduction on block?

San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday 13 October 2005, 2:52 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Kathleen Pender

President Bush's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform is likely to propose next week a change in the deduction for home-mortgage interest that, if adopted by Congress, would have a drastic impact on the Bay Area and other regions with high housing prices.

Today, a married couple filing jointly can deduct interest on up to $1 million in mortgage debt. In a meeting Tuesday, the panel agreed to recommend lowering that limit, perhaps to the maximum mortgage that can be guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA limit varies by region, but in the Bay Area and most of coastal California is $312,895.

Such a plan is not likely to pass Congress, but it could spark interest in changing the hallowed mortgage-interest deduction.

"I think it's dead on arrival," says Ken Rosen, professor of real estate and urban economics at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. "It's very biased against California and New York and favorable to Texas." The FHA loan limit throughout Texas is $172,632. That's more than enough to buy a median-priced home in Houston ($142,500) or Dallas ($149,100), according to the Realtors Association.


New SMS Translation of the Bible

Wednesday 12 October 2005, 11:54 am
Keywords: Humor , Christian Topics , Computer Topics
(Link to this article alone)

The world's most famous book, which has been translated into more languages than any other publication, is now available in the world's most modern form of communication, SMS or text.

The idea, believed to be a world first, has come from the Bible Society in Australia which translated all 31,173 verses of the Bible into text.

It took just one person about four weeks to convert the entire new and old testaments to text.

The society used the Contemporary English Version and remained faithful to the grammar, changing just the spelling of the words.


In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth. (Genesis 1)

God luvd da ppl of dis wrld so much dat he gave his only Son, so dat evry1 who has faith in him will have eternal life & neva really die. (John 3:16)

U, Lord, r my shepherd. I will neva be in need. U let me rest in fields of green grass. U lead me 2 streams of peaceful water. (Psalm 23)



Jubilee at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose

Tuesday 11 October 2005, 6:19 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

The Santa Clara Valley Square Dance Association (SCVSDA) hosts its annual Jubilee on October 14-16, 2005, at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose.

The dance features a wide variety of programs and activities including Plus, Advanced, Challenge, Rounds, Clogging, Beginners, Handicapable, Youth, afterparties, and a barbeque.

The main program includes a full time Plus hall, a full time Advanced hall with both A1 and A2, and a full time Challenge hall with dancing from C1 through C3.

There will also be several "intro" sessions, some novel. The Plus hall hosts an "Intro to Advanced," the Advanced hall hosts an "Intro to Challenge", and the Challenge hall hosts an "Intro to C2" session. None of these is unusual. But a new feature of this year's program will be the "Intro to Square Dancing" session for non-dancers on Friday evening, the "Blast Class" session for non-dancers all day Sunday, and the class-level session on Saturday night for those taking a class but not yet graduated.

The featured callers are Don Nordbye and John Saunders. Local callers include Roger Smith, Jim Osborne, Harold Fleeman, John Sybalsky, Robert Algea, Bob Elling, Pete Herman, Ken Carroll, Keith Ferguson, CJ Smith, John Bowman, and Eric Henerlau. Chuck and Shirley Hurst will cue rounds, and they will teach a round dance on Saturday morning.

The Jubilee web page is here:

And a list of opportunities for newer dancers is here:

The Internet didn't kill the library card

San Francisco Chronicle

Tuesday 4 October 2005, 10:00 am
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By C.W. Nevius

In the past five years, despite the overwhelming presence of the Internet, libraries are experiencing record attendance.

The new library is a sprawling, open, friendly place where people go to surf the Web on a Wi-Fi connection, sip a latte and check out a movie. There are still books, of course, but nationally the most popular items to be checked out of libraries are DVDs.

New libraries like Santa Clara's Central Park or Livermore's new Civic Center Library have gathering rooms for groups, coffee shops and loads of computers.

And the Internet? It turns out to be the library's best friend. Visitors use the library computers, and seniors come to learn computer skills in workshops and classes. So was everyone wrong about the threat of the Internet? Wouldn't be the first time.

Librarian Cindy Brittain keeps a copy of a news story at her desk. It details the concern that television is going to be the end of libraries. It is dated 1953.


Square Dancing By The Numbers, Part 3

Friday 30 September 2005, 11:48 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

I bid $11 on this Ebay auction earlier today:

Ha! The auction ended at over $140. This lot included the book that started it all. No, not Pappy Shaw's Cowboy Dances, but Henry Ford's Good Morning. It also includes Dance A While, another highly-sought book that is still being published in its 9th edition, and is the classic intended for public school teachers who want to teach square dancing to their students. (Remember those good old days?)

Good Morning is available in a number of editions and a wide range of prices on Amazon.com.

So is Dance A While.

I wish the demand for old books like this translated into a burgeoning interest in square dancing. But I fear it mostly translates into my paying very high prices for old square dance books.

8000 cue sheets and counting

Friday 30 September 2005, 11:37 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

The cue sheet database now has over 8000 cue sheets cataloged. The most recent addition was about 150 cue sheets from the Idaho web site.


Square Hoppers

Wednesday 28 September 2005, 1:12 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

The Square Hoppers square dance club was started in 1959. They will be celebrating their 46th anniversary with their annual Apple Pie Hoedown on Saturday, October 1, 2005. The dance will take place at John Muir School on Branham Lane in San Jose. Club caller Larry Davenport will call the squares, and Wendy-Jean Iannico will cue the rounds.

The club was started in 1959 as an IBM club with Bill Peters as caller. He gave this club its name, and called for 28 years. Ken Kenmille, the second caller, was with the club 12 years. Larry Davenport is has been the club caller since 2000.

The club presently has about four squares that dance on Thursday evenings in Los Gatos. They run a beginners class every year. September 29, 2005 is the 3rd night of introductory classes for the 2005-2006 season. The class is open to couples and singles. It runs from 7:00 PM to 8:30 pm. Then the club dances the full Plus level until 10:00 pm.

In addition to the Apple Pie Hoedown, the club also has an annual picnic and a Christmas dinner each year.

Square Hoppers has a web site:

Christian rockers risk wrath of DMCA with DRM tips

The Register

Saturday 24 September 2005, 10:40 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Team Register

The bassist of Switchfoot is teaching fans how to disable the copy protection measures in the San Diego rock band's own CDs, presumably upsetting Sony and perhaps unwittingly testing the anti-circumvention rules of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Tim Foreman, brother of lead singer Jon, has taken exception to the Digital Rights Management software that appears on the platinum-selling Christian band's latest release, Nothing Is Sound.

"My heart is heavy with this whole copy-protection thing," he wrote on the band's website last week after it came to his attention that fans were having problems importing the band's latest songs from CD to iTunes. So he posted full instructions for disabling the DRM that accompanies the CD, including a link to an open source program that helps to rip CDs.



Desmond Tutu's advice for a long marriage

Monday 19 September 2005, 1:03 pm
(Link to this article alone)

Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa, appeared on the Charlie Rose show today. (It may have been a tape from some time in the past.)

Desmond Tutu just celebrated his golden wedding anniversary. Rose asked whether he had ever considered divorce. Tutu replied with the classic line, "Divorce, never. Murder ... many times."

But when asked seriously his advice for establishing a long-lasting marriage, the Archbishop had this simple advice: Learn to say "Please." "Thank you." "You are beautiful." "I'm sorry."

Mark's advice for newlyweds

Monday 19 September 2005, 1:00 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one;
because they have a good reward for their labor.

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow.
But woe to him that is alone when he falls;
and there is not another to help him up.

Also, if two lie together, then they have warmth;
but how can one be warm alone?

And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him;
and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Two are better together if they lift one another up when they fall. But if they do not help each other, but pick at each other instead of lifting each other up, then their lives will be bitter.

Even better than a marriage of two is a marriage of three. A marriage in today's world will be constantly under attack by the media and the so-called norms of society. Don't be deceived by false views of marriage, romance, manhood, or womanhood as presented by Playboy, HBO, movies, the New York Times op-ed page, or radical feminism. When your marriage is under attack, it needs to hold together like a rope made of three strands braided together. The third strand is Jesus. When Jesus remains an integral part of your marriage, it cannot fail.

The only way for a marriage to work is if the husband lives to serve his wife and if the wife lives to serve her husband. Ephesians 5 is the "marriage submission passage" we all love to hate. In most basic terms, the scripture simply means that the wife should love and serve her husband the same way the church loves and serves Jesus, and the husband should love and serve his wife the same way Jesus loves and serves the church. There is no difference. Jesus gave everything, his very life, to save the world. In response, the faithful give everything to serve Jesus. In the same way, the husband and wife must give up everything in order for their marriage to work over the long run.

Congratulations to Aaron and Sherrelle

Monday 19 September 2005, 12:36 pm
(Link to this article alone)

My stepson Aaron Rogers married Sherrell-Lee McCuin on Friday, September 17, 2005. The wedding and reception were held at the Los Gatos Opera House, and 150 of their friends and family were in attendance.

We all wish them a long and happy marriage!

The newlyweds are now on a cruise ship heading for tropical storm Rita. So we also wish them safety!

Religious scholar Huston Smith talks about Christianity and why religion matters today

San Francisco Chronicle

Monday 19 September 2005, 10:42 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

You grew up in China, where your parents were Methodist missionaries. How did that affect your spiritual life?

Well, you know, I grew up in a functional nuclear family. We were the only Americans in our area. So, I absorbed [my faith], as the Romans used to say, cum lacte, with the mother's milk.

William James makes an important distinction between "the once-born" and "the twice-born." And I'm the once-born, because I just grew up with this religion. I can't say it was in my genes. No. But it was in my nurturance from the very beginning, so it's hard to target a moment when I first became aware of it.

One of the many hot-button issues dividing scientists and religious people is the debate over evolution and so-called intelligent design. What's your take on this controversy?

Science has given us the fossil record, which shows that it took three and a half billion years for life to evolve to our level. The writer George Will -- I don't agree with his politics, but he said something that was right on. He said that six-day creationism is not only nonsense -- it's nonsense on stilts!

However, you are never going to explain in a laboratory what it is we call the divine spark, which every religion has described. You will never get a sense of our divinity, of the image of God. These things cannot be explained by natural selection or chance mutations. For that you need to turn to religion.

You've written that politicians, particularly those on the far right, have hijacked Christianity for their own means. Why do you think that's happening now?

Honestly, I think it has something to do with greed. You can cushion it any way you want, but the present administration is guilty of rewarding greed with all of its tax rebates and so on.

Genuine religion is about generosity. And greed, when it takes over -- and I speak metaphorically here -- is an indication that we have fallen into the temptation of the devil. The devil wants us to be greedy.

Many people today feel disconnected from organized religion. So they're going their own way, blazing their own spiritual paths. What do you think about that trend?

It's probably better than nothing, but not much. Another phrase for it is "cafeteria-style spirituality." You go to the cafeteria, and normally most people choose what they like.

Do they choose what is good for them? Do they put that above what they like? Well, most people do not. There is also a problem that often we don't know what is good for us.


Club of the week: Stanford Quads

Saturday 17 September 2005, 6:45 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing , Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

by Mark Brautigam

I learned to dance at a small Mainstream-level club in south San Jose. When it came time that I should learn Plus, someone in that club suggested I should try Stanford Quads. This was a club where I could not only learn Plus, but I could re-learn everything from an APD perspective. (APD stands for All Position Dancing, a mode of dancing that allows a larger repertoire of dancing formations.)

When I started at Quads in the fall of 1986, they held three introductory nights on the deck outside the student union on the Stanford campus. It was fun dancing on the cement outside, dragging unsuspecting passers-by into the squares. After the intro nights, the club danced in the Old Student Union ballroom, a wonderful room with space for about ten squares on a wood floor, barre along the side walls and mirrors on the back wall. There was also a back room with couches where dancers could relax between tips.

Quads was always a peculiar club. Their classes included many students and even some faculty. Square dance attire was never required. Early on, the club always had more men than women in attendance. This required (or allowed) men to practice dancing as women. Of course, it wouldn't be fair if women couldn't therefore also dance as men. While caller John Sybalsky faithfully taught all his classes from an APD point of view, the ability of dancers to freely swap gender roles allowed reinforcement of the principles of APD.

Many challenge-level dancers enjoyed dancing at Quads. John almost always called multiple star tips after the Plus dance, especially during the summer after the beginner class had already graduated. Star tips frequently included A1, A2, C1, and C2. On rare occasions higher-level dancers would attend, and there might be C3 or C4 star tips. I recall one occasion during my first year at Quads that a large group of strangers showed up. They wore matching t-shirts with a spiral of stars, an arrow, and a sign saying "You are here." I called them the Space People. I quickly learned that they were great dancers and they could fix any problem in my square. Years later I learned that they were C4 dancers attending an annual C4 dance nearby.

Many of the bay area's best challenge-level dancers have had some association with Stanford Quads, either having started dancing there, or having practiced advanced and challenge dancing at the star tips there.

After John Sybalsky moved here from Massachusetts around 1980, he started Stanford Quads as a club modeled after the already-successful Tech Squares of MIT. John was already a notable C4 caller who had taught a series of C3 classes before moving to the west coast. The club hosted two beginner classes during the 1983-1984 season, and has hosted a beginner class every fall since then. The class of 2005-2006 will be 24th class. John is a thorough but patient teacher who makes sure the class members are more than well prepared for the "real world" of Plus hoedowns.

Stanford Quads had to move off the Stanford campus after the earthquake of 1989 damaged the Old Union building. Since early 1990, they've been dancing at Fairmeadow School, near East Meadow and Middlefield in Palo Alto.

In 1996, cuer John Flora started teaching and cueing rounds at Quads. After seeing the early days of jeans and t-shirts, bare feet, and cross-sex dancing, round dancing seemed an unlikely direction for the club to take. But club members took to round dancing with the same enthusiasm they had for square dancing, and soon almost everyone had learned.

The highlight of the year for Quads members is the annual hoedown, which used to take place in early June right after class graduation, but now takes place in late September just before new beginner classes start. This year's hoedown takes place September 24, 2005, at St. Andrews Methodist Church on Alma Street in Palo Alto. A fun feature of the Quads hoedown is the full hour of star tips at the end. Even if you don't dance the higher levels, they can be fun to watch. Star tips start at A1 and continue up the levels until there are not enough dancers to field a square. As far as I recall, there has been only one year that failed to field a C4 square. Of course, the hoedown now also includes John Flora cueing pre-rounds and rounds between tips.

Stanford Quads has a web page here:

There is more club history here:

There is a hoedown flier (PDF) here:
pdf http://www.mixed-up.com/quads/quads-hoedown-05.pdf

New beginner classes start October 2, 2005. There is a class flier (PDF) here:
pdf http://www.mixed-up.com/quads/quads_flyer_2005-1.pdf

Groom, Family Jailed After Melee


Friday 16 September 2005, 11:24 am
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

New York

A groom spent his wedding night in jail with his father, his brother his father-in-law and seven other members of his wedding party after the group allegedly brawled with another bridal party and police, according to a published report.

The altercation reportedly began with a case of mistaken identity. A member of the second wedding party confronted Fortunato's best man, believing him to be a wedding photographer, who had absconded. The best man allegedly responded with force sparking a bench-clearer.

"Everybody's fighting everybody," White Plains police spokesman Martin Gleeson told the Daily News. "And both brides are kind of walking around helpless like, 'This is my wedding? I can't believe this is happening!'"


They just want to talk on the phone

USA Today

Tuesday 6 September 2005, 11:46 am
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Michelle Kessler, USA TODAY

"People are not really flocking to phones with new features," says David Chamberlain, a mobile phone analyst with In-Stat. "They just want to talk on the phone."

A recent In-Stat survey showed relatively little interest in new phone add-ons, such as video. Since most people upgrade their phone about every two years, they're looking for an easy-to-use device — not a pricey all-in-one, equity analyst Albert Lin says.

Still, cell phone companies persist with fancy phones.


Square Dancers for Katrina

Tuesday 6 September 2005, 12:45 am
Keywords: Katrina Hurricane Relief , Square Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

by Tony Oxendine

It is time for square dancers world wide to unite. Together, we can make a difference. Over the years, square dancers have shown themselves to be some of the most caring people in the world.

Our goal is to send a check and truckloads of supplies to the affected areas on October 3, 2005. We will be in contact with FEMA to find out exactly where to deliver everything, and to determine what organization(s) to give the monies collected. Our goal is to send at least one semi-truck full of supplies and to hand over a check for ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

We will be updating the website www.squaredancers4katrina.org on a daily basis to keep everyone abreast of our progress. Please check the site often. We need to get the word out quickly to as many square dancers worldwide as we possible can. If you have a website, please post a prominent link to ours on your page. If possible, send this letter out to any friends you have on the internet.



Tuesday 30 August 2005, 11:05 pm
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

God Behind Barbed Wire

Christianity Today

Tuesday 30 August 2005, 10:12 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Philip Yancey

Jürgen Moltmann was planning on a career in quantum physics until he was drafted at age 18 at the height of the Second World War. Assigned to anti-aircraft batteries in Hamburg, he saw compatriots incinerated in the fire-bombings there. The question "Why did I survive?" haunted him.

Moltmann felt an inconsolable grief about life, "weighed down by the somber burden of a guilt which could never be paid off."

After surrendering to the British, the young soldier spent the next three years in prison camps in Belgium, Scotland, and England. An American chaplain gave him an Army-issue New Testament and Psalms. "If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there." As he read on, Moltmann found words that perfectly captured his feelings of desolation. He became convinced that God "was present even behind the barbed wire — no, most of all behind the barbed wire."

Upon release, Moltmann began to articulate his theology of hope. Through all of Moltmann's dense theological works run two themes: God's presence with us in our suffering and God's promise of a perfected future. If Jesus had lived in Europe during the Third Reich, Moltmann noted, he likely would have been branded like other Jews and shipped to the gas chambers. In Jesus, we have definitive proof that God suffers with us, as Moltmann explains in The Crucified God.

"God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him."


Mother Teresa: The joy of serving God

Christianity Today

Tuesday 30 August 2005, 12:38 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Ruth A. Tucker

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Albania in 1910. Her father was a businessman whose death when she was 9 years old left the family in difficult financial circumstances. But their faith sustained them. With her mother and brother and sister, Agnes attended church every day, and she sang in the church choir. Her widowed mother, though nearly destitute herself, volunteered in the neighborhood, caring for an invalid alcoholic woman and later taking six orphaned children into her own home. It was a model of servanthood that did not go unnoticed by young Agnes.

At age 12, Agnes sensed God calling her to his service, but she struggled with how she could know for certain. She prayed and talked with her mother and sister, but she had no real peace. Then she talked with her Father confessor. "How can I be sure?" she asked. He answered, "Through your joy. If you feel really happy by the idea that God might call you to serve him, then this is the evidence that you have a call. The deep inner joy that you feel is the compass that indicates your direction in life."

"By blood and origin, I am all Albanian.
My citizenship is Indian. I am a Catholic nun.
As to my calling, I belong to the whole world.
As to my heart, I belong entirely to Jesus." — Mother Teresa


Why Men Hate Going to Church

Mississippi Clarion-Ledger

Tuesday 30 August 2005, 11:58 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jean Gordon

Men lead most Christian churches, but observers agree it's the women who dominate the flocks. Though theories about the church gender gap have longed blamed men for their spiritual apathy, a new book finds another force driving men away from church: the church itself.

"The church is like a white cake with chocolate frosting," said David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nelson Books, $13.99). "If you look at the icing, it's male dominated. But if you plunge below, it's feminine all the way."

With its easy listening music, pastel-hued decor and an emphasis on comfort and nurturing, Murrow said modern church culture fails men craving a challenge.

A man's project-oriented, outdoorsy nature is not conducive to passively sitting through a worship service or volunteering to lead a children's ministry.

And beyond excuses ranging from boredom to lack of time to an aversion to being asked for money, Murrow said men stay away from church because their skeptical natures resist taking a leap of faith.

"Men like to question and answer and give and take," he said. "The church's style of lecturing is not as conducive to spiritual growth."

Churches that do the best job of attracting men, Murrow said, are mission-focused evangelical congregations.

"There's an element of risk there," he said. "It's more risky to go on a foreign mission trip than to volunteer at a soup kitchen."


Square Dance History in the U.S.

Monday 29 August 2005, 3:44 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

The square dance is an American institution. It began in New England when the first settlers and the immigrant groups that followed, brought with them their various national dances, which we now call folk dances, but which were the popular dances of the day in the countries of their origin - the schottische, the quadrille, the jigs and reels and the minuet, to name a few. After a week of toil in building new homes and carving homes out of virgin forest, the settlers would gather in the community center on Saturday evening and enjoy dancing their old-world favorites.


Berlin Square Dancers Do-Si-Do to 'YMCA' (1998)

Christian Science Monitor (1998)

Monday 29 August 2005, 3:43 pm
Keywords: Square Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

by Mary Beth Warner

The normal quiet of a Sunday spring evening in the German capital was broken recently by all the whooping and hollering down at the White Rose recreation center. Lofting from the basement windows are calls of "yee-hah" and "do-si-do," as dozens of feet slide across the parquet floor. Due to the cramped, temporary quarters, the 30-odd T-shirt and jeans-clad dancers aren't outfitted in their traditional garb, including full petticoats for the women and Western-style shirts with bolo ties for the men. About 100 people in all belong to the Berlin Swinging Bears, just one of the city's nearly dozen square dance clubs.

Square dancing was brought to Germany and other European countries by American military personnel after World War II. At first, Germans could only go to dances on US bases if they were invited by local servicemen or women. As its popularity grew, Germans began forming their own clubs.


Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science

New York Times

Monday 29 August 2005, 11:32 am
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Can you be a good scientist and believe in God?

Disdain for religion is far from universal among scientists. And today, as religious groups challenge scientists in arenas as various as evolution in the classroom, AIDS prevention and stem cell research, scientists who embrace religion are beginning to speak out about their faith.

"It should not be a taboo subject, but frankly it often is in scientific circles," said Francis S. Collins, who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute and who speaks freely about his Christian faith.

According to a much-discussed survey reported in the journal Nature in 1997, 40 percent of biologists, physicists and mathematicians said they believed in God - and not just a nonspecific transcendental presence but, as the survey put it, a God to whom one may pray "in expectation of receiving an answer."

The survey, by Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia, was intended to replicate one conducted in 1914, and the results were virtually unchanged. In both cases, participants were drawn from a directory of American scientists.


Square Dance ABC

Sunday 21 August 2005, 9:25 am
Keywords: Square Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Square Dance ABC is an introduction to today's square dancing.

Enjoy three fun, easy beginner square dances with no experience necessary.

The A, B, and C dances can be experienced in any order. (This is the main difference between Square Dance ABC and traditional "lesson-based" approaches. You can do the three beginner dances in any order.)

New dancers can start Square Dance ABC at any time (and all the time)!

After attending the individual A, B and C dances, dancers have learned 22 square dance calls. The next step is the combined "ABC" dance featuring the 22 calls. New dancers and their friends can join Square Dance ABC at any time by dancing the individual A, B and C dances in any order. Square Dance ABC spells an easy way for people to try square dancing at any time, with little or no commitment but with lots of opportunity for Fun, Fitness and Friends!

Rio Grande Valley Callers Association

Doug Bennett
Larry Letson
Darryl Lipscomb
Joe Saltel
Nasser Shukayr
Jerry Story


Starlite Stumblers

Sunday 21 August 2005, 8:42 am
Keywords: Humor , News Articles , Square Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

By George V. Schubel

It all started at the New Dancer dance hosted by the new dancer class of the Starlite Shufflers’ square dance club of Sacramento, California. Three club members (Joyce, Sharon and Betty) asked my wife Patty and I if we would like to join the Starlite Shufflers’ comedy demonstration team, the Starlite Stumblers. I knew they wore a big sack over their heads and it was sure to be hot in there. I get very hot when I dance even without a sack over my head. In fact I think most of the club members knew me as the new guy who always fans himself before they even knew my name.

To get ready for out first performance we would have five Sunday afternoon practice sessions. The first two would be in regular street clothes; the next practice would add the swim flippers. Then there would be one with the sack over my head and the flippers and the last practice would be in full costume with the sack, the jacket with the fake stuffed arms and of course the swim flippers. The large burlap sack had a face on it and the costume made you look like you were 4 feet tall.

Roy and Evelyn, past Stumblers, gave us a beautiful set of matching costumes. I could not resist trying mine on in my house. On went the flippers; over my head went the comic sack head. Inside the sack I held onto the plastic pipe that held up the sack. Patty fastened the fancy jacket with the great false arms around my waist. I tried to walk around in the house, but right off I stepped on the dog and banged into the walls a few times. No doubt about it, I was getting the hang of this. This will be a piece of cake.


Median county home price slips

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 17 August 2005, 11:26 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Margaret Steen, Mercury News

The median price of a single-family home in Santa Clara County declined slightly in July, falling to $700,000 from $705,000 in June, according to DataQuick Information Systems, which gathers data from public records of completed sales. It was the first monthly decline in a year.

Still, it's not clear whether the drop means the market has reached its peak or merely has entered a normal summer slowdown. Prices also declined slightly from June to July 2004, then zoomed to record highs.

The volume of sales also declined: 1,887 single-family homes were sold in the county in July, down from 2,175 the previous month. The sales numbers also were down from July of last year, when 2,045 houses were sold. Nonetheless, last month tied for the third busiest July in the 18 years DataQuick has collected real estate information.


Housing market dips a bit

San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday 17 August 2005, 11:13 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer

The torrid Bay Area housing market hit the pause button in July, with sales falling nearly 11 percent and prices dipping below record territory for the first time this year, a real estate information firm reported Tuesday.

The median price for a single-family home in the nine counties last month was $643,000, nearly 18 percent above the year-ago median, but just shy of the June peak of $644,000, according to DataQuick in La Jolla.

The number of properties that changed hands in July dropped 11.9 percent from June and 10.8 percent from July 2004.

For the last few years, economists have fretted that the Bay Area and other high-priced housing markets represent bubbles on the verge of popping -- in the worst-case scenario -- or at least leaking some air.


A Band Called Sleep Drove Me Away

Tuesday 16 August 2005, 8:57 pm
(Link to this article alone)

I was shopping at one of my favorite record stores today, Streetlight Records on Bascom Avenue. I was shopping for folk and Christian albums - bought one each by Steve Fry, Phil Keaggy, John Gorka, and Chuck Brodsky.

The whole time I was there, they were playing some obnoxious album cut that lasted a long time. I told them that perhaps they should consider that some customers might leave the store in a hurry just to get away from the obnoxious music. The clerk told me that each employee gets to choose something to play, and their only reason for not playing any particular cut might be if it contained profanity.

I asked what was playing, and he told me it was "A Band Called Sleep." I looked them up when I got home, and I found this on the All Music Guide:


Perhaps the ultimate stoner rock band, Northern California trio Sleep's career wafted in and out of focus from within their self-mandated cloud of marijuana smoke. In their short time together, the group issued some of the heaviest, most uncompromising doom metal albums ever recorded, leaving a legend far exceeding the actual volume of their output.Formed in the late 80's in San Jose, California by ...

I think it was this album, 52 minutes of one song: Jerusalem

Perhaps Streetlight might want to keep their customers in mind when they program this music. Streetlight has always provided music that the employees want to listen to, but it's the customers who pay the bills.

Wheaton College lifts 143-year dance ban (2003)


Thursday 11 August 2005, 2:17 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles , Square Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Wheaton College is a Christian school that had not allowed social dancing since the war.

The Civil War.

For generations, students were barred from dancing -- on campus or off -- unless it was with members of the same sex or a square dance. It was not until the 1990s that students and faculty were permitted to dance with spouses or relatives at family events such as weddings.

Nine months ago, the school lifted the ban altogether, freeing students to cut the rug on campus or off, at Chicago clubs or other places. Under the new set of rules, called the Community Covenant, students may dance, but should avoid behavior "which may be immodest, sinfully erotic or harmfully violent."

Judging by what happened at a recent dance in the gym, meeting those criteria will not be a problem. There was no slithering going on, only students, some about as rigid as rakes, watching their feet as they tried to master some basic steps.

"They had a lot of fun, but they kind of approached it from almost an academic standpoint," said Rich Nickel, a local dance instructor who helped get the students ready for the Rhythm Rockets' lineup, which will feature such standards as "Sentimental Journey" and "Sunny Side of the Street."

All of which led one parent to remark: "They MAY dance at Wheaton. Whether they CAN dance is another question."


Do-Si-Do Fitness (2001)

Web MD

Thursday 11 August 2005, 1:58 pm
Keywords: News Articles , Square Dancing , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By Denise Mann

With all its moving, twisting, and turning, square dancing provides more than the daily dose of heart- and bone-healthy physical activity. Remembering all the calls -- from "do-si-do" to 'alemand' -- keeps the mind sharp, potentially staving off age-related memory loss, experts say. And the companionship that regular square dancing offers is an antidote to depression and loneliness, a statement confirmed by square-dancing advocates everywhere.


Meet Evangelist Tony Campolo

The Progressive

Wednesday 10 August 2005, 5:40 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By John Oliver Mason, From the August 2005 Issue

An ordained Baptist minister, Tony Campolo overcame a heresy trial to preach social justice in the United States. Along with Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Ron Sider, the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, Campolo is trying to counter the forces of the religious right from within a church-based tradition.

"To be a Christian in today's world is to be opposed to America," he says. "Why? America believes in capital punishment, and Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ America says, ‘Blessed are the rich.’ Jesus said, ‘Woe unto you who are rich, blessed are the poor.’ America says, ‘Blessed are the powerful.’ Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ "

"It's about time we realized that Christianity is a call not to conservatism but to change," he says. "Jesus came to the world not to conserve the system as it was, but to change the world into what it ought to be. That's where I am, and that's where I want to be."



London News-Telegraph

Wednesday 10 August 2005, 5:05 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

The podcast is becoming the Godcast. In a phenomenon which has amazed the clergy, thousands of worshippers are using their iPods to listen to sermons.

While most people use their fashionable portable music players to download their favourite pop tunes from the internet, many are adding a spiritual element to their playlists.

Even the Vatican is catching up with the new trend. Its official radio station in Rome is now offering its own podcasts, and the latest features Pope Benedict XIV issuing a far from fashionable message - a critique of feminism.


A new church for gay believers

Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader

Wednesday 10 August 2005, 5:00 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Frank E. Lockwood, Herald-Leader Staff Writer

Jubilee Fellowship describes itself as Christ-centered, spirit-filled, Bible-based and open and affirming.

In other words, it's a Pentecostal-style, gay-friendly church, and it's coming to Lexington.

The Rev. Cori Wood, the new congregation's pastor, is a fervent, tongues-speaking, Scripture-quoting preacher.

She's also a lesbian.

Across America, small, predominantly gay Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are forming in Tampa, Fla.; Little Rock, Ark.; and San Jose, Calif.


Bostons in Paraguay

Monday 8 August 2005, 6:19 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics
(Link to this article alone)

(My brother in law and his family are missionaries in Paraguay. This is their latest newsletter.)

July 2005     

Actually, the Bostons are now in Sacramento, California. We arrived in Sacramento June 2 after leaving Paraguay on May 13.  We made a detour to Quito, Ecuador where Rebecca joined us to celebrate Pauls high school graduation, then we spent a week in Florida with Brenda’s mother.

Our goodbyes in Paraguay were bittersweet. For the two weeks prior to our leaving we had meals out every single day with our Paraguayan friends who we were saying goodbye to.  The highlight was a special 3 hour long service with participation from nearly every department in the church.   We left Paraguay feeling loved and honored. Our plan is to stay in California until March 15th of 2006 and then return to Paraguay to resume our ministries.  During our stay in California we will be speaking in churches, participating in Missions conferences, womens events and other activities where we have the opportunity to speak about Paraguay.  

Bob continues as Field director in Paraguay, doing the work long distance. Dan and Becky Klassen are interim pastors of the San Lorenzo church and Bob stays in touch with them and keeps up with news of all the CMA churches in Paraguay.  The Lambare church is experiencing great growth under the leadership of Jorge Bernardini accompanied by Chilean missionaries Edwin and Octavia Sotomayor and Debora Parada.  The Lambare church is quickly outgrowing its rented property and is looking to buy a place that will be permanent for them.  They are running over 150 on Sundays and recently hosted their first ladies tea with more than 100 ladies present. Join us in prayer for the future of this church.  

News from San Lorenzo is good.  The church recently participated in a city wide Franklin Graham campaign and followed up on the campaign with a dinner for new comers and a ladies tea at which 80 women were present and there were 10 decisions for Christ.  Dan and Becky Klassen are doing a good leading the church along with a leadership team.  Pray for Dan and Becky and daughter Emily, they were in Paraguay less than 4 months when we left them alone.  Pray also for Jorge, Nancy and Ignacio, our seminary students.

One of the highlights of being in the United States is that we have been able to speak on the phone with our new missionaries preparing to depart for Paraguay. Forest and Sarah Schell will be working with us to plant a new church on Mariscal Lopez near Asuncion, and J and Karen Spurling will work in the Asuncion church. We are encouraged that God is sending dynamic, talented people willing to work hard with us in Paraguay.   Currently they are participating in a language acquisition course and both couples, accompanied by Melanie Bagamary will depart for Costa Rica in August. They will spend a year in Costa Rica learning Spanish and then join us in Paraguay. Pray for all the transition and cultural and language learning these couples will experience.

On a more personal note, we are happy to be back in California and to be reunited with our children and extended family.  Rebecca graduated from Sacramento State University in May and has a full time at a public relations firm and a part time job doing public relations at the Mexican Cultural Center.   Paul has a part time summer job and is preparing to go to Azusa Pacific University in the fall.  When we are not out speaking at other churches, we attend Church of the Foothills in Cameron Park, California.  Many thanks to the folks from COTF and Trinity Alliance in Redding who helped us get settled in our home here in Sacramento.   

We would love to hear from you.  You can call us at (916) 362-3606.

Thank you for giving to the Great Commission Fund from which we receive our support.  


Bob and Brenda Boston
Missionaries of the Christian and Missionary Alliance
PO Box 35000
Colorado Springs, CO 80935-3500

The Alliance has a web site here: http://www.cmalliance.org/

And the Paraguay missionaries have information here:

More evidence for the end of a housing bubble

New York Times Op-Ed

Monday 8 August 2005, 2:55 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Paul Krugman

In the nation as a whole, housing prices rose about 50 percent between the first quarter of 2000 and the first quarter of 2005. But that average blends results from Flatland metropolitan areas like Houston and Atlanta, where prices rose 26 and 29 percent respectively, with results from Zoned Zone areas like New York, Miami and San Diego, where prices rose 77, 96 and 118 percent.

Business Week reports that by 2004 the cost of renting a house in San Diego was only 40 percent of the cost of owning a similar house - even taking into account low interest rates on mortgages. So it makes sense to buy in San Diego only if you believe that prices will keep rising rapidly, generating big capital gains. That's pretty much the definition of a bubble.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy has become deeply dependent on the housing bubble. The economic recovery since 2001 has been disappointing in many ways, but it wouldn't have happened at all without soaring spending on residential construction, plus a surge in consumer spending largely based on mortgage refinancing. Did I mention that the personal savings rate has fallen to zero?


14-month-old deaf twins get surgical implants to aid hearing

San Jose Mercury News

Wednesday 3 August 2005, 8:32 am
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By HongDao Nguyen, Mercury News

When Olivia and Tallulah Hogan entered the audiologist's office Tuesday morning, the girls could barely hear the roar of a motorcycle engine with a hearing aid. But the 14-month-old twins left the room with technology that will enable them to hear their mother's voice in another room.

The Los Gatos girls, deaf since birth, are among the youngest in the country to have "cochlear implants" surgically inserted in both ears at once. On Tuesday, an audiologist at the California Ear Institute in East Palo Alto activated the devices amid a roomful of hushed onlookers and family members.

Their implants are thin, oval-shaped devices, about the size of a fat peanut, placed behind the ear underneath the skin.

The implants work with half-dollar-size magnetic microphones the girls wear on the sides of their heads and processors they wear in their pockets like small iPods to convert sounds their inner ears can process.

Though cochlear implants have been around since the 1970s, it's only been in the last few years that implanting two instead of one has become more popular, said Lisa Tonokawa, an audiologist with the Let Them Hear Foundation, a non-profit affiliated with the California Ear Institute. Two implants give patients a better sense of where sound is coming from.


See also these other earlier stories:

Implants allow twins to hear for first time (Deaf Today, April 2003)

Twin infants hear at near normal levels for first time (The Leader, January 2005)

Bono gives an explicit confession of being saved by Grace, not Karma

World Magazine

Monday 1 August 2005, 3:13 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

by Gene Edward Veith

Is Bono, the lead singer and songwriter for the rock group U2, a Christian? He says he is and writes about Christianity in his lyrics. Yet many people question whether Bono is "really" a Christian, due to his notoriously bad language, liberal politics, and rock star antics (though he has been faithfully married for 23 years).

"It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma."


Feminists for Life

Christianity Today

Friday 29 July 2005, 1:01 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Feminists for Life sees itself as an extension of the first wave of American feminists who sought voting rights for women to, among other things, protect their children and pass anti-abortion legislation. "Without known exception, the early American feminists condemned abortion in the strongest possible terms," president Serrin Foster says in her anthologized speech, "The Feminist Case Against Abortion."

"The early feminists understood that, much like today, women resorted to abortion because they were abandoned or pressured by boyfriends, husbands, and parents and lacked financial resources to have a baby on their own.

"Ironically, the anti-abortion laws that early feminists worked so hard to enact to protect women and children were the very ones destroyed by the Roe v. Wade decision 100 years later—a decision hailed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) as the 'emancipation of women.'"

Feminists for Life builds upon the work of the early American feminists who found their feminist moorings in the Bible, says Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality. "Secular feminists often place their feminist convictions above the authority of Scripture. The early feminists were suffragists because they believed their Christian voice had an important place in the public square."


North Dakota man wins annual bad-writing contest

Associated Press

Friday 29 July 2005, 11:19 am
Keywords: Humor , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Her Chest Is Like A Carburetor

SAN FRANCISCO -- A man who compared a woman's anatomy to a carburetor won an annual contest that celebrates the worst writing in the English language.

Dan McKay, a computer analyst at Microsoft Great Plains in Fargo, N.D., bested thousands of entrants from North Pole, Alaska to Manchester, England to triumph Wednesday in San Jose State University's annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire," he wrote, comparing a woman's breasts to "small knurled caps of the oil dampeners."

The competition highlights literary achievements of the most dubious sort -- terrifyingly bad sentences that take their inspiration from minor writer Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" began, "It was a dark and stormy night."

"We want writers with a little talent, but no taste," San Jose State English Professor Scott Rice said. "And Dan's entry was just ludicrous."

McKay was is in China and could not be reached to comment about his status as a world-renowned wretched writer. He will receive $250.

Rice said the challenge began as a worst paragraph contest, but judges soon realized no one should have to wade through so much putrid prose -- such as this zinger, which took a dishonorable mention.

"The rising sun crawled over the ridge and slithered across the hot barren terrain into every nook and cranny like grease on a Denny's grill in the morning rush, but only until eleven o'clock when they switch to the lunch menu," wrote Lester Guyse, a retired fraud investigator in Portland, Ore.

"That was the least favorite of the five I entered, but you win any way you can," Guyse said.

Ken Aclin, of Shreveport, La., won the Grand Panjandrum's Award for his shocking similes and abusive use of adjectives. He wrote that India "hangs like a wet washcloth from the towel rack of Asia."

"I just saw that washcloth hanging in the shower and it looked like India," he said. "I'll be doggone."

On the Net: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

Gluten-Free Market Goes Mainstream

Yahoo News, AP

Thursday 28 July 2005, 9:50 am
Keywords: News Articles , Health Topics
(Link to this article alone)

By CANDICE CHOI, Associated Press Writer

Now manufacturers are rolling out gluten-free equivalents of everything from pizza crusts to doughnuts, buns and cakes. Once banished to the dusty bottom shelves of obscure grocers, the gluten-free revolution is surfacing in the aisles of major supermarkets.

At Wal-Mart, "gluten-free" products are hitting the shelves this month. The retailing giant is requiring suppliers to identify whenever gluten is used in its private-label products, said Bob Anderson, general merchandise manager of the company's Great Value brand.

What makes the market appetizing is that it's no flash in the pan. Celiac disease is an incurable, lifelong condition, said Pam Cureton, a clinical dietitian at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Disease.

The only way to manage the condition is to banish gluten — a trickier feat than one might expect. Wheat, rye and barley are in products ranging from soy sauce to beer to modified food starch. Even the slightest trace can wreak havoc on the digestive system for weeks.


Home prices more apt to drop

San Jose Mercury News

Thursday 28 July 2005, 9:23 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Valley is fourth riskiest market in US, study says

By Sue McAllister, Mercury News

With the local job market weak and real estate prices rising faster than incomes, chances are better than 50 percent that home values in Santa Clara County will fall in the next two years, a mortgage insurance company said Wednesday.

In its quarterly "market risk index," Walnut Creek-based PMI Mortgage Insurance calculated a 51.3 percent likelihood that home prices in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara will drop over the next two years.

"What we see in a lot of California markets, and certainly San Jose ... is prices are outstripping incomes," said Beth Haiken, a PMI spokeswoman.

The area, which includes all of Santa Clara County, had -0.82 percent employment growth between March 2004 and March 2005, she said.


URDC Top 15 Predictions 2005 - Results

Wednesday 27 July 2005, 6:39 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Here are the actual URDC Top 15 for 2005, compared with our predictions:

Actual Top 15

15 - Hola Chica
15 - Cavatina
14 - Chilly Chilly Cha*
13 - The Old House*
11 - Java Jive
11 - Jack Is Back
9 - Sleeping Beauty
9 - Orient Express
6 - Adeline
6 - Boulavogue*
6 - Beyond
5 - Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
4 - Beale Street Blues
3 - Jurame
2 - Papillon
1 - And I Love You So

Our Predictions

All That Jazz
And I Love You So
Beale Street Blues
Begin To Color Me
Boom Boom*
Chilly Chilly Cha*
Dark Waltz*
I'm Still Me*
Jack Is Back
Liebestraum No. 3
Orient Express
Sleeping Beauty
Warm and Willing

* Denotes dances that are new in the Top 15 this year.

We missed these dances entirely:

  • Hola Chica
  • The Old House
  • Java Jive
  • Boulavogue
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Our performance this year really sucked. Last year we were able to predict 14 of the Top 15, missing only Beale Street Blues. The new dances are the hardest to predict. In 2003 we were able to predict 13 of the Top 15.

Hola Chica and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes also ranked high on our lists, but not high enough.

One reason that the Top 15 is hard to predict is that our raw data does not include actual vote counts for the various events we tally. For example, I might know that "Papillon" was done at 15 different events, but I don't know how many votes it received at each of those events. The best I can know is that "Papillon" was in, say, the Top 7 at Bill and Carol Goss's week at McCloud, or it was in the Top 24 at Kay and Joy Read's week at McCloud.

If I were willing to do a factor analysis of all our tallies, I could probably figure out which events most accurately predict the URDC Top 15. But that's more work than I'm willing to do right now.

Melting snow leaves falls gushing, rivers bulging

San Jose Mercury News

Monday 25 July 2005, 12:16 pm
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

By Patrick May, Mercury News

Normally as dry as a drumstick in late July, the park right now is a water wonderland. Lower those Six Flags -- Yosemite is now California's top water park. The winter's huge snowpack is finally melting, waterfalls and rivers are gushing, and the leaking sieve of valley walls looks like a plumbing project on a divine scale.

Ribbon and Sentinel Falls are making rare cameo appearances. Rafters are jockeying for position on the fattened Merced River. So many mosquitoes have invaded Tuolumne Meadows that biologists say the bats are getting their fill in two hours and then going home early.


URDC Report #4

Friday 22 July 2005, 11:47 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Did we guess that "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" would be in the Top 15? If not, then Al and I really have egg on our faces. The #1 dance was "And I Love You So," which surprised no one.

Today I met Anita Froehlich, who posts occasionally to the list. She saw my emails and sent me a personal message to look for her. We didn't talk a lot, but she doesn't appear so shy in person as she does on the list. I also met a lurker by the name of Erwin (sorry, it's late and I can't remember your last name) who offered to help me with Mac problems. Erwin, speak up! Also, I neglected to mention previously that I talked several times with Vanessa Otto, a dancer from southern California who I see frequently at dances all over California.

I counted 6 couples here from the San Jose, California area and 4 couples from Sacramento, but the Sac-ites corrected me and said there are 7 couples from their area. With 26 northern Californians here and untold others from southern California, we were disappointed that Kay didn't include us when he recounted the attendance from states and countries who sent the most attendees.

Kay has his hands full with other things right now, as Joy fell during this evening's dance and apparently injured her (other) wrist. Joy, you are in our prayers tonight!

Several teachers who met Daisuke Doi this week were surprised to find that he has been attending URDC conventions annually since 1998. But they didn't really know who he was until this year. Both CRDA and NCRDTA have selected his dances as ROMs recently. Maybe we'll see one of those dances in the Top 15 someday?

Today we learned a difficult West Coast Swing, "Draggin' The Line" by Randy and Marie Preskitt, with music by the same name from Tommy James and the Shondells, vintage 1972 or so. The dance is only a Phase V but was confusing for those of us not yet experts at WCS. The dance is ultimately rewarding because the choreography fits the music so well.

We happened to line up right next to Bill and Olga Cibula to dance their "Hey Mambo," a dance we unfortunately do not know. At least we had someone knowledgeable to watch when we got lost!

Mary's back problems eased up considerably today after icing last night. We were able to dance anything we wanted to tonight and with reasonable form and flexibility. We were even able to dance Bill Goss's waltz. It was during the workshop of this waltz that Mary's back went wonky. No refection on the dance ... Mary's back doesn't like the "standing around" and "looking circles" that happen during a dance teach.

A friend of mine who grew up in San Antonio but now lives in our area suggested that we eat at a certain Mexican restaurant here. But she said to call first and make sure it's still there because the last time she ate there was 12 years ago! Well, Karam's Mexican dining room is still here and going strong after 58 years! The food, service and ambiance were wonderful. They gave us all the information we needed to order around our food allergies. They had a wonderful guitar band who played the whole time we were there. They played "La Paloma," "Cuando Calienta El Sol," and other favorites. Most had a rumba rhythm and I tried to get Mary to dance with no success. Karam's is at the corner of Commerce and Zarzamora in San Antonio, and we highly recommend it.

I just discovered something funny. My Mac screen is updating while I write this email. So I checked and our hotel room at the Alamo Travelodge has wireless internet. All week I've been dragging the computer down to the Menger Hotel to use their wireless access, and it was totally unnecessary. This week has been a comedy of errors in many ways.

URDC Report #3

Thursday 21 July 2005, 9:50 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

The HOF dance for 2005 is Boulavogue, a beautiful waltz by Richard Lamberty. A board member had mentioned to me that the choice of HOF might be surprising to some. Not to me; I love the dance. But it has apparently never been in the top 15 before, so maybe to some it appeared to come from out of left field.

Did we guess that Sleeping Booty, Boulavogue, or Beyond might be in the Top 15? If not, then we sure missed by a mile. This is apparently Boulavogue's first time in the Top 15. I don't have all the records with me, but you can check the web site.

I managed to apologize about this afternoon's confrontation and hopefully all ruffled feathers are smoothed over. We've been able to do a few slow dances tonight despite back problems. Now if I can just get the problems with our hotel room fixed I will believe in miracles. I can't be that hard to please, eh?

Tonight Tim Eum managed to hook me up with Bob Benjamin, a delighful man. We hope to talk more tomorrow.

URDC Report #2

Thursday 21 July 2005, 5:06 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Our backs haven't been cooperating with us today. We went to the teach for Bill and Carol Goss's waltz "Try To Remember" but we couldn't do it, despite the fact that we knew 95% of the figures. We decided to try an easier dance in the afternoon, since Kenji and Nobuko Shibata's mambo "Tequila" seemed way out of reach of our frail bodies. We did Tim and Debby Vogt's beautiful Bolero "My Heart Will Go On" instead. We just barely made it through Chris and Terri Cantrell's cha "Una Manana,", which came next.

The Tango we learned yesterday was "Don Diego," by Brent and Judy Moore.

I also failed to mention that we met Roy and Janet Williams. We still have not hooked up with Bob Benjamin.

The San Antonio convention center has the best dance floor we have ever been on. Why they don't hold the dance here more often is beyond me. The weather here is warm and humid, but not hot and not nearly as humid as Ohio, Virginia, or New York, other places that I've danced in summers past. There have been some thunderstorms but all at night or during a dance session, not while traipsing back and forth between hotel and convention center. The fallout from Hurricane Emily gave us some rain during yesterday afternoon's session, then was quickly gone.

Our only complaint thus far is that after the afternoon session today, they locked us out of the mail hall for about fifteen minutes while practicing the hall of fame dance, which must remain a big secret. Unfortunately, our street shoes (and those of several other couples) were locked in that room and we couldn't leave the building for that time. This only delayed the process of our getting ice onto our aching backs in the hotel room.

Everyone here has been exceptionally gracious, except of course me, who went ballistic at the aforementioned shoe episode. Mary says I seem to be on the warpath today.

There has been some private discussion of the HOF dance. Someone noted that Kenji and Nobuko's "Beyond" was on last year's ballot but not on this year's ballot. Others have noted that the time allotted for the HOF presentation is long, bringing speculation that there might be two dances in a tie.

After tonight we'll know the HOF dance and the more of the Top 10 dances but not yet the Top 5. They always save the best (and the most obvious) until last.

I have a new PowerBook and I'm trying to use it instead of the MiniDisk to record all the dances. Unfortunately, although I'm quite familiar with Macs, I'm not familiar with the new notebooks. Unknown to me, I recorded several hours of dancing from the internal microphone instead of the audio cable. All told I lost about 1/3 of the convention dancing and 1/3 of the new dances being presented. That's frustrating.

If I can dance all I wish tonight without hurting my back and Mary's, make it to review sessions of dances we didn't quite "get" while at the same time staying in the room and icing our backs, complain to "management" while simultaneously apologizing to innocent others who bore my wrath earlier today, get good sound recordings while not dropping my computer again, and meet all the Weavers who are supposedly here but who I will never recognize, then miracles truly can happen.

Quick report from URDC

Wednesday 20 July 2005, 9:28 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

We are sitting in the lobby of the Menger Hotel, which has wireless internet access.

We have met several Weavers, including Joe and Pat Hilton, Jack and Sue Lane, Tim and Nana Eum (whose name is not pronounced the way it is spelled), and the wonderful Daisuke and Tamae Doi, who gave us a gift of a wonderful gilt plate with a Japanese scene.

Tim gave me a "W" button. It is for the mailing list, not for our president. Tim tells me Bob Benjamin is here, but I have not met him yet. One other couple, I can't remember who right now. It is late.

We learned a difficult Tango by Brent and Judy Moore this afternoon.

Al and I messed up the Top 15 terribly. Already Java Jive and The Old House are in the Top 15. We have not yet seen the Top 10. Those will happen tomorrow and Friday nights.

There are several couples here from California.

We took a wonderful road trip from California to Texas. Lots more about that later.

A few techniques to help ward off all the phishers

San Francisco Chronicle

Monday 11 July 2005, 2:36 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Just remember, no reputable company will ever send you an e-mail asking for personal information or directing you to a Web site seeking it. If you get such an e-mail, it's a fraud.


Wi-Fi cloaks a new breed of intruder

St. Petersburg Times

Friday 8 July 2005, 2:09 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

Police say Benjamin Smith III, 41, used his Acer brand laptop to hack into Richard Dinon's wireless Internet network. The April 20 arrest is considered the first of its kind in Tampa Bay and among only a few so far nationwide.

Experts believe there are scores of incidents occurring undetected, sometimes to frightening effect. People have used the cloak of wireless to traffic in child pornography, steal credit card information and send death threats, according to authorities.

As worrisome as it seems, wireless mooching is easily preventable by turning on encryption or requiring passwords. The problem, security experts say, is many people do not take the time or are unsure how to secure their wireless access from intruders. Dinon knew what to do.


URDC Top 15 Predictions 2005

Friday 1 July 2005, 11:19 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

[NOTE: modified Monday 11 July 2005]

Last year, Al Mulzet and I had a little contest to see who could more accurately predict the URDC Top 15 of 2004. Al won by one point, but only because the list I posted to the web site did not match the list that I sent to Al in email. Had I posted my correct predictions, we would have tied. In any case, we both failed to predict the surprise entry of "Beale Street Blues," the new and popular Jive by Al and Carol Lillefield.

Al and I have entirely different strategies for making these predictions.

Al uses a combination of last year's URDC program, last year's Top 15, current URDC "favorites," a favorite festival of his that is hosted by several cuers from different parts of the country, and his own biases about which dances are good.

I like to go "strictly by the numbers" and not use any subjective measures like my own favorites. I do take all the URDC "favorites" lists into account. I also try to keep every dance program I can get my hands on. This year, that includes two events from California, and one each from North Carolina, Maryland, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, and Washington DC. I try to arrive at a composite figure based on how many times a dance appeared on a dance program and how many times it was taught during the last year.

Every year we try to improve our accuracy, and this year we decided to put our heads together. So here is our alphabetical list of the dances from which we believe the Top 15 will come. We think it's absolutely impossible to exactly predict the Top 15, so we always choose a few more than 15 dances, usually 18-19. This year we have selected 18 dances:

  • Adeline
  • All That Jazz
  • And I Love You So
  • Beale Street Blues
  • Begin To Color Me
  • Boom Boom
  • Cavatina
  • Chilly Chilly Cha
  • Dark Waltz
  • I'm Still Me
  • Jack Is Back
  • Jurame
  • Liebestraum No. 3
  • Orient Express Foxtrot
  • Papillon
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Symphony
  • Warm and Willing

(This year I must make one disclaimer. Since last year I typed things up incorrectly, this year I reserve the right to change this list at any time before URDC should Al or I determine that I've made an error in posting it.) [NOTE: already fixed the first error on July 11.]

On average, every year the Top 15 includes 11 dances that have been in the Top 15 before, although not necessarily the previous year. Each Top 15 also includes, on average, four new dances that have never been in the Top 15 before. (This is explained in only slightly more detail on my Top 15 page.) In 2005, by our predictions, the new dances will be:

  • Boom Boom, Phase 5 Cha Cha/Merengue by Ron and Ree Rumble
  • Chilly Chilly Cha, Phase 6 Cha Cha by Kenji and Nobuko Shibata
  • Dark Waltz, Phase 6 Waltz by Debby and Tim Vogt
  • I'm Still Me, Phase 6 Waltz by Kay and Joy Read

Most Popular Round Dances of 2004-2005

Friday 1 July 2005, 10:48 pm
Keywords: Round Dancing
(Link to this article alone)

Every year in July, just before URDC, I post the most popular 100 dances of the previous twelve months. This according to my count of how many times each dance has been done or been on a request list for any festival that I know about.

These dances are always posted at http://www.mixed-up.com/round/popular.html. Currently the list shows my picks for four years, 2002 through 2005. (I lost the lists for 2000 and 2001.)

The purpose of this list is to let me know which dances I want to work on if I want to be able to dance the most at an upcoming festival.

The following dances have been on the list all four years 2002-2005:

  • Adeline
  • All That Jazz
  • Am I Blue
  • Amapola
  • And I Love You So
  • Bard, The
  • Begin To Color Me
  • Beyond
  • Boulavogue
  • Cavatina
  • Children, The
  • Doolittle Cha
  • Falling Into You
  • Fiesta Tango
  • Fortuosity
  • Hola Chica
  • Java Jive
  • Jean
  • Kiss Me Goodbye Rumba
  • Laurann
  • London By Night
  • Mujer
  • Papillon
  • Patricia Cha
  • Sam's Song
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
  • Sunflower
  • Symphony
  • Tampa Jive
  • Tango Capriccioso
  • Through Your Eyes
  • Tonight
  • Wounded Heart
  • Wyoming Lullaby

The following dances are brand new this year:

  • A La Playa
  • Anastasia
  • And That Reminds Me
  • Boom Boom
  • Chilly Chilly Cha
  • Close Every Door
  • Dark Waltz
  • Five Guys Named Moe
  • Gotta Get on this Train
  • I Do I Do I Do
  • Just Another Woman in Love
  • Knock On Wood
  • Libertango
  • Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee
  • Looking Through Your Eyes
  • On and On
  • Rhythm of My Heart
  • Right Here Waiting
  • Scheherazade
  • Starlight Express
  • Take A Bow
  • This Is The Life
  • Waltz In Heaven, A
  • Way You Do, The
  • You Forget

In a separate article, I've posted predictions for the URDC Top 15 based on the figures that created this list.

Payback time: FTC Chair's Credit Card Info Stolen

San Francisco Chronicle, AP News

Thursday 30 June 2005, 7:17 pm
Keywords: Computer Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

An FTC spokeswoman says FTC chief Deborah Platt Majoras received a letter last week from shoe retailer DSW informing her that her credit card information had been stolen. The spokeswoman declined further comment. The theft was first reported by Newsweek.

Majoras' credit card number was among 1.4 million that were stolen from a company database.


Mark says:

Maybe now they'll do something about it. Then again, even this kind of stuff doesnt' seem to spur the government to action. Didn't I earlier post an article about a congressman who assigned his staff the task of stealing his identity, which they were able to do in a matter of a couple of days?

Billy Graham on politics

The Guardian

Monday 27 June 2005, 3:03 pm
Keywords: Christian Topics , News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

While religion and politics are mixing, making evangelicals a crucial base of the Republican right, Billy Graham, who is credited with converting George Bush to Christianity, has moved away from politics, claiming it impedes his ability to unite his flock around the Bible.

Asked where he locates himself politically today, he said: "I'm not even sure now where the middle is. One of the things I find very helpful is if I stay away from politics and just preach the Gospel."

In his autobiography, Just As I Am, he says: "Becoming involved in strictly political issues or partisan politics inevitably dilutes the evangelist's impact and compromises his message. It is a lesson I wish I had learned sooner."


Housing prices in biggest bubble in history

The Economist

Friday 24 June 2005, 8:37 am
Keywords: News Articles
(Link to this article alone)

The worldwide rise in house prices is the biggest bubble in history. Prepare for the economic pain when it pops.

According to estimates by The Economist, the total value of residential property in developed economies rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years, to over $70 trillion, an increase equivalent to 100% of those countries' combined GDPs. Not only does this dwarf any previous house-price boom, it is larger than the global stockmarket bubble in the late 1990s (an increase over five years of 80% of GDP) or America's stockmarket bubble in the late 1920s (55% of GDP). In other words, it looks like the biggest bubble in history.