February 2009

Late February 2009 skiing

Jonny and I went cross-country skiing twice together. The first was up to Snoqualmie Pass, on a groomed trail, for about 14 miles.

The second was into Reflection Lake on Mt. Rainier, much of the way through a steep forest with about 18 inches of powder snow. This made the possibility of easy skiing quite difficult, and only once we got to the road were we able to get some speed to our skiing. The snow was quite soft, but also very cold, which meant that it balled up underneath our skis, making the going quite difficult. Both photos were showing Reflection Lake.

On 26FEB, Dale R. and I did something that I never tried before, which was night downhill skiing. This was accomplished at Snoqualmie Pass, and was a rather pleasant venture. Photographs were impossible.

Hymns of Worship and Precious Memories

Hymns of Worship and Precious Memories, sung by Prairie Choristers ★★★

First of all, I love these songs. I grew up with them.  The Zion’s Harp is the songbook of the Apostolic Christian Church, a small Amish-Mennonite type church that was my church for the first 25 years of my life. The hymns that are sung are absolutely beautiful and taken from mostly the German heritage of the church fathers. The ACC split in the early 20th century, and these songs are performed by a mid-west group by the split side that I attended before at 13, which was when my parents then switched to the other “side”. On that side, church singing was entirely acapella, though they often used the piano in their homes. These songs are technically well performed. The recordings do not have a good balance, and the men’s voices are very difficult to hear, even when they are soloing. Another nuance that is disturbing about these performances is their overt technical accuracy, while entirely missing the emotion or spirit of what they are singing about. They rarely ever change their volume or tempo, and one could perform them to a metronome. I realize that the performers probably feel very strongly about the words of these songs, and yet these recordings show a complete absence of that warmth or love for the object of their song. So, only three stars.

South Prairie from home, 35 miles

This is my first ride of the season. I just got back my Element, which I’m turning into a touring bike. They installed new gears on the bike, to facilitate a better touring experience. I thought I’d give the bike a spin. It is definitely heavier than by Trionfo, and the fatter tires make for a touch more resistance, but otherwise, the bike worked well. The greatest difficulty is the last 3 miles, which has hills (Bellmonte Dr.) up to about 14% grade. The bike handled well, even though I was just a slight bit tired. I followed the Orting trail, but once I get past Orting, I get off the standard trail and onto a back road that is considerably more hilly, but also more scenic. I’m ready for more. I’ll soon have to take my Trionfo off of the trainer and get some better distance rides in.

Das Leben der Andern

Das Leben der Andern (The Lives of Others) ★★★★
A German-made film that has English subtitles, this extremely well-done movie won not only international acclaim, with the winner of the Academy Award for best foreign-language film of 2006, but also considered the top conservative film of the last 25 years, according to National Review. It is the moving story of an artist being held under surveillance by the Stasi in the former DDR (East Germany). It is a witness of the realities of state control of one’s life, and even one’s thought. I fear that telling the plot would ruin the film for subsequent viewers. I must say that this is a must film, especially in the US as we have increased state surveillance all intended on protecting us from Terrorists and the like. Though the film is rated R, there are minimal scenes that one would find even remotely offensive. Bill Buckley Jr. shows good taste in calling this one of his favorite films of all time.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller ★★★
I typically don’t read recently published books, but many people recommended this book, and so I felt it deserved a quick read. It is an argument for belief in God, written by a pastor, and thus has a very pastoral feel to it, rather than a seasoned and sealed argument that one might find from the pen of a philosopher, such as Francis Schaeffer. Keller is the Pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian Church in NYC, and much of the book entails conversations and questions asked by members of his congregation. Keller quotes CS Lewis in every chapter, and his argument has a strong flavor of CS Lewis. The book is divided into two parts, the first being an argument for the existence of God against the common accusations, such as, science has disproved God, the Bible could not possibly be accurate, aren’t all religions correct and lead to God, how could Christianity be true and yet the Christian church so evil, how could God and evil both exist, etc., etc. The second part is more an appeal to the reasonableness of faith, including reasons why Christianity offers the best answers to the dilemmas of man, such as sin, evil, value, morality, and meaning in life. The books’ strongest chapter is the last and is not even titled a chapter, but Epilogue-Where do We Go from Here, where Keller argues for a move of each individual, Christian, and skeptic alike, to the call of the Cross and resurrection of Christ.

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil DeMille ★★
I’ve never seen this movie before, even though I’ve heard much about it, so decided that it was time. In 3.5 hours with a star-studded cast, DeMille proceeds to portray the story of the Biblical Exodus. Unfortunately, he takes effort at the start of the movie to argue for the strict historicity of the movie, yet, the storyline has Hollywood written all over it, including the love affair of Moses for Nephriti and the delay in revelation to the Egyptians that Moses was actually Hebrew. The impressive visual scenes in an age before computer animation are quite notable. The rest of the movie fails. It is a movie worth watching once, but certainly not worth owning.

Ivan Rebroff Live in Concert

Ivan Rebroff Live in Concert ★★★
A rather pathetic film which was done at a concert given by Ivan Rebroff in Sydney, Australia in 1984. Rebroff certainly had one of the most remarkable voices of the 20th century, with a range from deep bass to high tenor, and fluency with both multiple languages and acting that was rather remarkable. This film does not do Rebroff a service, being a rather odd performance and not the best recording. Useful only for Rebroff fans.


Guilty, by Ann Coulter ★★★
I didn’t want to give Ann three stars, as she deserves 5 for all the work she went through compiling this book. But then, this book kind of wears on you. In fact, I didn’t finish it, because it seems to just make the same point again and again and again and again. It’s like reading assembly language code–it ends up being nothing but ones and zeros, even though it may be coding something quite significant. Coulter’s thesis is correct regarding media bias and serious bias of the left. Her approach to resolution is rather caustic, and more fitting for a lawyer (which she is) than for a real person. Her book is a  perfect example of having a correct thesis but a wrong approach to stating that thesis. She does make a true point about liberals. But then, she casts liberals into a single confined mold, which I don’t think is appropriate. Liberals tend to be correct on many issues that seem to escape Ann. Thus, Ann gets only three stars.

Apnar nam Kenneth

I now have to prepare for Bangladesh. Part of preparation is getting a feel for the language. Bengali is the most deprived language in the world. I’ve only been able to find one instruction book in Bengali, with a limited CD that gives you a rough impression as to what the words sound like. No major language instruction company offers any help. Berlitz? No Bengali. Rosetta Stone? You can take Welsh, spoken by 750K people total in the world, or Irish, where only half the population of Ireland speaks Irish, and then, mostly as a second language. Then, there is Bengali, the 6th most common language in the world. Nothing. Nichts. Nada. Nichivo. So, I slave away. Countless pages of Sanskrit later….

A return to semi-reality has just occurred. I was able to touch base with the office and surgery center, as well as do lunch with Dr. Liao. I ran over to the hospital to talk with The Lord High Grand Inquisitor. It was a rather cold event. I’m troubled by the statements that I’m a valuable character in the MultiCare system, and yet do not get the impression that I’m particularly wanted. They realize that I am the character able to bring major abdominal cases as well as breast cases to the hospital. Otherwise, the cases will be totally lost to elsewhere. It was sort of like a “wake-up” for me. Several movie wake-ups come to mind. The first is in the next-to-last scene of Conan the Barbarian (the best movie of all time) when Conan wakes up to the siren voice of Thulsa Doom. The second is deep in the earth when Puddleglum wakes up to the sweet talk and enchantment of the witch, in the movie, The Silver Chair. Somehow, I don’t have a good feeling about things to come. Then, I get the Surgical News, and always enjoy reading the occasional articles by Dr. Cossman, who is a vascular surgeon in Los Angeles. He seems to hit home every time. The article this month speaks of the death of private practice general surgery, and he is absolutely on the mark. I have included an excerpt in the Veröffentlichungen. Please read it in the whole to get a good feel of what I’m going through. So, I remain uncertain as to what to do for the future. With the Franciscans, I will need to throw out any chance of doing any more thoracic or gynecological work, and I’d have to work with surgeons that I don’t trust. That doesn’t turn over well with me. I’d consider moving to Portland but the job market there is a zoo-like it is in Tacoma. There is the thought of either figuring out a way of staying in Missions work until retirement or doing nothing but locum tenens. Please pray for me that the Lord will guide Betsy and me in making proper decisions.
So, national news continues. A chimpanzee attacks a lady and nearly kills her. We now learn that apes can be quite vicious. Why didn’t Margaret Meade tell us that? If you accept the simple schoolbook -what you’ve learned in college- teaching on evolution, then we are the random product of a fairly violent species. No wonder I don’t feel safe in Harlem, or Washington D.C..
The Pope has now made several declarations that have ruffled many feathers. The first was to pardon and remove ex-communication from a bishop who declared that the Holocaust did not occur. The second was the instruction that Catholic politicians (such as Nancy Pelosi) must vote pro-life, or risk church action. Wow. My first reaction to the first declaration was a fit of anger. How dare the pope do such a thing? But then, I got to thinking… who cares what Pope Joe declares? Do you really take him seriously in these sorts of matters? I don’t.  Secondly, I don’t know where there is an injunction in Scripture to hold in ex-communication those with stupid beliefs. The strength of Christianity is that it tends to look beyond politics and our own screwed-up-ed-ness. Yes, it is possible that the Marxist bleeding heart liberal Tony Campolo might even make it into heaven. It’s definitely not ours to judge. So, perhaps it is proper for the church to stay out of issues such as belief in the Holocaust. I know of nowhere where the Constantinopolo-Nicene creed, the Apostolic Creed, the Heidelberger Katechism, Westminster Confession, or any Roman Catholic creed insists on a belief in the Holocaust as a ground for orthodoxy… But, Pope Joe just can’t stay out of politics, or perhaps, just has bad timing on his statements with heavy political implications… He now declares that pro-death politicians cannot be good Catholics. Certainly, I’d wonder if anybody that strongly supports abortion or PAS should even waste their time identifying themselves as Christian. I’m not talking about many, who tend to wring their hands on the issue of abortion or PAS. Like I said before, lot’s of confused and uncertain people will be going to heaven someday. I’m speaking of the Gloria Steinems or Nancy Pelosis, who view themselves on a mission from (god?) to make abortion common, accessible, and completely socially acceptable. These politicians should quit wasting their time with the “Christian” or “Catholic” label. Meanwhile, Pope Joe must learn that he can’t be selective about when he practices politics, or when he practices Christianity.
Katze 19.FEB2009. Katze threw up everywhere in the house for the umpteenth time. We realized that we would have a serious problem with Katze, being that we would be gone much of this year. So, we decided to have Katze returned to the Animal shelter where we got her 5 years ago. We gave Katze a good 5 years, and it was not without plentiful tears to wish Katze goodbye. We had Sarah take Katze to the pound as we could not bear to see her go. We will miss Katze’s vomitus on our rugs and floor. She was otherwise a good Kitty.

So I end my ramblings. Kreuzberger Nächte sind lang, aber denn? (For my English readers, I’m referring to the lead song, which was a German hit song in 1978. It remains for you to figure out what the song is all about.)


Momo, by Michael Ende ★★★★
Momo is a children’s book, written entirely in German, by the same author that wrote The Never Ending Story. It is the tale of a small orphan girl living alone in the ruins of an ancient city, adjacent to a large modern city. Over the course of the story, she encounters the Die Graue Herren, the grey men, who go around stealing time from people. In the process, everybody becomes too busy for everything and has no time for relationships. Momo is eventually able to determine how to fight the grey men through the help of a tortoise and Prof. Hora, and give civilization its time back. It’s a cute story, written for about the 8th-grade level, which is also essentially my level for reading without the excessive use of a dictionary. Mr. Ende tends to have a socialist slant towards life, reflective in this writing, but he does drive home the truth that honesty and loving relationships are more important than wealth and efficiency. Ende’s book doesn’t end with balance, and doesn’t show that both efficiency and relationships are important – it’s an either/or situation for him. His book makes the strongest statement against the state efficiency of the East German government and regimes of the like.