Bicycling in Portland 2014

Riding in Oregon with friends, family, and self, 21-26MAY2014
I had always wished to return to Portland to do some rides that I had tried as a kid, but which didn’t end so well. I wished to ride the Gorge, do Larch Mountain, and run around a number of the places I used to ride bicycles when I was growing up in Portland.  So, this adventure gave me that opportunity. I started by driving down to Portland after work of Wednesday evening. The next morning, Aaron H. came to meet me at the hotel, and we took off north. Riding across the I-205 bridge, we rode eastward along the Columbia River, following the Washougal River once we reached Camas, WA. A short segment brought us back to the Columbia River Highway, where we passed Beacon Rock, crossed the Bridge of the Gods (photo above, with Aaron showing off his banana), and then rode back along the old Columbia River highway. The bicycle trail was now complete all the way out to Cascade Locks, though my cycle instructions did not realize that. The ride up to Crown Point and then back to Gresham and Portland was exhilarating. Here is the Garmin data…
The next day, I touched base with brother Gaylon and rode a ways out the Springwater Trail to Boring, OR. It was boring, and so we turned around and came back. Garmin data…
On Saturday, I had wanted to ride up Larch Mountain with Aaron, but we decided to do something a little less strenuous, and so I came down to Salem, to do a fantastic and beautiful ride with him in the foothills of the Coast Range, and through the farmland of the Willamette Valley. Here is the Garmin for that…
Sunday was a day to relax. I spent about 4 hours with Lewis, which was much needed. I then spent time later again with Gaylon.  The weather was drizzly, and I was worried about Memorial Day, Monday, when it was supposed to rain heavily. On awakening, the weather was cloudy with the sun, so I decided to go for it. On Gaylon’s advice, I headed down the I-205 corridor to Sunnyside Road, over to 152nd, down to the Clackamas River, and then back the Clackamas to Oregon City, crossing the old Oregon city bridge into West Linn, riding up to Terwilliger Blvd, headed up Terwilliger past the medical school,  (seeing the Terwilliger trail which I jogged many times while in medical school), crossing back across the Hawthorne bridge, and then (mostly) up Clinton Avenue back to the hotel on 92nd and Stark St.  I had ridden the Hawthorne Bridge many times on my bike, but it was much easier now, as the wooden planks had been replaced with a solid platform. Here’s the Garmin, and a photo while crossing the bridge…

China with Liao Yisheng

I have had a flurry of writing at the beginning of the year, but it has now been two months since I’ve written a review or commentary on my life. So, away we go with a trip to China. Together, Betsy and I took over 1200 photos, so, you are seeing only a small sampling.
Dr. Liao invited us to go on a trip with him to China. He had been suggesting this to me for quite a while now, and we have finally gotten around to going. The trip lasted from 10-26APRIL, and we visited 5 cities, representing central China. The weather was cool, with intermittent rain. The atmosphere was not smoggy, but actually quite hazy, making for less than optimal photographs. Click on the individual photographs for a larger view. Here is the blow by blow of our travels…
Friday Diane tok us to the airport, and we met Mike, before getting on the Hainan express to Beijing. The flight went 1 hour shorter than expected, and eleven hours later, 4:50 the next day, we landed in Beijing. After finding our hotel and checking in, we went out for a quick dinner, and crashed.
Sunday: Mike had arranged a guided tour for today, which included first a visit to the Great wall. It was  great. According to Mao, anybody that visits the Great Wall is a hero, so, Betsy and I are now heros. After that,  we visited the tombs of the Ming dynasty emperors, with a focus on the third, Yongle. We then visited a silk factory and purchased a silk comforter, a jade factory, and a tea specialty house for a tea tasting. That evening, we decided to do some Chinese cuisine, which we enjoyed. This was on what was called “bar row”, where we met a friend, XiaoDong, of Mike, who joined us at dinner. This restaurant was on a lake, which we then walked around before heading home. XiaoDong is a biomedical scientist, possibly in line for the nobel prize, but very delightful in personality.
Dr. Liao at the Great Wall – a real hero! 
The tomb area of Yongle
The restaurant menus come as picture books. Here is an example.
Out for tea
Monday: first, Tian’nanmen square, which is just a large plaza. We wished to see the Chairman, but his tomb was closed, as well as the Forbidden City. So, we opted for seeing a flower garden next to the Forbidden City, and then going to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was build by the Ming dynasty, but burned by the British, and then again by the British and the French, and each time rebuilt. It was massive, with a very large lake in the center. The Buildings were all over the hillside and very ornate. After dinner, Betsy and I were exhausted and crashed.
The gardens next to the Forbidden City
Ming dynasty architecture at the Summer Palace in Beijing.
A stiff climb up to the top of the hill in the summer palace area.
Boat trip across the lake at the Summer palace
Tuesday:   A quick breakfast first was followed by a trip back to Mao’s grave, and then the Forbidden City.  Mao’s grave was most interesting. There was an hour long line, as roughly 200,000 plus people visit the grave each day. You pass through security, and are not allowed to have bags or cameras, no photos were obtained. You are sold white flowers to leave at his grave. In the building, you enter a large room where his statue is sitting in a friendly pose,  carved in giant white stone, similar to the Lincoln memorial. In the next room, his body lays in state, reasonably well preserved. Mao has had a comeback in China, remembering him not so much for his colossal mistakes (the great leap forward and the cultural revolution)  but for his absence of corruption and for uniting the Chinese people.  We then went to the Forbidden City. Mein Gott! This made any European palace system, including Versailles, look like kid’s stuff. The palace and grounds were huge. There were over 8,000 rooms. There were huge squares. Sadly, Chaing Kai Shek looted most of the treasures of the Forbidden City. Schwein! They now sit in Taiwan, and don’t belong to them. Every building was exquisitely decorated in the most ornate fashion. It all made you feel quite small. The evening was spent having Peking duck, and then cha he pijiu (tea and beer) on a rotating restaurant on top of our hotel.
At the enclosure leading to the Forbidden City.
Inside the Forbidden City
A small section of the Forbidden City showing its immense size
Wednesday:  Today, we say goodby to Beijing and hello to Xi’an. After breakfast, Mike and I first visited the Beijing Hospital, the best hospital in the country of China. It was a zoo. There were wall-to-wall people lined up various activities, such as waiting to pay for an appointment, waiting for the doctor, etc. There is no such thing as an appointment time as it is first come, first served. The hospital was nice, but just miserably crowded. After that we went to the Beijing Cancer Hospital, the best cancer hospital in the country. We met a doctor friend of Mike’s, and toured the place. It also was a zoo. China needs a better system—they have great doctors but no system. From there, we checked out of our hotel, ran down to the other end of Chang’An Jie (Long Peace Street) caught our high speed train to Xi’an, was picked up by a driver, and delivered to our hotel after having dinner. This hotel would have been a $4-500 hotel in the US, but we paid slightly more than $100. Throughout the travel, including the high sped train, and the hotel, it did not seem like we were in China, as things seemed to be nicer than in the USA. Construction was occurring everywhere you looked.  There was an unbelievable dynamism occurring.
A crowded waiting room at Beijing Hospital
Thursday:  this was another hectic day. After a quick breakfast, we headed off to the terra cotta soldiers of Qin She Huangdi. The site was massive and overwhelming. We then went to a site that had the swimming pools of the emperor’s favorite concubine. After a massive lunch, we headed to the museum and burial site of China’s only female emperor, Wu Zetain. Dinner was again held, with a bit of overeating, but meeting some of Dr. Liao’s acquaintances in Xi’an.
Main area of the Terra Cotta warriors. There are over 6000 that have already been excavated.
Terra Cotta soldier wanna be’s.
A typical lunch scene.
Today we got to try duck’s feet and duck’s heads
Mike practices his calligraphy at Mr. Yeung’s office
Our most gracious host, Mr. Yeung.
Example of instructions everywhere not to walk on the grass, in poetic form.
At the swimming pool of the emporer’s concubine. She was reportedly the most beautiful woman in China (next to Betsy, of course)
Friday: another quick breakfast, and then we headed off to a local Xi’an hospital. This was a private hospital, and they were in the process of building an entirely new hospital, which we toured in the construction phase. It is 27 floors,  1000 beds, with both in and outpatient facilities in the same structure. They then held a conference to ask our ideas on forming a more American style service to the hospital. The hospital is private, in that it was owned 80% by the doctors and nurses in the hospital, and 20% by other investors. After lunch, we went to a museum of ancient history, where relics from s far back as the Shang dynasty were on exhibit, going up to the Tang dynasty. I was amazed at the exquisite character of the workmanship in the bronze material. Xi’an has the largest complete still existing city wall in the world. It was huge, 15 km in length, and bounded by a river. We looked at the gate which was essentially the starting point for the silk road. There were amazingly no tourists there, but it was an impressive site. After paying a visit to a local Catholic church, where they were having a Bible study, we headed off to dinner.
Part of the 15 km wall of Xi’an. It was very large on top, room for 4 lanes of traffic.
Saturday: We checked out of our hotel, which was probably the nicest hotel that I’ve stayed in ever. There was even a private sauna in our room. We went to breakfast, and then visited the large Buddhist temple in town. Xi’an was one of the main towns that promoted Buddhism early on in its introduction to China, so it was a significant town for Buddhism. The restaurant experience for lunch was most unique, as Betsy and I saw foods that we never dreamt to be possible. Duck feet and duck heads, chicken feet, squid, frog legs, and vegetables that I have never even heard of before. The food was Anhui, which I’d probably avoid in the future.  We later stopped at the largest hospital in Xi’an, and drifted around. It certainly was large enough for over 2000 in-patients. Next stop was the airport. So far, we’ve been in a city of 22 million, and 8 million. We are now heading to Chongqing,a city of 11 million persons. Small towns just are a bit hard to find. Dr. Liao’s two older brothers met us for dinner. Dinner in Chongqing was at a hot pot, where each seat has a hot plate that has a sauce pan with boiling water with spices. You take various items and cook them yourself to eat. The hot pot was first done done in Chongqing.
Our hotel, on the banks of the Yangzi river.
The cross-walk just outside of our hotel.
Sunday- this was a lazy day. We started out by hitting a McDonalds for Betsy’s sake for breakfast. Mike left us alone to tend to family issues, and we were able to spend a relaxing morning in our hotel room. We took a long walk along the Changjiang (Yangtzi River), while Mike went to help resolve family issues. Later, we met Mike’s brother, who is a physics professor at the University and Susan, who took us to a historical museum in Chongqing where the forces of the Kuomintang slaughtered a large number of Mao supporters who were in prison here. The evening was a family get together, where we met Mike’s parents, and had a large, real Sichuan dinner. Nothing was recognizable except for the kung pao chicken, which was super-hot.
Historical museum of the Chongqing prison.
Old shopping district in Chongqing.
Les Trois Mousquetaires – Two of Mike’s three brothers
The Liao family gathering in Chongqing. Mike had the sweetest parents.
Monday- breakfast was at Starbucks! We took a walk again along the Changjiang before checking out of the hotel. Mike’s brother, the physics professor, picked us up from the hotel, and we went down to the center of town, which was a large shopping center with super-rich shops such as would be found in Bellevue, or on the Kö. Lunch included the standard Sichuan cuisine, which was quite hot and spicy, but very flavor-able. Much of the food was unrecognizable to us, and contained very strange creatures. We then dashed to the airport, flew to Hangzhou, and was picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law, who taught traditional Chinese medicine at the medical school in town. This includes using acupuncture, herbal medicines and things of the like. Every hospital has traditional medicine doctors, who are used in treating select illnesses. We got to our hotel by 9pm and collapsed. The area of the hotel is called the Xihu Qu, or the Westlake District, the most expense real estate in all of China. I’m told that Hangzhou was an area of the first experiments in capitalism in China, and there was clear success.
Mike’s sister-in-law outside one of the pagodas on WestLake
Pagoda on WestLake
Tuesday—after breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law, and toured a number of museums and places of interest. The museums in Hangzhou were all free, making it nice. We first went to a silk museum, where they had on display historical silks from many mons ago. They also had a nice display of the silk making process. We went to a large experimental farm established by one of the emperors from several hundred years ago. We toured a ceramic museum, which showed the development of porcelain from ceramics many moons ago. We went to one of the large pagodas on the banks of Xihu. There was lunch, and the took a long walk around Westlake, including a boat ride to one of the islands in the lake. The Xihu (Westlake) area is like one massive park on steroids, very popular and thus very crowded even in slow times, though not often visited by foreigners. It is meticulously cared for, massive flower beds, and most beautiful. We had dinner on the lake. Hangzhou is known for its particular cuisine, which is not hot, but distinctly different from other Chinese cuisines. The food tends to have more fish in it, and tends to have a more slimy character. After dinner we were tired, stuffed, and wanted to crash.
WestLake area
View of part of WestLake from the top of the pagoda
Scene on WestLake
Mike searching for directions
Wednesday—This was a slower day for us. We spent much time walking along Xihu, people watching, buying tea and other things, eating at Burger King (not as good as the US), and then drifting on back to the hotel. We then met Dr. liao’s brother-in-law, who is working on a PhD in constitutional law in Beijing. He took Mike and I on an extended tour of our hotel side of the lake (Xihu). We again visited a number of museums, and then tried this famous local dessert made out of the powder of the lotus plant root. It tasted good, but was a bit slimy in texture, but is well liked by Chinese. We had dinner in a very popular restaurant along the shore of Xihu, and the restaurant where Mike was married. Dr. Liao’s nephew Andy was with us, 11 years old, and who will be starting boarding school in Connecticut this August.
Elderly couples dancing in the park in Hangzhou. This was commonly seen by us.
Mike’s brother in law, talking seriously with Mike.
Outside of one of the museums with Mike’s brother in law.
Lotus schleim. I actually tasted good.
Scene from the WestLake park.
Girls loved to have their photographs with Betsy.
Thursday—today we were picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law and taken to the train station. The ride was one hour from Hangzhou to Shanghai. In Shanghai, we first found our hotel, and then took a cab ride to the international district. We saw the building where Mao and twelve people wrote the constitution for China, and then we went out to eat at a faux-German restaurant. The beer was good, food very so-so. Afterwards, we walked along the riverfront, looking at the buildings of Shanghai, and slowly drifted home. Hangzhou was a small town of only 3 million people and 8 million in the metropolitan area, but Shanghai had 10 million in the city and 20 million in the whole area, a little bit larger city.
Shanghai architecture across the river from Mike and I
Friday—today is a lazy day, with a focus on shopping. We went to two shopping areas, where we focused on buying tea, porcelain, and gifts for the kids. The first shopping district was close to our hotel, anf a very long shopping road, off limits to cars, and with very fancy shops. We then hopped in a taxi, and went to a very large shopping center with a Ming dynasty architecture motive. This place was huge, we spent all of our renminbis, and had an awesome time. We then got ready for dinner, hopped the subway to the other side of the river that runs through Shanghi, and went into a very large shopping center, larger than anything that I’ve ever seen in the US. It was a total of thirteen floors. Before entering, we got an appreciation for the building architecture of the new Shanghi, which is beyond anything found in America. Dinner tonight was with Drs. En and Mrs. Li. He taught biochemistry and did biochemical research at Harvard University, before getting a job working for Novartis, back home in Shanghai. China, because of its burgeoning economic status, is extremely favorable for scientists, and it is very easy for me to see why. Dinner, by the way, was probably the best meal we ever had in China, though entirely Chinese. En has apparently lived long enough in the US to know what the American taste would like.
Ming style architecture in large shopping district in Shanghai.
Typical buildings in Shanghai
More very creative architecture in Shanghai
Family at a small tea shop where we purchased tea and tea cups. Note that Oma cares for the baby.
Inside the large shopping mall. This only a small view of the whole mall.
Dinner with our gracious host in Shanghai, Li En and wife.

Saturday—we are eager to get home, though we have most thoroughly enjoyed China, and it is sad to say goodbye. A cab ride got us to the train station, and the train from Shanghai to Beijing was 5 hours, with 5 stops. It was mostly through very flat farmland. In Beijing, a friend of Mike’s picked us up and shuttled us to the airport, a little over an hour drive, and giving us our last taste of crazy Chinese driving. The flight home was 9 hours. We left Beijing at 4:30 pm and arrived in Seattle the same day at noon. It was two days packed into one. After saying goodbye to our dear friend Mike, Sarah shuttled us home. We unpacked, and noted piles of tea, as well as no broken porcelain. It was good to be home.

Thoughts on China…

Just a few minor observations. Cars… Brother Dennis purchased a Chinese vehicle in Belize, which was a total piece of junk. I anticipated that I would see cities full of junky cars and rickshaws, bicycles, and baby taxis, like in India. Instead, there were no rickshaws or baby taxis, almost no bicycles, and the most popular car was the Mercedes Benz, followed closely by the other German cars, BMW and VW. Chinese cars are reportedly next in popularity, followed by American cars,  and Korean/Japanese cars were the least frequent. I did not see a single Chinese made car until Chongqing, but it was a nice looking sports utility vehicle. Supposedly, they have vastly improved the quality of their vehicles. At the end of two weeks, we saw less than five Chinese built vehicles.
Secondly, the big cities do not have slums. They do have poorer parts of the city, but nothing that I would call a slum. The countryside had some very poor areas, but no worse than found in Belize, Jamaica, Cameroon, or Bangladesh, the “third world countries” that we’ve been to. The dress that people wear is identical to the western world. There was no ability to recognize that you were not in the US or Europe except for the Chinese writing, and that everybody was oriental. There is minimal unemployment in China, as there are no unemployment checks, welfare, food stamps, or anything of that sort. In a strong sense, it is more capitalistic than America! Regardless of your status or education, if out of a job, you will take anything in order to survive. The state will not be your nanny. There are no messy employment laws, and you can fire an employee at will. Employers tend to treat their employees well. One morning, we saw at a clothing store and then at a restaurant all of the employees out in front of the store doing Zumba like exercises. Many larger firms will have a cafeteria for free lunch. Our friend also had a large library at his firm for employees to encourage their continued education.
Thirdly, traffic is absolutely horrid in China. Why most the cars do not have bumps and scrapes is a total mystery to me. An American traffic cop would find violations literally every second. People use the shoulders of expressways as a passing lane. People run red lights. Cars do not yield to pedestrians but vice versa. People will aggressively violate every traffic rule on the books to pass a car in front of them. I watched my taxi driver pull into the on-coming lane of a four-lane road in order to beat a traffic light. I could not ride in the front seat of a car. Historically, I feared the taxi drivers of NYC. Now, China has exceeded that 10-fold. Next time I go to China, I bring mass quantities of Valium if I anticipate an automobile ride.
Fourthly, the Chinese put a very high value on family and relationships. This is a little odd, since their value for human life is less than in the US. Everywhere we went, we saw grandparents with grandchildren. I was surprised to see that the state was not raising the child, but the grandparents. In family relationships, the grandparents are usually asked permission for any major decision, such as marriage.  The eldest son held priority in family decisions. Nursing homes did not exist, as the children were expected to care for their aging parents. I did not expect this.
Fifthly, the language and poetry are important. Everywhere you go, you see poetry. Apparently, the Chinese language lends itself easily to poetic expression. We would see signs not to walk on the grass, and it was written in a poetic fashion (so I am told by Dr. Liao).  The Chinese hold those who are masters at poetry in the highest regard. And, the person in recent history who excelled in poetry was none other than Chairman Mao.
Sixthly, Mao Ren Zi (Chairman Mao) is the most poorly represented person in the west. Before my visit to China, I viewed Mao as nothing but a beast who slaughtered millions of people. That is perhaps true, but it lacks the full impact of who this man was. Why is it that Mao now has a near 100% acceptance rating in China? Why is he generally appreciated everywhere in China, and not because it is forced on the Chinese people? As mentioned above, the Chinese knew that Mao was most brilliant, and had a mastery of the language beyond most intellectuals. His poetry is everywhere, because it was very well done. During the years that Mao was chairman, he changed the Chinese language for the good, like having the symbols simplified. The Chinese now read and write right to left, like we do. Why? They used to write up to down and backwards, but Mao had that changed. Mao not only liberated the farmers, but also women, stopping crazy practices like feet binding, and giving them more rights. Secondly, the greatest problem with all Chinese emporers and rulers was serious corruption. If one faulted Mao for anything, it certainly was not corruption. Chaing Kai Shek was very corrupt, and the peasants knew it well, which is why they flocked in support of Mao. Mao had no love for the privileged elite, and exalted the poor peasants to a better living. That is seen well in China nowadays, with there being many multi-millionaires, but the farmers in the countryside have a reasonably good living in comfortable circumstances, and not as it was before 1949. With the current corruption in government, there is a sense of nostalgia for a leader who could act for everybody’s best interest without corruption. People often cite the fact that Mao murdered millions ruthlessly. Actually, most of the deaths under Mao’s watch were from serious mistakes that he made, and most people in China acknowledge that. I am referring to the great leap forward, and to the cultural revolution, which was truly stupid mistakes, which led to millions of Chinese dying, though not intentionally by Mao. One cannot forget history. China is a somewhat diverse group of people, with 56 ethnic groups, multiple religions, and multiple languages. In my reading of Chinese history, I don’t know of a single emperor that did not have to do a major “purge” to acquire unity and control of the country. Now, perhaps unity in China is not a good thing, but that is not something that I would propose—I don’t wish to be like the French, who felt that a united Germany (back in 1870) was not a good thing, since they would lose control of the weak individual German states. In any case, power was used consistently to achieve unity in the country. Finally, many in China view there to be two major revolutions in the country. The first was with the rise of the Qin dynasty, a very short dynasty from 221 to 206BC, and best known for the terra cotta warriors. What most don’t realize, was that the Qin leaders were quite ruthless at leading to the unity of the country. They also unified the language and standardized many things, such as the width of wagon wheels. Important? Think about India, which has 5 different gauges for the railroads. That wasn’t to happen in China, because of wise but strong leadership. The second revolution was with Mao. Mao is now gone, and we are able to speak freely about him. There is much wrong with Mao, and I don’t think that the ends ever justify the means. No doubt, Chairman Mao is a complex person, and my attempt to understand why he has such a pull in Chinese society at this time now has a little better insight.
Finally, what about “communist” China? Are they “communist” only in that the leadership is not necessarily elected, and that they do not permit criticism of the government? In China at this time, that is not bad, because the leaders have been capable of brilliant leadership. What about restrictions of speech? Facebook is not allowed in China, as well as many other forms of social networking. But then, homosexuality and pornography are also not allowed. Is that bad? I wish it were so in the USA. Meanwhile, the USA is far more communistic and socialistic than China. Perhaps we need to re-think the corruption and evil that rules strong in Amerika?
In conclusion, this trip to China was fantastic, and Betsy and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The food was sometimes slightly wearisome but was always quite good – just not what we are used to. The mass crowds were also a little challenging. China was nothing like we expected, and the wealth and immensity were overwhelming. I now have a feel for Marco Polo returning to Italy only to find that nobody could believe his fantastic tales of China. China truly is dazzling, and the people everywhere were friendly. Most signs had English translations, suggesting that we Amerikans are still welcome in China. Hopefully, we don’t create an artificial war that treats China as an enemy. They have no interest in war, as their internal problems are great enough. I would hope that politicians could see China as a friend, understanding the differences that separate our two countries.

Cambridge Illustrated History of China

Cambridge Illustrated History of China, by Patricia Buckley Ebrey ★★★
I purchased this text from as a used book to read before and during my trip to China with Betsy and Dr. Liao. It arrived very heavily marked up with multiple pages folded over, not exactly what the seller suggested. This text is fairly comprehensive of all aspects of history and includes many beautiful illustrations and helpful maps, unlike many Chinese history texts. The author attempts a newer style of history taking, focusing on “the man/woman in the street”, and de-focusing on the rulers and leaders. Unfortunately, it leaves the history of China seriously poorly explored, since the actions of the emperors had an immediate effect on the man in the street. Ebrey spends much time discussing the development of Chinese art and poetry, yet even that is poorly explored. I was left with a very poor impression of having learned much from this text about Chinese history.

The Divine Revelation

The Divine Revelation, by Paul Helm ★★★★★
This short little book is guaranteed to tie up hours of one’s time reading. It is a thoughtful reflection, not on the theology of divine revelation, but of the philosophy of divine revelation, i.e., is such an activity possible or probable to have happened. Helm writes mostly against the thinking of Karl Barth, and the post-modernists, both of whom, in many ways are similar is attesting for the unique role of the recipient who must turn the mere words of the Bible into spoken revelation. This book is not for the faint-hearted, as it is not written for easy bedtime reading. Perhaps philosophy majors will find this book to be light reading. Helm will challenge you to think through each word used.  As an example, he speaks of infallible truth, and then probes whether or not that is not a redundancy, since infallible and truth (at least in his [and my] world) is synonymous. Helm realizes that certain things are not logically provable, and doesn’t take the approach  of “proving” that special revelation (that is, revelation which could never be acquired by any other means) has occurred, but demonstrates the logical possibility of special revelation, as well as its consistency with Scripture. Not to be begging the question or arguing in a circular fashion, Helm has no problem arguing for the internal consistency with special revelation as found in Scripture as being its own proof. Certainly, the Scripture has more consistency than anything else out there.
I’ve now read and reviewed a number of Helm’s books. His books on providence, time, and special revelation stand as his major works. All are worth reading. Since he lives close (Vancouver, B.C.), I’d dearly love to meet him some day, or perhaps get him down for a mens group meeting at church. He is staunchly reformed in his thinking, and, as others have stated, probably the foremost Christian philosopher alive today. I would certainly agree. I might also refer the reader to Helm’s blog page, which always provides interesting reading ( ).

Fixing Your Feet

Fixing Your Feet, by John Vonhof ★★
Having had many blisters from my years of backpacking, I was quite eager for some advice on how to prevent blisters from happening, and what to do about it when they do occur. Thus, with this book recommended, I eagerly plunged into its 260 pages, hoping for concrete advice that would prevent the painful foot sore from ever happening again. The advice was quite mixed. The author repeatedly (and correctly) noted that everybody is going to have a different fix. Then, he repeatedly repeats much of what he says again and again and again. This book is not intended to be read straight through like I did. Considering that its on its 5th edition, my presumption is that the author started to throw in chapters here or there, without ever re-reading the book to see what he was duplicating. About a third of the book is taken up with anecdotes by other athletes regarding their worst blister stories, or their solution to a bad blister—not terribly helpful. Vonhof’s focus is on the long-distance ultra-marathon runner, including those people that run extreme races like the Death Valley run (which goes from Badwater to the summit of Mt. Whitney), or the Marathon de Sables in southern Morocco across the Sahara desert. There was very little advice for long-distance backpackers who do not have massive support teams and need to consider weight as an important variable in preventing blisters.
The book was marginally helpful, as advice acquired here was available from most backpacking books. The first several chapters offered a summary  of all that was essential in the book. Subsequent sections on prevention and treatment of foot injuries of the long-distance runner, and not terribly applicable to hiking. Climbing foot problems were never mentioned where many of my blisters occurred, when the foot was in a very stiff and waterproof boot by necessity. Neither was mentioned foot problems with cross-country skiing, a unique time when the foot must be flexible but very warm.
If there are any changes to this book in subsequent editions, I recommend several things. First, the author should actually read through his book, and delete the bountiful repetition that occurs. Second, anecdotes need to be more selective, and advice ranked and categorized better. Advice was all over the board from not doing something to only doing the same thing, to extremely crazy things. We don’t need to know about the bizarre things that might have worked on one person, but rather what generally works, and what could be tried if general advice doesn’t work. Second, the author should create sections specifically for certain activities, since every activity is going to have different solutions. Thirdly, complex problems that require specialty treatment need to be stated clearly as such without lengthy details.


Much hype was made over the Superbowl in the Seattle area. Everybody (hyperbole, actually, only about 30%) was wearing Superbowl shirts over the past week, and the mania reached all branches of life. The super-rich flew to Christie-Land (kind of like Fantasy Land) to personally attend the festivities. There was great apprehension because the Reds (* see below for an explanation of the colors) had the most valuable player. Conversely, the Blue-Greens had the favor of Nero, as well as the Reformed Pope of Seattle (Mark Driscoll).
The game was not watched by me, but I could tell that it was practically over from the start. The only anxiety remaining was whether the Blue-Greens would be able to pull off a total shut-out. Actually, they did accomplish a total shut-down, as the city of Seattle and its accompanying megalopolis rested quietly, all citizens glued to their personal sewer pipes (televisions). The streets were empty, and shops were stilled. Even the houses of worship that still met on Sunday evening were poorly attended—I know, since I went, but heard one of the best sermons ever last night-Zechariah 14. Facebook was littered with photos of home Superbowl parties, photos of nauseating junk food spreads fit for Rosanne Barr or Oprah, and scores were updated on a continuous basis. Since I am friends on Facebook only of Seahawk devotees, I delighted in their spontaneous posts of rapturous praise to the Blue-Green god. The red devotees were not happy, but I never heard from them, and they got what they deserved—dogs and blasphemers never deserve to win.
Now that the Superbowl is over and the Blue-Greens are the victors, all is well in the Land of Oz. The Emerald City has returned to it’s usual helter-skelter. But, there is a noticeable difference. There is no love in the city. No crimes have happened since the clock struck game-time zero the Land of Oz.  There is a prevailing sense of peace. There is joy unspeakable among the residents of Oz. It is a transformation like has never occurred in our great land. Meanwhile, Nero has announced that he was just kidding regarding Nero-Care and is terminating it as of this moment. He is withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, shut down the Federal Reserve, and has confessed to being an inveterate liar, never to lie again. Salvation has come to our dear Pacific Northwest, and we’ve all found Jesus. The Seattle Pope has already declared that many of the Blue-Greens have found Jesus, and while the rumor exists that while some of the Reds have professed finding the same man, we know most assuredly that that simply cannot be true, as Jesus loves sports and would only allow true believers to win.
*In Greek and Roman society, the sports teams were named by color, so that instead of the Seahawks, the Broncos, the Cubs, the Trailblazers, you had the Blues, the Reds, the Greens, the Whites, etc. The White Sox or the Red Sox most closely approximate the ancient standard. The Seahawk’s colors are Blue-Green and the Broncos Orange with a touch of Blue (call them Red since an Orange team did not exist in Rome), so they are referred to with color terminology in this post. Ancient Nero, like most of the emperors, was an avid Green fan, so he probably would have been a SeaHawks Blue-Green fan. The reincarnation of Nero in the White House almost certainly is a Blue-Green fan.

Hugh Latimer

Hugh Latimer, by Richard Hannula ★★★★★
This is a very short book, and can easily be read in a single evening. It is part of a  large series of “Bitesize Biographies”, so I presume is intended to be short and sweet. Dick Hannula is an elder in our church and also the principal of the church high school. He is currently giving a Sunday school series for the adults on the general content of this book. Latimer, with Ridley and later Cranmer, was burned at the stake by Queen Mary. Through the faithfulness of many of the early English reformers against incomprehensible odds, a candle was lit which led to England soon becoming a solidly reformed country. Mr. Hannula writes almost like he speaks, and thus you get the feeling when reading this book that Dick is speaking to you. Latimer is definitely a fascinating character, being the best mouthpiece of the Reformation in England. He possessed the preaching skills to persuade many to leave the heresies and false teaching of Rome and seek their comfort and trust in the Christ of Scriptures alone. Latimer also had an overwhelming concern for the poor, unlike most of the clergy of England who used their posts in the church for their own personal advantage. This is a good read which will leave you loving the man Hugh Latimer and is a  brief episode of history that all English-speaking people should be aware of,  a nice reminder that the gift of religious freedom that we presently enjoy was won over many of faithful souls being burnt at the stake.

Broadway in a Box

Broadway in a Box
I offer two sets of reviews for this set. There is a reason for this. I often post reviews to, and when I post positive reviews, the responding commentator (of my review)  will usually identify the review as helpful. If I post a negative review, I will receive generally an “unhelpful” ranking. Negative reviews from me often receive feedback that comments on my stupidity. It would be like being called an idiot for preferring chocolate by a vanilla aficionado.  This current review has two sections so that my review may be received differently based on where one lives. Desperately desiring only favorable feedback on my reviews, I decided to write two reviews. The first review should only be read by those who live in New York City, would like to live in New York City, or who do not live in NYC but have an “I ♥︎ NYC” bumper sticker; if you fit this category, do NOT read the second review. If you do not fit this description, don’t waste your time on the first review and read only the second review.
First Review with New Yorker sentiments ★★★★★
The Broadway musical is a reflection of New York at its best, with the glamour, delight, and gaiety that exemplifies New York. In this most delightful collection of musicals reflecting Broadway plays from most of the 1960s and 1970s, we see the charm that has brought such acclaim to Broadway. These recordings are a delightful collection of the best of the best that Broadway had to offer in those years, and are the original recordings of each of the musicals contained therein.  A visit to New York gives one the electric excitement of a dynamic city. It is to this city that we owe much of the cultural innovation of the last century, and from Broadway that a true gift is given to the rest of America. An amalgam of Vaudeville, Tin-Pan Alley, and Big Band Jazz styles in contemporary settings offer a musical feast for the ears. To New York, we owe our culture. They tell us what to buy (Madison Avenue), how to save (Wall Street), how to think about current events (NY Times), what to eat, how to live, and what to enjoy in music. And to Broadway, we owe a perfect reflection of Americana, music that is truly American. The only thing missing in this box is the video, which would have been nice to go along with the soundtrack. It is a bargain and well worth the enjoyment of listening to it many times over.
Second Review with Rest of the US sentiments ★
The Broadway musical is a reflection of absolutely the worst in American music, including its obscenity, its triteness, and its failure to resurrect the listener from the slums of abject boredom. Its theme of boy-girl love (or sometimes boy-boy/girl-girl love) dominates nearly every musical.  The music itself could have been written by a trisomic Mongoloid—if one simply writes a nonsense talking script and then generates a singsongy tune to accompany it, you have most of what is found on these CDs. Very little reflects true creative genius. But this is so typical of New York—vacuous glamour with a presumption of greatness. There was very little in the vocal performances to be admired. The frequent use of singing children does not provide rivalry to the vocal greatness of the Wiener Knabenchor or die Thomanerchor. Adult voices were not pleasant, especially female voices which were raspy and quite irritating. How any group of people, let alone a whole megalopolis of people, could tolerate this rubbish defies imagination. Some musicals, like “Chicago” were just plain obscene. Others, like “Hair”, attempted to make light of the radical Hippy movements of the late 1960’s through a love fest to the Hare-Krishna New-Age Jesus amalgamated religion. Certain musicals would probably have never made popularity if they weren’t “fixed” by Hollywood — this is especially true of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. The contents of this box with brief comments are as follows…
Disc 1: Annie (Original Broadway Cast) – raspy little kid sings “they’ll love me tomorrow”, but what about today?
Disc 2: Anything Goes (1987 Lincoln Center Theater Cast) – ho-hum. Obviously, anything does go in NYC.
Disc 3: Cabaret (Original Broadway Cast) – NY envious of Berlin pre-war decadence. Jolly right, ole’ chum
Disc 4: Camelot (Original Broadway Cast) – Came little. Ho-hum
Disc 5: Carousel (1965 Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast) – June is busting out all over!
Disc 6: Chicago (Original Broadway Cast) – Sewage, not fit for Chicago
Disc 7: A Chorus Line (Original Broadway Cast) – ho-hum
Disc 8: Company (Original Broadway Cast) – super ho-hum
Disc 9: Fiddler on the Roof (Original Broadway Cast) – yea, ok, the Jews all left Russia and moved to NYC, wishing to be rich men. We know that already.
Disc 10: Guys and Dolls (1992 Broadway Cast) – c’est ennui. Can’t anybody in NYC compose an interesting story line script?
Disc 11: Gypsy (Original Broadway Cast) – hyper ho-hum
Disc 12: Hair – I didn’t realize that Krishna was hairy. Looks like the age of Aquarius is already over. With global warming, NYC will have the age of Aquarium.
Disc 13: Hello, Dolly! (Original Broadway Cast) – desperately needs Satchmo
Disc 14: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Original Broadway Cast)- deserves an Oscar for the worst script ever
Disc 15: Into the Woods (Original Broadway Cast) – a failed attempt to improve on die Gebrüder Grimm
Disc 16: The King & I (1964 Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast) Not sure why Yul Brynner and Hollywood decided to tackle this one.
Disc 17: Man of La Mancha (2002 Broadway Cast) – it is no wonder that Hollywood didn’t tackle this one, it’s an impossible dream.
Disc 18: My Fair Lady (Original Broadway Cast) “super-sexist” and would never be tolerated by today’s standards. Read Pygmalion instead.
Disc 19: Oklahoma! (1979 Broadway Cast) – Jed Clampett also had a beautiful morning once in Oklahoma, but immediately left it for Beverly Hills
Disc 20: Oliver! (Original Broadway Cast) – Little orphan Oliver! Male version of Annie
Disc 21: Show Boat (1966 Music Theater of Lincoln Center Cast) – Broadway subtly engaged in self-adulation
Disc 22: The Sound of Music – The hills may be alive with the sound of music, but Broadway is definitely NOT in the hills. Still trying to solve the problem of Maria
Disc 23: South Pacific (Original Broadway Cast) – New York’s method of making a bloody war romantically beautiful, n’est pas? Nous aimons les guerres!
Disc 24: Sweeney Todd (Highlights) (Original Broadway Cast) – Sweeney Who? This musical actually has highlights?
Disc 25: West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast) – Why couldn’t Leonard Bernstein just stick to conducting the NY Philharmonic? Amazing that somebody that sells themselves as the great professor and philosopher of music and adorer of Noam Chomsky could deliver something so trite. Bad music, bad script. The Beatles did better; the musical “Yellow submarine” far exceeds anything in this show. Compare Bernstein’s “America” with Rammstein’s “Amerika” and Rammstein will win handsomely.
First, Bernie attempts a half-hearted mess “everything is free in America” are some of the first words… spoken like a true liberal on welfare
Audio Player00:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.
Now, Rammstein will tell you what Amerika is really all about…
Audio Player00:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.
The late 20th century has produced exemplary music. Unfortunately, it has mostly come from eastern Europe. The West in their godless decadence has lost any ability for true creativity. Once entertainment is stripped of meaning, it becomes nothing more than a hedonistic bacchanalia that  fails to offer to an audience anything of lasting value. Comparable musicals that show more class include a) the Strauss musicals, including Die Fledermaus, in spite of the falsetto of Prince Orlofsky, the music and story line are funny and memorable  b) the Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, which had horrid story lines and scripts, made up for by reasonably good music. Even such mushy schmalzy musicals (operettas) such as those of Lehar (Land des Lächelns, e.g.)  has minimally very impressive music in them. The only thing that the Broadway musical does well is to truly reflect contemporary Western culture. To that, the listener should hear and weep. I gave away this series to a good friend so that he could also do a little weeping. He’ll probably sing along to the recordings while in the shower.
If you’ve read this far and you are of the group that lives, loves, or belongs in New York, then clearly you’ve read too far. Shame on you. I suppose you read other people’s mail. You probably even support the NSA (and Obama) reading everybody’s mail. But, I’ll give you some advice that you can take to your friends on Broadway. Try a merger of Broadway with Hollywood. Here’s an example: merge a war musical and a war film. You can take South Pacific and The Sands of Iwo Jima. Once you have John Wayne hunkered down on the beach the first night on Iwo Jima, as evening sets in, have him suddenly stand up and start singing “Some Enchanted Evening”. The Japs can come out to provide the orchestral background, and the wounded soldiers beside John can sit up on their stretchers and offer the oohs and aahs. Once the soldiers reach the summit of Mt. Suribachi and they get ready to raise the flag, the John Wayne is joined by Jane Fonda (in her Barbarella outfit, but military green to match the Duke) and they sing Bali Hai with all the same words, but substituting “Iwo Jeem” for “Bali Hai”. For another merger idea, one can merge two Broadway musicals. Take the West Side Story. . . in the middle of the song “Maria”, some nuns can come out and start singing “How do you solve a problem like Maria” from the Sound of Music. Later, during the duet “Tonight, tonight, tonight may be the night”, Annie comes out singing “Tomorrow, tomorrow, just wait ’til tomorrow”.  Mel Brooks could have a feast on Broadway shows.

Cutting For Stone

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese ★★★
This book is about two identical twin boys, Marion and Sheva, growing up at a mission hospital in Ethiopia, whose mother died at the time of birth and father disappeared at the time of birth. Verghese weaves a complex maze of incidences which lead to the ultimate fate of each of the two boys. The setting is quite historical, in that it speaks of the epoch of Haile Selassie and subsequent revolution, which influenced events of the two boys. Eventually, the father is identified as a world famous liver surgeon in Boston. The book is written in either third person form, transforming into first person form of Marion as time goes on.
Reading the first third of the book had me quite excited as to having discovered an excellent novel. It went downhill from there. Verghese elaborates on some coming-of-age scenes with the boys, and other sexual escapades which seemed to dominate the author’s thinking. Too many incidences occur which are beyond the realm of reason. The father, Thomas Stone, writes in Africa the leading textbook of tropical medicine, only to become the world’s authority on partial liver transplantation. Right. Shiva skips medical school, and becomes the world authority on urovaginal fistulae. Marion becomes the head trauma surgeon at a New England hospital. Marion’s youthful girlfriend leads a hijacking of an airliner, only to find herself wandering aimlessly in the US. The original realism which decorated the first half of the book is lost completely in the second half. It was as though Verghese had become bored with writing and had to create imaginative ways to end the book.
This is a book that is perhaps slightly autobiographical, in that the author was born in Ethopia, with Indian connections and finally moved to the US in order to become a doctor. Thus, much of what he describes about the life and land of Ethiopia in the first portion of the book was wonderful.  His description of third world hospitals is quite accurate and brought back many memories. His idea of god is one giant Hindu Ethiopian Mary-oriented Catholic Muslim god who works in a random fashion, and extracts punishment or delivers favor in a quid pro quo mixed with arbitrary manner. This book is best read by reading the first ⅓ to ½, and then skipping to the last several chapters to find out what happened to everybody.

Holy Land Revealed

Holy Land Revealed, taught by Jodi Magness, Teaching Company video ★★
In anticipation of a return to the Holy Land, I purchased this video. I was quite apprehensive, as the Teaching Company has a tendency for any series under the category of “religion” to be taught by liberal professors. Jodi was not only hyper-liberal, but also did not offer what the title suggests would be the topic. It would have been better titled as Holy Land archaeology or Holy Land history rather than Holy Land revealed. I assumed that she would delve into the Holy Land itself, discussing the geography, cities, archaeological digs, etc., but ordered in a historical fashion. Instead, the main video was not of the land itself, but of her in the classroom teaching. She was placed on a large square rug that, like a good obedient puppy, she never leaves save for one time, where she got her right foot about ⅔ the way over the edge of the carpet. I wondered if the Teaching Company had a hidden cattle prod that shocked her back onto the rug at that point.
Magness offers the richness of an archaeologist that has frequently dug in Israel. She spends an entire talk on her dig that revealed the toilet habits of the Qumram community (?), and much related to the Roman Masada ramp, which actually was quite interesting. Much of her talk oriented more around history than the land itself, which did not seem to be the topic suggested by the title of this lecture series.
Magness shows herself as a typical liberal, in that she easily holds extra-biblical materials, such as the writings of Josephus, as more credible than Scripture itself. She seems to delight whenever archaeology might suggest something contrary to Scripture, such as the dating of Herod’s slaughter of the children, or timing of the fall of Jericho. Sadly, she is unwilling to explore the controversy in these areas, but presents things as cut and dried. She is a perfect example of claiming that her scientific quest is “open-minded” and yet is hell-bent on proving a hypothesis, let all of the evidence be damned. Scripture over time has proven itself irrefutably infallible, about the only thing that one can safely hang their hat on, regardless of the storms and assaults of man. Archaeological evidence is highly subjective, the theories for interpretation of the data are constantly changing, and the evidence is often contradictory, leading to strange and obtuse theories to explain away the contradictions.
I learned some history in this presentation. I also learned a few interesting facts about the “land” itself. It wasn’t a totally worthless series, though it did not offer what the title and lecture subjects suggested that it would cover.