June 2008

Ride to Rainier via Elbe 105 miles, more flats & heatwave!

The news noted a severe warning of a heatwave all weekend, with the temperature possibly as hot as 90F (32 C). So, I headed out with my newly tuned bicycle out to the gates of Rainier. I immediately ended up with a flat. On changing the intertube, I made a minor mistake and generated a pinch flat. Fortunately, I had brought two Intertubes along. Off I went, on a very hilly venture. The weather was quite hot, and I consumed a grand total of 9 liters of fluid. On the way, you pass a number of lakes, one being a large reservoir.

In Elbe, there is a cute little Lutheran church that was built around the turn of the last century.

Finally, you reach the gates of Rainier National Park (above) where you could observe a veritable traffic jamb of people trying to get into the park. Fortunately, bicyclists aren’t quite so affected by traffic jams. The way home was very hot, and yet another flat, for reasons I’m not sure of. My biggest problem this trip was a malfunctioning front derailleur. That evening, I took my bike into the shop and the bicycle repairman took me through tuning up a front derailleur, very useful skills for when one is on the road.

Die Verlorene Ehre der Katarina Blum

Die Verlorene Ehre der Katarina Blum ★★★★★
In English, the Lost Honor of Katharina Blum is a well-done film based on a book by the same name by Heinrich Böll, though written in the ’70s, has a contemporary feel to it. It was easy to sense that Böll was protesting the yellow journalism of The Bild tabloid in reporting the events of the Baader-Meinhof gang. Unfortunately, this film has had little impact in the USA, even though it has received international acclaim. The story is of a young lady that is inadvertently acquainted with somebody identified as a terrorist, and so hounded by the police and also the press in a smear campaign that served judgment on this young woman who had done nothing wrong, save to have had an acquaintance to somebody she met in normal social circles. The relevance to contemporary society becomes increasingly compelling, with, for instance, the rulings of homeland security.  I have seen such activity even in my beloved (?) hospital, where people are presumed guilty never to be granted innocence simply because of the system. This is an honest statement against the press and federal oppression that should be more familiar to American audiences.

Time to Blow this Popsicle Stand

The photo is that of me in front of the Wiener Staatsoper. Betsy and I had a most wonderful night at the opera in Vienna, forever fixed in our memory. The only sad thing is that of returning to the reality of Puyallup, WA.
As I write, this, the little bird in the cuckoo clock will periodically emerge from her den and remind me of who I am. That Vögelchen happens to be the most honest person in my life. Whenever she comes out to say hello, I greet her with great joy. Her running commentary remains the same, which at least suggests that one of my friends is persistent and unchanging. God happens to be the only other person in my life with a strong sense of true honesty. It must be that God is now speaking to me through my pet birdie in the clock. Other cuckoo clocks will sing Edelweiss or “Somewhere my love” to you, but my little feathered friend just lays on the cold hard facts, speaks her mind, and then shuts up for another 1/2 hour.

Today convinced me that I am too old to continue practicing medicine where I am at. The “chief doctor and Lord Executioner” of my hospital just informed me that I was a very bad boy for not dumping my asleep patient on the operating table to care for a trauma patient that was undergoing CPR in full cardiopulmonary arrest in the ER. I informed him that I would never abandon a patient in the operating room under any circumstance, and he went into a tizzy. E-mail or call me for details–I want to watch my language on the blog site and not publicly speak evil of anybody. Well, I’m going to relieve him of some tizzy-ness. I’m quitting. October 31 is the very last day that I’m contractually obligation to St. Samaritan Hospital, and then I will either a) just retire, b) accept a deal from the Franciscans in Tacoma, c) leave the state and move back to Portland, and find a job pumping gas, etc..  d) work out something with my group to be on employed rather than partner status.
Regardless of which of the above I do, I would like to do missions work. My friend from Bangladesh wants me to come. I’ve been suggested to go to Cameroon or Niger. My Bangladesh offer sounds the most appealing, since 1) it is cheap, and I could semi-retire and still do missions, 2) my wife could be involved as a nurse (hopefully), 3) they are attentive to preaching the gospel while delivering health care–there is no point to saving the body but not the soul, 4) I really like my friend in Bangladesh, even though I don’t know him well, 5) I’d love to learn some Bengali, and 6) if a short-term goes okay, and they like me, I can always return and feel like I’m really helping somebody, without fear of violation of some kooky government regulation or a lawsuit.
The other thing that will be factored into our life is me doing the PCT. In case you are wondering, the PCT stands for the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada. It’s only 2800 miles and can be done in an easy 5-6 months, starting in late April. I would like to solicit people to join me for sections of the hike. I’ve already gotten several people from the hospital, as well as my wife. You too can do it. Hike a 100 with ole’ Cuckoo Ken. I’m contemplating this in either the year 2009 or 2010, preferably the latter (2010). The time to start planning is now. I’d like to chronicle the event and have a decent camera to photograph the whole event. Stay in touch if you have any other ideas about the PCT, and when/if you would like to join me for sections of the trail.
It’s been a year since I had my stents placed. My laboratory evaluation shows normal serum lipids. I refused to take a statin drug, so did it natural including a) exercise, b) diet, with about 50% fish, c) niacin, fish oil, flaxseed oil, garlic, etc. It works, but it was hard. I now have to get the cholesterol down to LOW normal. I think I’ll try curry for that.  Meanwhile, I need some means of cutting back on pills. This is what I do for the month…

There are only four prescription drugs, which I get from India. The rest are vitamins and other dietary supplements. My blood pressure is now normal, but there are too many unnecessary hospital episodes that ruffle my feathers and send my BP up, like the episode this morning. I’ll spend a blog in the near future talking about what is really going on in medicine, and my impressions of the healthcare scene in the USA.

Meanwhile, I seriously plot my exit from the severely uncomfortable and stressful situation that I am now in.

Bellini: Norma

Bellini Norma, Bayerischen Staatsoper, Gruberova as Norma ★★★★
This is my second performance of Norma on DVD, the first staring Monseratt Caballe and the French Theater of Orange. Because of the absolutely miserable recording quality of the Caballe version, I wanted a better version. Certainly, the Gruberova version is superbly and flawlessly recorded. Gruberova also is a close contestant with Caballe for the vocal and acting qualities of a magnificent Norma. The staging is a touch odd, with the Romans staged in modern jungle guerilla outfits and machine guns at their side. Otherwise, it was well done. My main criticism is the opera itself. Though Bellini is a master of the bel canto style, much of the opera is a bit weary. Once you have heard the casta diva, it is a touch wearisome making it to the end of the opera. This is not the fault of the performer, even though the virtuoso performances continue to the end of the opera.

Hiking the Triple Crown

Hiking the Triple Crown, by Karen Berger  ★★★★
The reader may first wonder what the triple crown is. Simply, it is the combination of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. All three trails go from (roughly) Mexico to Canada. They all present separate challenges, especially with the Continental Divide Trail being as of yet not fully developed. In this book, the author suggests strategies for organizing and hiking the trails, each of which can be expected to take 4-5 months to accomplish. The author then offers very brief trail descriptions to permit the reader a global idea as to what hiking each of the trails may demand and offer. I find the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trail the most appealing, and perhaps the Colorado-> north section of the CDT. Perhaps it is time to kiss the hospital a hearty adieu and accomplish now what, in ten-twenty years, I may not be physically able to accomplish. Betsy sounds interested. Hey, why not?

Opera Katze

Our cat has developed an insane love for opera. Whenever I am playing a DVD opera, he will hop up on my lap, and just sit there, watching the entire opera. Here you see him watching the Verkaufte Braut by Smetana.
This has been a busy month, which has included a major trip to Moab, I did my first “official” Century, and have been quite busy reading and listening to music. For those activities, you can find reports in the Kritik section of my webpage.
I’m tempted to further chronicle my disappointment with how we were taught history in government schools, especially related to the history of Germany during the Second Thirty years war (WWI & II). I’ll be very brief. In Patrick Buchanan’s magisterial treatise on this topic (found in the book review section), he details, to my surprise, much of what I have said already in other blogs, about the real causes of the European conflict. Buchanan especially labors on the role of Great Britain, most notably Winston Churchill, as being a major, if not dominant factor, at creating the conflicts that have acquired the nomenclature of two world wars. I always thought of Mr. Churchill as being quite disgusting and horrendously evil, equal to that of Stalin and Hitler, and felt that the self-righteous British people were hypocritically quick to absolve themselves of all blame, claiming only to be acting for the moral good of human-kind by suppressing evil and promoting good. Yet, Britains’ duplicitous behavior instead created far more harm, evil, and suffering than if they would have minded their own business and stayed out of the wars altogether. It’s a lesson for Amerika.
One of the other three books that I have reviewed is titled “Hiking the Triple Crown”. I don’t believe that I would ever get the entire Triple Crown under my feet, especially since the Continental Divide Trail really is not adequately developed to permit safe hiking of the trail in a single season. Yet, the Pacific Crest Trail beckons, and perhaps the Appalachian Trail. Betsy might even be interested! We know a young man at church who did the PCT 2 years ago, between the time he got out of the military and the time he came home. Well, this is becoming a bit more appealing to me, especially since I am increasingly distraught with the field of medicine–if I don’t take a Sabbatical, or change what I’m going, I’m going to become a looney-tune or an ax murderer, or something horrible like that. If I wait another ten years until retirement, I’ll possibly be too old to do the PCT, or I’ll possibly come down with cancer, with all that poison I’m consuming to fix my blood pressure which is too high because of the stress of work, etc., etc. Onkel Herbert has pestered me on this point, suggesting that I need to slow down a little bit. It’s tempting to say that it is easier to do that in Europe, but that isn’t true. All one needs to do is to throw in the towel for a year or two, and reorient their life. Perhaps Betsy and I could also do some mission medical work in Bangladesh, as that has also been a dream, of serving as a surgeon in a third-world country. I am thinking about doing the dirty deed of the PCT in the year 2010 when I will be 20 years out of fellowship, and 28 years out from the intensity of being a surgeon. So, Betsy and I will be spending the next two years training and planning for hiking a 2800+ mile (4500 kilometers) trail.
Today, Betsy and I ran down to Portland to attend the memorial service of  John Revesz, who lived a good life of 97 years.

His wife is Betsy’s aunt. He will always be remembered by me as a most humble, loving, delightful, and godly man. There are many episodes where John and his wife have been special to me and Betsy, and he will be missed. The memorial service permitted meeting many old acquaintances, too many to list here. It seemed like a flashback in time for us.
Also notable is that today is Father’s Day, and my children went together to get me a cuckoo clock.

It is already hung in my room, cuckooing on the hour. Somehow, they knew that I really wanted a cuckoo clock, and was able to get Diane to pick up a nice Swiss Lötscher. I remember loving to watch Aunt Rose’s cuckoo clock but am not sure what happened to that clock. So….thank you children for a wonderful gift. p.s., I think you realize that father has gone cuckoo, and the clock has a little bird to remind me of that every hour on the hour.

Flaming Geyser Ride

12APRIL2008  Auburn to Flaming Geyser State Park via Black Diamond, then Green River-Interurban Trail loop, 64 miles, 4 hours.
It was an absolutely beautiful day, so it made sense to head out on my bike. Road directions from the bicycle route guides needed a little to be desired, and the route occasionally was not clear, but, I managed to find my way around all the same. The ride up to Black Diamond from Auburn was a long steady climb, and I was able to maintain an 18-20 mph speed. Past Black Diamond, the road dropped precipitously down to Flaming Geyser State Park. The park was just off the road, so I turned off to see the fantastic flaming geyser. Here it is…

If you don’t see it too clearly, don’t worry. That’s all it is! Can you believe that? Apparently, some dude was trying to drill a well, and after going down 360 feet, hit liquid that tended to burn when ignited. Cool. Actually, though the stream running through the park was beautiful, the only real attraction of the park was the bridge into the park.

The rest of the way back to Auburn was flat farmland. The total loop was only 35 miles, and though very hilly, I decided I needed a little more time on the Fahrrad. So, 30 more miles up the Green River and back. The Green River is named because it is green, kind of like the Chicago River every St. Patrick’s day. But this green is not from food coloring. It is from green Schleim.

There were lots of apartment complexes and industries feeding Boeing on the other side, but also a golf course. It occurred to me why I hate golf. The lawn was covered with fat ugly slobs slowly meandering after their golf balls, calling it to exercise. My eye.
By the way, you all may be wondering what my bike looks like. It is a Novara Trionfo, purchased last year from REI. (see lead photo) I had to lean it up against our car in order to get a photo of it. Real bikes do NOT have kickstands.
I tried a map bag on the handlebars on this trip, as you can see, but didn’t really like it. I usually wear a Camelback hydrator, where I can carry my keys, extra food, camera, repair pump, extra tube, etc. The little gadget under the seat also carries repair tools. I find that the way to survive a long trip is constant hydration and constant sugar. Today, I learned not to bring chocolate, which melted. Gummibären and GU (Schleim in a small aluminum package, that you can carry in your jersey pocket, and slurp down about once an hour, which really charges your energy quickly). Last year, my outings were occasionally passed by more experienced riders. On this ride, I passed a lot of experienced riders, maintaining an 18-20 mph pace even at the end, and was passed by nobody. So, I think I’m getting in better shape.

Flying Wheels Century 2008

14JUNE2008 Flying Wheels Century, 6hrs 50minutes. My first flats!
The day was scheduled to be sunny, so I was quite content to show up at Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA with overcast skies. One is able to keep pace without overheating when it is not too hot outside. Most of the way on this trip, I actually wore a light cycling jacket, because it was cold and windy. There must have been at least 3000 people doing the Flying Wheels, and the road was dense with people wherever one rode. That was helpful in offering a secondary assurance that I was on the correct path. I was also able to pace behind many riders, getting the so-called advantage of pace lining. This century was sold as very hilly (3840 feet total elevation gain – 1170 meters), three main hills, including Ingallwood Hill Rd, Stillwater Rd, and then Issaquah Falls City Rd. at the very end. The first two hills occurred close to the start of the ride, and the very first hill was a total killer. Somehow, the other two did not seem too bad. About 30 some miles into the ride, my back tire went flat. Fortunately, it was close to a rest station, and I carried a spare tube, so simply swapped out tubes, checking the tire quite carefully for shards of glass possibly embedded in the rubber. Well, I didn’t check well enough, and so ended up with another flat about 2 miles later. Now, I had to patch one of the tubes and was able to locate the shard of glass that I missed previously. At least now I know that I could handle tire emergencies on the road. Continuing on, the route went through farmland, followed several rivers and a large lake, and hit several villages en-route. All in all, a delightful Century. I was not too sore at the end of it, and so am feeling more comfortable about the prospects of the STP, coming up in one month.

One of the FWC rest stops

Typical weather at the end of the ride.

Glenn Gould Original Jacket Collection

Glenn Gould Original Jacket Collection ★★★★★
This is a budget offering of the complete studio recordings of Glenn Gould, offering in their original “jackets”, though reduced, of course, to represent the smaller size of the CD as compared to the original vinyl recordings. For 80 CDs, the price from Amazon.com was a true bargain. Glenn Gould tends towards idiosyncratic interpretations, often with an included vocalization of his own making. This has tended some reviewers, such as the British Penguin CD book authors, to regard Gould with disdain, and subsequent editions have mostly left Gould unmentioned. This is not appropriate, as Gould has a sense of character and liveliness that oftentimes breathes new life into a piece, whether it be by Bach, Beethoven, Scriabin, Schönberg, or Byrd, to name a few. It is a grave error to denigrate Gould to second-class status. I would not consider him to be one of the greatest Bach interpreters of all time, but would certainly rank him among the great musicians of the twentieth century, whose interpretations must be considered in discussing keyboard interpretations of classical composers. I am not a purist that demands that Bach be played on original instruments. I really don’t care to know what orchestras sounded like in 1748. Bach, Beethoven, and all classical/contemporary works of the Gould repertoire deserve the best instruments that are available. Since Bach was never specific about what type of keyboard, and often what type of instrument he expected his music to play with, I really don’t think that he would object to harpsichord works being played on the vastly improved sonorities of the modern piano. Any classical music lover with an affection toward Gould would not go wrong purchasing this set.

The Third Paradigm

The Third Paradigm, God and Government in the 21st Century, by Mark Ludwig ★★
I’ve had many discussions with brother Dennis regarding the nature of government and the response of a Christian man to government. This is apparently Ludwig’s Magnus opus on civil government, which he defines as properly being a theocracy. Ludwig being of theonomist roots, I am not surprised. This also makes me underwhelmed at Ludwig’s arrogance and demeaning stance toward those that don’t see precisely the same way that he does. Clearly, Ludwig has solved the nature of the church, state, and the individual, that 6 millennia of both the greatest and worst thinkers have not been able to resolve. I am not trying to be too hard on Ludwig, but his stylistic mannerisms, though fitting to the age of John Calvin, just don’t fly in the 21st century. Perhaps I sat too long under the tutelage (directly and indirectly) of JI Packer, Bruce Waltke, and Simon Kistemacher, who tend to be both scholarly and graceful while preserving hardcore Christian truth. Back to Ludwig. I don’t deny Ludwig’s thesis that every Christian man must first hold God as his King, and achieve his daily marching orders from the Scriptures. How we interact with the governments that be are another issue. Ludwig has responded by moving to where there is essentially minimal government–I suppose he views that as an act of piety. I certainly agree with Ludwig’s view of a minimal government but feel that others such as Ron Paul do a much better job of beating the war drum of smaller government. Ludwig’s book starts out with a history of monarchical government down to our time, showing how it has failed man. Oddly, he doesn’t show how the Scriptures (oftentimes even within the same book, such as I Samuel, leading liberal scholars to divide the book into “priestly” and “kingly” authors later redacted into the form we have) tend to give both strong arguments for and against Monarchy. Secondly, Ludwig discusses the history of democracy and shows its failures. Again, Ludwig shies away from discussing the many attempts at establishing a theocracy on earth, mostly because most attempts either failed before they ever got started, or emerged into something quite horrid, such as many of the monastic movements. Ludwig then spends several chapters outlining specific civil law rulings, such as the order of state law in regard to marriage, property, war, judicial law, and slavery. Take slavery for instance. He uses the term loosely, defining such things as income taxation as a form of slavery. He argues for a biblical basis for slavery. Oddly, he is quick to defend slavery, without a word of mention of the form of slavery that we in modern times have seen, that of kidnapped slavery, which biblically is punishable by death. Yet, I have not seen Dabney or civil war Reformed thinkers bring slavery to task in such a way, always deferring only to the biblical permission for slavery. All in all, Ludwig says nothing new and clarifies no issues in my mind as to how a Christian may live in the world but not of the world. Ludwig has matters perfectly figured out in his mind, and to disagree means that you either do not possess his innate brilliance or perhaps are just stubbornly wrong-headed. Nobody would win a debate against Mark. Too often, we use the defense that we take strong stances since we hold a high view of truth. Humility is left wanting. Mark would be best served by mellowing out a little, and realizing that many of us have serious problems with our democratic form of government, yet do not view the “revolutionary” response as that of leaving all forms of “worldly” government to form a theocracy. To Mark, I wish you the best.