Friday, July 28, 2006

Dedicated to Ray Vincent

After Melanie's grandfather died suddenly at the beginning of July, I decided to go take some pictures of his final garden. He loved working outside, and he had a beautiful yard and garden. I wanted to take some pictures of it for posterity.

In doing so, I realized that I had never really spent much time in his yard at all. Whenver I was over at the house, I was always inside. The few times I went onto the back deck, I don't think I ever actually looked around, or walked around, the yard much.

In addition to numerous flowers and plants, he also grew vegetables and had peach trees and apple trees. I discovered that he also had a birdhouse that reminded me very much of the birdhouse my own grandfather had in his yard for many years.

I took about 100 pictures that day; here is a sampling of what I thought were the best ones.

This is the view from Ray's front porch, where he always sat. It was the last place he was seen alive before he died.

This is from one of his rose bushes. He had said to Melanie a few days before he died that he needed to get out to Bobbie's grave (his wife) to put a rose on it.

This is his rear fence, ivy covered, with grean bean plants growing in front of it.

A view of the rear deck.

A peach tree in the foreground, looking toward the deck.


This is a view of the birdhouse I was talking about, with a peach tree in the foreground.

A view from the deck, looking toward the rear corner of the yard.

The birdhouse, close-up, with two birds on it.

"And the daffodils look lovely today..." ("The Daffodil Lament", by The Cranberries)

This is taken from the corner of Joan and Gerald's house, looking across the street to Ray's front yard.

A birdhouse nestled within an apple tree.

This actually isn't of Ray's yard, but it's one of my favorite photos from that day. This was taken from Joan and Gerald's deck, looking across toward their neighbor's backyard (the barn is in their neighbor's backyard, the bench is in their yard).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Daily Update

Weight: 228

Currently Reading (fiction): Night of the Fox, Jack Higgins. This is a WWII thriller, and like all Higgins’ WWII novels, it’s really good.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, Elaine Pagels. Melanie has a teacher friend whose son died of a rare disease called Pulmonary Hypertension. I had never heard of it, but Melanie goes to a fundraiser every year that this teacher sponsors to raise money for PH research. Anyway, in the first chapter of this book, Pagels describes how her own son died at age 6 from this disease, and how that experience affected her spiritual life.

Currently Listening To: Mystic Rhythms, Rush.

Rush Lyrics of the Day: All the same, we take our chances. Laughed at by time, tricked by circumstances.

Food Update: I’m working today on my 5th straight day without any meat at all. The last meat I ate was last Friday evening (at which time I had a piece of grilled chicken, a fat-free hotdog, and a burger). Today I’ve had green tea and oatmeal w/ flaxseed.

HEC Bowel Movement Update: I’m sure you’re just dying to read this entry. Hailey had one of her “shit fits” the other day, where she hasn’t gone in a week and she finally has to go, but she’s afraid it’s going to hurt, so she tries to hold it. This went on for about a day. Finally, at about 7:30, she got it out. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let me just say that it honestly looked like something that would come out of bear or a horse. It was twice the size of anything that’s ever come out of my rear-end in 31 years. I wanted to take a picture, but Melanie wouldn’t let me.

Wine Update: Melanie and I spent 50 bucks at Liquor Barn this weekend buying 5 bottles of wine. We have a wine rack that we wanted to put out, so we had to get some wine to decorate it with. We got two Reislings, 2 Pinot Grigios, and 1 White Zin. I also got some non-alcholic beer, which is very, very good, and tastes just as good as regular beer.

Today in History, July 26:

1471 – Death of Pope Paul II, who was rumored to have been gay.

1788 – New York becomes the 11th state of the United States.

1863 – Morgan’s Raid ends when General John Hunt Morgan and 360 of his men are captured by the Union. He and his soldiers had penetrated farther north than any other Confederate regiment. Morgan was a Lexington native, whose grandfather was a founder of Lexington. Morgan was shot and killed in 1864 during an escape attempt, and is buried in the Lexington Cemetery (during my forays there, I have yet to find his grave).

1863 – Death of Sam Houston, whose last words were “Texas, Texas, Margaret.”

1941 – In response to Japan’s occupation of French Indo-China, Roosevelt freezes all Japanese assets in the U.S. This is one of the early steps leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

1991 – PeeWee Herman is arrested for exposing himself in an adult theater in Florida.

1921 – Birth of Jean Shepherd, writer of A Christmas Story.

1943 – Birth of Mick Jagger.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Book Report

Blue Like Jazz
By: Donald Miller

The subtitle of this book is “Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality” and I think that sums the book up very well.

Miller has an endearing writing style: funny, sarcastic, very matter-of-fact and stripped of pretentiousness. On the back of the book, a critic says that Miller “is like Anne Lamott with testosterone...” This is a very accurate description, if you know who Anne Lamott is.

Miller seems (to me) to defy logic by basically being a progressive liberal evangelical Christian. I never would have thought such a thing were possible, but then again, he is from Oregon, and they’re all a little cracked out there, I believe.

He basically has an evangelical view of the basics of Christianity: God is an actual theistic Being; Satan is an actual Being and is in charge of the world and is responsible for trying to lead good people astray with temptation, selfish desires, bad thoughts, etc; Jesus was the divine Son of God, born of a virgin, died on the cross to save us from our sins, rose bodily on the 3rd day, and is now directly involved in the affairs of humans – leading, directing, guiding, supporting, answering prayers, setting forth a plan for our lives, etc. He believes fully in the Trinity, the Resurrection, and the divine inspiration of the bible, and he uses capitalized masculine pronouns to refer to God (i.e. “He” and “Him” and “His”).

Yet despite these things, he has a liberal progressive view of Christian spirituality. He speaks boldly and straight-forwardly about the hypocrisy of fundamentalist and even moderate Christians. He derides the Republican Party for their faux-Christian platitudes. He recounts a Bush protest he attended one of his friends, where they went around chanting and holding up war protest signs. He talks about how he enjoys the company of his atheist, hippie, pot-smoking friends a lot more than most of his Christian friends, and that those people taught him Godly love in a way that he never learned from other Christians. He talks about a pastor friend of his whom he refers to as Mark the Cussing Preacher. He speaks against the self-absorbed lifestyle of most Americans, including Christians, and all but endorses a basically communist economic view of society. He drives a motorcycle and drinks beer, and thinks that the primary role of a church should be community, love, and charity, with evangelism never even entering the picture.

I found myself constantly pushed and pulled by this book. At one point, about halfway through, I came very close to deciding to put the book up, because some of his evangelical ideas about the nature of God were so backward to me, and irritatingly in contrast with his otherwise progressive spiritual ideas. But I stuck it out and found several chapters later in the book that really resonated with me, particularly his chapters about the nature of love, money/wealth, and the human tendency for self-absorption.

If you’re interested in a witty, endearing, frank, partly-autobiographical book on the modern Christian lifestyle, this is a book that you will enjoy. It’s chock full of anecdotes, stories, humor, and even a couple of humorous, hand-drawn comic strips that he uses to illustrate some points.

If you’re offended by a Christian who talks about drinking, pot-smoking, and penguin sex, engages in Republican-bashing, talks positively about cussing pastors, atheist hippies, and atheist universities, and who uses the word “crap” continually, then this book is not for you.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Daily Update

Weight: 230

Currently Reading (fiction): The Book of the Dead, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. This is one of their best books in a long time. Very cinematic, fast paced, hard to put down at night. Highly recommended, although I would read Brimstone and Dance of Death first, as it’s a continuing story line.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller. I never would have thought it was possible, but this guy is basically a liberal progressive evangelical Christian. Seems like a contradiction in terms, I know, but it’s true.

Currently Listening To: Tequila Sunrise, The Eagles.

Rush Lyrics of the Day: I scaled the frozen mountaintops of eastern lands unknown.

Food Update: Haven’t eaten much the last two days. Nothing yesterday until dinner, which consisted of a can of beans. Today I’ve had a cup of green tea. Needless to say, my stomach is growling right now, and I have to skip lunch, as I have an appointment during my lunch hour.

Nothing Update: Well, I feel like I should have more to say, since it’s been a number of days since I last did a Daily Update, but I just have nothing.

Today in History, July 21:

356 BCE – Princess Olympias, 4th wife of Phillip II of Macedon, gives birth to a son, naming him Alexander. He would later conquer most of the known world, and become regarded as the greatest military commander in history.

1298 – The Battle of Falkirk, in which Edward I of England defeats a band of Scottish rebels led by William Wallace. This is the battle depicted in Braveheart in which the Scottish nobles betray Wallace and ride off the field instead of charging.

1403 – The Battle of Shrewsbury. Sir Henry Percy, a noble who had supported Henry Bolingbroke in his fight to depose Richard II in 1399, rebelled against the new King Henry IV, culminating in the Battle of Shrewsbury. Percy, who was wearing full body armor, paused during the battle to open his visor so he could get a breath of fresh air, and an arrow hit him directly in the face, killing him instantly.

1414 – Birth of Pope Sixtus IV, who founded the Sistine Chapel.

1861 – The first major battle of the Civil War begins at Manassas Junction, Virginia, more commonly known as the First Battle of Bull Run. The Confederates win a decisive victory.

1865 – Wild Bill Hickok kills Dave Tutt over a gambling debt dispute in the town square of Springfield, Missouri in what is regarded as the first western showdown.

1873 – At Adair, Iowa, Jesse James and the Younger Gang pull off the first successful train robbery in western American history.

1899 – Birth of Ernest Hemingway, in Oak Park, Illinois.

1924 – Birth of Don Knotts.

1925 – John Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution and fined $100.

1938 – Birth of Janet Reno. She was known as “Joseph” until she was 24, at which time everyone, including herself, suddenly realized she was actually a woman.

1944 – German Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg is executed for attempting, the previous day, to assassinate Adolph Hitler by placing a suitcase bomb inside a conference room where Hitler was in attendance. Stauffenberg packed his suitcase with explosives before entering the room. After setting the briefcase under the table, he excused himself to make an urgent phone call. The blast went off and he was convinced no one could have survived. Four people were indeed killed, but Hitler survived with only minor injuries, having been shielded by the table itself.

1951 – Birth of Robin Williams, whose mother is believed to have been impregnated during a grizzly bear attack in Montana, thus explaining why Robin Williams is so damn hairy.

1969 – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to walk on the moon.

1970 – The Aswan High Dam in Aswan, Egypt is completed. During construction of the dam, authorities had to physically move Rameses II’s Temple at Abu-Simbel, as it was sitting in the area that was destined to become Lake Nassar.

1972 – The Provisional IRA sets off 22 bombs in Belfast, killing 9 and injuring over 100. It comes to be known as Bloody Friday.

1976 – The Provisional IRA assassinates British ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart-Biggs.

1983 – The lowest temperature ever recorded is recorded at the Soviet Union’s Vostok Station, Antarctica, at minus 129 F.

1984 – A factory robot in Jackson, Michigan malfunctions and inadvertently kills a worker by crushing him against a safety bar. It is the first robot-related death in history. Those damn robots. Now we’ve got one as president!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Praying For Your Enemies

One of Jesus’s most recognizable teachings is about loving your enemies and “praying for those who persecute you.”

While this is a wonderful sentiment, it is difficult to put into practice, and I daresay most Christians - myself included - rarely engage in loving their enemies and praying for people who mistreat them.

I am reading a Christian spirituality book right now called Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. Like most Oregonians, he is rather unique, and he seems to have an unusual combination of liberal, progressive ideas about the Christian lifestyle, backdropped against what seems to be a basically evangelical concept of God, Satan, and the ultimate forces of good and evil.

In a chapter I read last night, he was discussing how he went from being a Christian who basically couldn’t stand church - because of its hypocrisy and tendency toward self-righteous conservative politics - to someone who absolutely loved church because his church had gotten rid of the politics and the self-righteousness, and instead focused purely on community, love, and helping people - not for the purpose of evangelism, but simply for the purpose of helping to end poverty, hate, crime, loneliness, etc, and spread love and acceptance. From his description, it truly sounded like a church attempting to emulate the teachings and lifestyles of Jesus of Nazareth, difficult as that may be in our post-modern, self-absorbed culture.

Anyway, the chapter got me to thinking about compassion, charity, love for all people, even my enemies, etc - which is something I have been convicted about for quite some time now.

This morning in the shower, for whatever reason, I was dwelling on my job at Tempur-Pedic, which ended a year and a half ago, and how miserable I had been there, and all the people (two, specifically) who had mistreated me. I started to feel angry and upset, and then I suddenly began thinking about the “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” teaching.

I decided to pray for those two individuals that I was thinking about.

Not a prayer to ask God to forgive them for treating me bad, or to ask God to help them to realize what jerks they are, but rather for their well-being, their happiness, their personal and spiritual peace, their families, etc.

It wasn’t easy. In some ways, it didn’t even feel genuine.

But what was genuine was my desire to follow this difficult teaching from Jesus.

And I discovered, sort of to my astonishment, as I prayed, and particularly when I was finished, that I felt better. In some ways it was very freeing. In the past I’ve attempted to consciously “forgive” those people for what they did, but it never really helped me to get past those experiences. Praying for them like this, on the other hand, felt very freeing. I found myself thinking that I would continue to pray for them in the future.

I don’t want to misrepresent it and say that I’m now completely free of the hard feelings, but I can see how this practice of praying for my enemies may help me to eventually move toward that.

This is the kind of life I want to lead. This is the kind of Jesus that I want to follow. It’s not about an Eternal Life Insurance Policy. It’s about enriching my life, and the lives of those around me, now, in the present. It’s about touching that otherness, that transcendence, that ground of being that I conceive of as God. This, I believe, is the ultimate path of spiritual happiness and peace.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice

On the Rush Message Board's political forum, an abortion debate was started where I said that I was anti-abortion, but pro-choice. Several people (mostly pro-choicers, I believe), questioned how one could be BOTH pro-choice and anti-abortion. Here is what I wrote in response....


My feelings on abortion changed after my wife had our first daughter. Prior to that, I had always just considered myself pro choice.

But after having trouble getting pregnant, and then after experiencing the birth and being a father, the very idea of killing an unborn child became morally repugnant to me, particularly when I considered how many people want children and can't have them.

I believe the moral decision for a woman to make with an unwanted pregnancy would be to carry the child to term and give it up for adoption to parents who want the child and will care for it and love it. Except in cases where the mother's life or health, or the child's life or health, are in danger, I can't imagine ever encouraging a woman to get an abortion.

That said, however, I do not believe the government should have the right to legislate such highly personal decisions, and I realize that it's easy for me, as a man, to talk about what I believe the "moral" choice is for a woman with an unwanted pregnancy. It would be very tough to carry a child to term that you didn't want and planned on giving up to adoption, when getting an abortion is so easy to do.

Furthermore, I don't believe that abortion is "murder" in the same sense that killing another human being is murder.

Finally, I find it highly ironic and sad that a group made up basically of old white men (i.e. the government) wants to tell women what they can and can't do with their own bodies.

That's how I can be both pro-choice and anti-abortion.

I support a woman's right to choose, but I personally am morally opposed to abortion except in cases where the child or mother's health is at risk.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Two Transcendent Experiences

I had a couple of what you might call "transcendent" or "spiritual" experiences this weekend that I wanted to share and then open up for discussion/debate/opinions.

Transcendent Experience Number One:

Last week, someone on the Rush Message Board made a comment about John Shelby Spong being one of the "false prophets" predicted in the New Testament who, in the last days, will move away from the faith and alter it from what God intended. Others have made similar implications in the past, and it's an issue I have contemplated, and rejected, before, for a variety of reasons.

On Saturday, I was at my in-laws house and was looking for some reading material before I went into the bathroom (sorry for too much info, but it's part of the narrative). Anyway, I couldn't find anything interesting on their shelf, so I picked up a bible and proceeded into the throne room.

As I sat with the unopened bible in my lap, I thought to myself, "Okay, if God is real and has something important to say to me, let him do it now and have me open the bible, purely at random, to a meaningful passage." I've done this occasionally in the past, ever since I was a kid, but not any time in the last few years.

So I opened the bible (intentionally opening it to the New Testament), and flipped a chunk of pages over and let it land on a random page. Then I dropped my eyes to the first chapter I saw.

It was 2nd Peter, Chapter 2.

Which is a chapter warning about false prophets who will alter the message of Christ in order to lead people astray.

2 Peter 2:1 -- But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves.

The rest of the chapter follows along in this vein.

Transcendent Experience Number Two:

Melanie's grandmother died about two years ago, and it was very difficult for her as she and her grandmother were very close. A few weeks ago, we were standing on the back porch and she noticed a white butterfly flitting about in the backyard. She pointed it out and said, "Oh, there's Mawmaw." I kind of gave her a funny look and she said that she always envisions white butterflies to be her grandmother, because they remind her of her grandmother. It was a pretty thought...the idea of this careless, active, fluttering white butterfly representing her grandmother, who had been crippled in her last years by late stage rheumatoid arthritis.

Of course, while I found it to be a pretty thought, I didn't give it a whole lot of rational consideration. More of a pretty sentiment than anything.

About a week after this occurence, Melanie's grandfather died suddenly and unexpectedly. As she had been with her grandmother, she was very close to her grandfather and took his death rather hard, as did all the family. I actually cried more at his funeral than I did at the funeral of my own grandfather in 2002.

The funeral was Wednesday.

On Saturday, we went up to Cincinnati to his house in order to take some pictures of his final garden. He loved to work in the yard and had a beautiful backyard with daffodils, roses, and numerous other flowers, green bean plants, tomato plants, two apple trees, and two peach trees. It was just a beautiful backyard, and I wanted to get some pictures of it, for posterity.

I had just finished taking the first round of pictures when Melanie and the kids walked over from her Mom's house (which is across the street). As I was moving around to the front yard, finished with my pictures, Melanie pointed suddenly and said, "Look!"

As I looked, I saw [i]two[/i] white butterflies flitting along the ground. They came together and began circling and circling each other, just a few inches apart, playing and darting and flirting. As they circled, they began swirling up into the sky, until I lost sight of them in the blue. I tried to capture a picture of it, but they were too fast.

Of course, Melanie immediately began crying and said it was her grandparents, together again, young and carefree as teenagers.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Daily Update

Weight: 230

Currently Reading (fiction): The Book of the Dead, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller

Just Finished: Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence. I finally finished this book last week. It was a very good novel, but took me nearly a month to read it, which is a REALLY long time for me to spend on a book. I am convinced, after reading it, that Lawrence had an unnatural obsession with his mother and had a classic Oedipus Complex.

Currently Listening To: Nothing.

Rush Lyric of the Day: Suddenly you were gone from all the lives you’d left your mark upon.

Funeral Update: The funeral was yesterday at noon, and yesterday was very stressful from start to finish. It rained off an on throughout the day, including all morning as we were trying to get out of the house and then get into the church. The service itself was really nice and was exactly what Ray would have wanted. Even Lance (Mt. Carmel’s pastor) did a good job and said a lot of nice and comforting things. A lot of familiar faces were there, including Floyd and Vickie, Merv Snider, Rene Davis, Marty and Sandy, and a number of the Mt. Carmel regulars (many of whom I didn’t really care to have to see again).

Ray was buried next to Bobbi in their plot together in the Glendale Cemetery, which is almost walking distance from Tri-County mall, which must have suited Bobbi really well. Ray had said to Melanie not a week earlier that he needed to get out to the cemetery to put a rose on Bobbi’s grave. I don’t know if he ever made it or not, but there are roses there now. A lot of them.

We had just seen Ray on July 4th and although he was still recovering from his pneumonia of the previous weekend, he was otherwise fine. He did seem sort of down, however, and was talking with gloom and doom. I chalked that up to the fact that he had had the pneumonia scare with coughing up blood, etc, and maybe that’s all it was, but it just seems really odd now, considering what happened. He had even asked me to pray for him, which I didn’t do, and have suffered some guilt over that.

As I did for Bobbi after she died, I wrote a poem about Ray and I will post it on The Writing Desk later today or tomorrow. Melanie and I are going to Cincinnati on Saturday for just a few hours so that I can take some pictures of Ray’s final garden in his backyard. I am going to get a nice picture of his rose bushes and then put it together with a picture of Ray and Bobbi, and frame them together with the two poems I’ve written, then give it to Joan as a gift.

Well, I’m about to cry, so that’s enough of that.

Food Update: Didn’t exactly eat healthy this week; McDonald’s for breakfast yesterday, fried chicken for lunch, no dinner. Tuesday was Great Steak for lunch and pizza for dinner. Monday was McDonald’s for dinner, no lunch. So you get the picture. Decaf English Breakfast tea so far today.

Suit Update: Melanie didn’t approve of the shirt and pants I brought to wear to the funeral, so we went to the mall on Tuesday and I bought the first suit I have owned since I was a little boy. It was on sale, so I got the coat and pants for about $230.00. It’s a nice suit, black with light white pin stripes, and now I’ll have a suit for the rare occasion when I need to wear one. I really, really hate wearing a coat and tie.

Today in History, July 13:

40 – Birth of Gnaeus Julius Agricolus, governor of Britain who would be the first Roman to land in Ireland, where he defeated a group of people there previously unknown to the Romans. Thus starting the long and arduous torment of the Irish by the British imperialists (spoken in the voice of Frank McCourt).

1174 – William the Lion, King of Scotland, is captured, and later ransomed, by forces loyal to Henry II. William the Lion was the grandfather of Alexander III, who would die in the late 1200’s without a direct male heir, thus opening the door for Edward I of England to claim the Scottish throne, leading to the Scottish rebellion led by William Wallace.

1837 – Queen Victoria moves into Buckingham Palace, the first British monarch to live there.

1923 – The Hollywood Sign is officially dedicated on the hills above Hollywood. It originally said “Hollywoodland,” but the last four letters were dropped during renovations in 1949.

1985 – Live Aid takes place in several concerts around the world.

1864 – Birth of entrepreneur John Jacob Astor IV, who would later die on the Titanic.

1942 – Birth of Harrison Ford.

1954 – Death of Frida Kahlo.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

My New Photography Obsession

As I've mentioned in other posts, I've recently become interested in photography as an artistic discipline, and have been trying to take some good pictures. Here are a few taken on July 4th and 5th, in various places. When looking for shots, I try to find texture -- angles that provide multiple layers of stuff to see -- so try to look for that as you look at the photos; make sure you look at the stuff in the foreground as well as the background:

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Daily Update

Weight: 225

Currently Reading (fiction): Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Blue like Jazz, Donald Miller.

Currently Listening To: A classical piece on WEKU’s live webstream.

Rush Lyric of the Day: Half the world speaks with half a mind on what they say.

July 4th Update: Went to the in-laws’ house in Florence for July 4th yesterday. It was a beautiful July day, up until about 4 p.m., when it began pissing down with rain. But the food was good and it was nice hanging out with Melanie’s family for a while. Even nicer that I was able to leave as soon as I wanted! I took a bunch of pictures. And have discovered that I am becoming interested in photography as an artistic discipline. Which leads to the next entry....

Photography Update: Since I’ve started taking pictures of my garden, and more recently of Sparrows Down on Midsummer, I’m finding that I’m becoming interested in photography. I took a bunch of pictures yesterday at Sarah’s house of various things, trying to capture the family on the porch with the flowers and trees in view, and looking for "angles" to get good pictures. I ended up stopping on the way home and took some photos of a field of corn, and also of a big paint horse munching on grass by the fence at a nearby horse farm. I’m finding that I catch myself looking at something and thinking, "Oooh, that would make a good picture!" I’m starting to think I may want to get a nice camera with a telephoto lens and the whole deal. Currently, I’m just using my digital camera. I’ll upload some of the photos I took and post them here at a future date.

Food Update: Best to just leave this one empty today, considering my food consumption over the last few days. I will admit that it has included beer, barbecue pork ribs, and buffalo wings. I can practically feel the cholesterol and saturated fat emanating from my pores.

Today in History, July 5th:

1607 – Isaac Newton publishes his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which includes, among other things, his law of universal gravitation. Before the Theory of Gravity, everyone floated and could jump really, really high. That’s why track and field was so much more popular at the ancient Olympics than the snowboarding, curling, and baseball.

1830 – France invades Algeria.

1865 – William Booth founds The Salvation Army by standing on a street corner and begging for money. When no one gives him any, he gets an idea, waits until Christmas, dresses up like Santa Claus, rings a bell, and becomes a millionaire.

1937 – Hormel Foods Corporation throws some lips and assholes into a pot, blends them into a paste, cooks the paste in an oven, then talks a bunch of rednecks in eastern Kentucky into eating it, and thus invents Spam.

1950 – The Law of Return is enacted in Israel, allowing all Jews to immigrate to Israel if they so choose. Turns out to be a really bad idea.

1954 – Elvis Presley has his first recording session, recording Blue Moon of Kentucky, and effectively giving birth to rock n’ roll.

1962 – France says, "Why the hell did we invade this empty, useless desert 132 years ago?" and allows Algeria to have its independence.

1996 – Birth of Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned mammal. She had a long and successful career as a porn star, making such hits as "Farm Fun," "Lambskin," and "Pullin’ Wool," before her untimely death from AIDS in 2003.

2006 – Ken Lay orchestrates his own death, in order to avoid a prison sentence, paying for the massive media cover-up with the millions of dollars he made by stealing from investors.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Daily Update

Weight: 223

Currently Reading (fiction): Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence. This is a good piece of literature, and I’m glad I’ve read it, but I’m ready for it to be over.

Currently Reading (non-fiction): Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller.

Currently Listening To: Scars, Rush

Rush Lyric of the Day: Scars of pleasure, scars of pain. Atmospheric changes make them sensitive again.

Weekend Update: After spending most of Saturday cleaning the house and relaxing, we went to Cynthiana yesterday for a birthday party for one of Hailey’s friends. Cynthiana is a small rural community about 30 minutes from Georgetown. It took us about 50 minutes to get there from our house. It was a beautiful drive, with rolling green hills, pastures full of cattle and horses, and barns everywhere. The place where the party took place was a little farmhouse on a farm with more acres than I could estimate. Rolling, lush fields in every direction, big old trees to make plenty of shade, an old wagon stacked with hay sitting next to a large vegetable garden, and even a tire swing hanging from the low branch of a tree, looking across an undulating pasture towards an old black barn in the distance. It really was beautiful. They rented a big water slide for the kids that you climbed up to the top of and then dropped down, towards a pool of water at the bottom. They also had one of those Wal-Mart kids’ pools that is 3 or 4 feet deep with a chlorine pump and everything, but is inflatable and mobile. They also had a trampoline and a piñata. Hailey, naturally, had no intention of getting in the pool or the water slide, but she did have a really good time jumping on the trampoline. I kept trying to tell her she had had an identical trampoline when she was younger that she was terrified of, but she didn’t seem to either believe me or grasp what I was saying. Either way, she had a good time and did really well jumping. Good exercise for her. We had hot dogs and cake to eat, and the kids broke open the piñata (although it took one of the uncles bashing it as hard as he could three or four times for it to finally break open – how do they expect a group of 5 year olds to do it!!?!? Galdern Mexican craftsmanship....).

Today, Melanie and the girls are heading to Cincinnasty until Wednesday. I’ll be driving up to meet them at Sarah’s house in Florence tomorrow for the 4th of July, but will then come back home. So I’ll have a few evenings to myself, which I’m looking forward to.

Spiritual Thought for the Day: I went for a drive Thursday evening with Hailey and Sydney. We drove around the rural part of Fayette County, and Hailey saw some people playing soccer in a field. She told me she wanted to play soccer "like Mommy did when she was a little girl." So I proceeded to tell her that when Mommy and Daddy were in high school, Daddy would come over after school and watch her play soccer. Her very first question was, "Where was I?" I explained to her that she had not been born yet. "But where was I?" she insisted. "Well, honey, you didn’t exist yet. Mommy and Daddy hadn’t made you yet. You weren’t anywhere." I glanced at her in the mirror, wondering if she’d buy it. "But where WAS I?" She just couldn’t grasp, or get her mind around, the idea of not being. I finally gave her the pat answer of "You were with God." And she was satisfied with that. That made sense to her. It got me to thinking about the human need for God and what causes it. It seems that humans can’t come to grips with the concept of not being. We can’t imagine how the world can exist without us in it. Without our consciousness alive somewhere. We can envision that the world was here before we were born, and will be here after we die, but we can’t envision that we weren’t and won’t be somehow "conscious" of it. It’s the whole Tillichian concept of the "trauma of non-being" (I think that was Tillich, anyway). So we rely on God to explain what seems to us to be inexplicable...that being that our consciousness is boxed into our life spans.

Today in History, July 3:

324 – Emperor Licinius is defeated in battle by co-emperor Constantine, at the Battle of Adrianople. Licinius retreats to Byzantium, then surrenders under the condition that his life will be spared. But Constantine reneges on the agreement, and executes him anyway.

987 – Hugh Capet is named King of France, the first ruler of a dynasty that would last until the French Revolution in 1792.

1250 – Louis IX is captured in Egypt while conducting the Seventh Crusade. He later is forced to ransom himself for freedom.

1754 – General George Washington surrenders Fort Necessity to the French during the French and Indian War.

1775 – General George Washington takes command of the Continental Army.

1844 – The Great Auk (a biological cousin to the penguin) becomes extinct when the last known pair are killed by hunters while incubating eggs.

1863 – The Battle of Gettysburg hits its climax and ultimately ends with the ill-fated Pickett’s Charge, a charge ordered by Lee where the Confederates charge across an open field toward the fortified Union position at Cemetery Ridge and are basically slaughtered like sitting ducks. By day’s end, the three-day battle is over, the Union has won, and 43,000 are wounded or missing/captured, and 7,000 men are dead.

1890 – Idaho is named as the 43rd state. The name was reputed to be derived from a Shoshone Indian word meaning "gem of the mountains," as told by U.S. Senator George Willing. Willing later, however, admitted that he had made the word up, thinking it "sounded" Native American.

1964 – LBJ signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ending segregation in public places.

1971 – Death of Jim Morrison.

1985 – Back to the Future debuts in theaters across the country.