30 April 2005

Sharing Supper: Well, actually breakfast, One of the traditions in the Orthodox Churches in the US is to share a meal with all the forbidden foods from the Fast following the midnight Pascha service. Meats, fish, dairy, oils, wine, beer, sweets, all of these are there in abundance and for those of us of Russian extraction, vodka. Our contributions this year are cheesecake and a lamb-vension version of Yebeg W'et, an Ethiopian stew.

Yebeg Wa't

1 pound spiced butter*

2 pounds cubed lamb**

1 pound lamb or goat ribs or shanks cut into 2" pieces

2 pounds cubed vension

2 cups chopped onions

3 Tbsp minced ginger

4 Tbsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp tumeric

2 Tbsp Alecha Kemen*

1.5 cups boiling water

3 Tbsp Berbere*

3 Tbsb Tikur Kemen*

Salt to taste.

Sliced green and red peppers, 1 each


Melt the spiced butter and add the garlic, onions, ginger, turmeic saute until onions are tender but not browned. Add the Alecha Kemen and stir. Add all the meat and toss so the meat is all coated. Cook for 10 minutes covered. Dump everything into a large crockpot (slow cooker) and turn on high. Add water and remaining spices to meat and mix well. Cook covered on high until boiling and then on low under meat is tender (2 hours). Add salt and hot pepper to adjust taste. Thicken sauce if necessary. Add pepper slices about 20 minutes before serving so they cook until tender and wilted but not mushy. Serve either hot or refrigerate and eat cold (traditional eaten at RT with flat bread).


* Okay, I cheat. We cook a lot on Pascha and tomorrow the parish is roasting a lamb (translates me and the boys are running it) so I use spices I buy from the folks at Maru Groceries in Dallas. You can also get the recipes from "Taste of Ethiopia" for these or order them online from a couple of places.

** Cubed in this case means cut into 2-3" long pieces.

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Pascha Cooking IV: Cheese Pascha (Russian Ice Cream as a friend calls it)

2  8-oz pks. Cream Cheese

1/2 pint cottage cheese

1/4 pound sweet butter

1/4 cup confectionary sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar


clean flower pot about 6" in diameter.


With a mixer or food processor, blend the cottage cheese until it is smooth. Add the cream cheese and butter and blend until smooth. Add the two types of sugar and blend smooth. Add raisins, sliver almonds, candied fruits as desires. Line the flowerpot with three layers of damp cheesecloth. Pour in mixture. Put a weight on top (10 pounds is good) and let sit in the refrigerator until no more drainage is seen (normally 1 - 2 days). Remove from mold and unwrap cloth. Make an XB on it in sugared almonds. Serve with Pascha bread.


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Pascha Cooking V: Leg of Lamb

3 cloves garlic, cut into slivers.

2 Tbsp Chipotle Powder

4 Tbsp ground coriander

8 gloves minced garlic

3 tsp cumin

3 tsp hot paprika

4 tsp crushed black pepper

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup olive oil

6 pound leg of lamb

Poke small holes into the lamb and insert garlic slivers. Mix all the spices together and blend into the olive oil to make a paste. Coat the lamb with the paste and cover the top and sides. Place in a roasting pan on a rack and preheat oven to 400 F. Cook for 12 minutes a pound or until internal temperature reaches 145 F (med rare). Let rest 10 minutes, slice, and serve with a 1:1 mixture of ground cumin and sea salt as a garnish.

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29 April 2005

Good Friday: Started last night with the Passion Service, also called the 12 Gospels. It's long running about 3 hours as we pray and sing our way thru a series of 12 Gospel readings detailing the Death and Burial of Our Lord. Even in the prayers and canons sung expressing the sorrow of Jesus' family and friends as well as God's sorrow for the desertion of His Chosen people from Him, the theme of the Resurrection is already appearing. Today started with Royal Hours and then today we build the tomb so this afternoon we can hold the lamentations and the Grave Watch. Noah and I, and Ben if he can stay awake have from 11-1, across the midnight hour, to stand and read the Psalter over the tomb of our Beloved Lord. The midnight hour is always special to me on this night. When all the world sleeps, when the world is dark, to be with Him and watch for but an hour.

Lamentations Service at nightfall ends the day with a somber note, for if this was the end, all our hope was in vain. Now we continue to watch thru the night, in pray and silent wonder, that the Son of God would submit to this for our sakes.

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Did you know the guys over at Maro Polymers have a plastics blog? How cool is that? Even better they have links to a bunch of other plastic/polymer blogs too.

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Pascha Cooking III:- Arthos (Bright Week Bread)  This is not the bread used for communion but a sweet bread made for Pascha and stored on the Altar until the Sunday at the end of Bright Week.

2 cups Chickpea Flour

4 cups Whole Wheat Flour

10 cups unbleached Flour

3 Tbsp yeast

2.5 cups sugar

1 cup Olive oil

1 tbsp rose water

6 cups water'


Add yeast to 1/2 cup of water and add 1 Tbsp sugar. Let sit until foaming. Mix everything together in one large bowl and add flour to adjust texture so you have a firm dough. Knead until elastic, about 15 minutes. Let rise 2-4 hours so it doubles in volume. Divide into 8 loaves and make into balls. Put balls on a greased sheet and preheat oven to 350 for 20 minutes. Add decorations with white dough below if desired. Bake at  350 for 40-50 minutes or until 190 F internal temperature until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Decoration dough:  We normally decorate the loaves with crosses, wheat heads, etc made out of it. Some people do grape leaves and stuff but I ain't that clever.


4 cups bleached flour

1/4 clear vegetable oil

Water as needed


Make a stiff dough and roll out to about 1/16" thick between pieces of waxed paper (greased). Cut out designs and attach to dough using water to help adhere. BTW, You can cut it down but since we make it for church we make 10 loaves. Cut down to 2 loaves its a good bread for home use.


Pssst, Rufel, roll out means flatten with a rolling pin.

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Pascha Cooking II:- Nut and Poppy Rolls

8 cup flours

1/2 pounds butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2 package dry yeast

1 pint milk, lukewarm (use the liquid from the egg cheese)

Dissolve yeast in the milk with 1 tsp sugar. Mix the flour, butter, the remaining sugar, and salt together so its like a pie crust. Add the liquid mixture and mix together. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.


2 pounds ground nuts                      1 pound dry poppyseed

1 tsp butter                                     1 tsp butter   

2 tbsp milk                                      1 cup sugar

1/2 cup sugar                                   enough milk to make paste-like (or you can buy a can of it.)


Pre-heat oven to 325 F. Divide into 4 parts and roll out. Spread 3 with nut mixture and remaining one with poppyseed mix, ending 1 inch from each long end and 4" from each side. Fold one side in and fold up into something like a jellyroll. Seal ends by wetting with milk and mashing toghter. Brush top with egg white and bake for 35-40 minutes at 325 F on a greased pan or cookie sheet. (Note: if a nine year old helps, the jelly roll effect may be less than prefect<g>)

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Pascha Cooking I:- Hrutha (Cirak or Yayechnik: Egg Custard Cheese)

1 dozen eggs, beaten

1 tsp salt

1 quart whole milk

3 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp vanilla

1 thread saffron ground (or yellow food coloring)

In a double boiler, heat the milk until warm and then add the salt, sugar, vanilla, and saffron. Slowly add while mixing the eggs. Cook while stirring constantly (this is very important - stir gently and scrap the sides and bottom or it will scorch!) until it looks like scrambled eggs (the liquid will have separated from the solids and be almost clear). Dump the mixture into six layers of cheese-cloth in a strainer over a bowl. Tie the cheesecloth up around the solid and squeeze as much liquid out as possible without disturbing the ball that forms. (It is very hot so dip hands in ice water between squeezing.) Let hang for at least 3 hours (I hang mine overnight in a refrigator after the 3 hours at RT) and then remove the ball from the cheesecloth. Cut into slices and serve with bread and cold meats.

Save the liquid and use in bread recipes (to follow).

BTW you can cut the whole thing in half and it works just fine.

Note: Over the next two days, I plan to blog all the recipes need to make a traditional Pascha basket from my background. So this is the first. I make this early because the liquid collected from hanging the cheese makes for a very rich bread.

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Things to read: Yes, I am falling behind here, but my poster for the Society of Plastic Engineers ANTEC 2005 in Boston is done and the seminar for next Thrusday in Knoxville (Dr. Reynolds? Mr. Johnson? Yoo-hoo?) is started. Sadly I am in San Antonio on Tuesday so I got to work over the end of Holy Week. Anyway, the Carnival of Recipes is up, as is the Carnival of the Vanities, the Bonfire of Vanities, Russ' Carnival of Optimists, and the Christian Carnival.

No word of the Carnival of Cordite 10 yet... It's up now here with gun-babes too.

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27 April 2005

As you may have noticed, blogging is and will be light this week. With all the services in Holy Week, all the cooking we do before Pascha, and having a new employee from my day job to train on the Differential Scanning Calorimeter this week, I am having a hard time remember to even read email...

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25 April 2005

Stupid Laws: Texas House Bill 332 is Mr. Lon Burman (D-Ft. Worth) continuing attempt to totally destroy youth hunting and shooting in Texas. The bills language uses "exceptions to prosecution." The LEO issues a citation and is required to seize the firearm. The parent can then get it back from the court when the exception is proven by turning up in Court with the minor (under 17 in this case).  Stuff like being on private property, hunting with your parent, traveling with a gun, etc are all exceptions.

Interestingly, the gun does not address handguns. It affects shotguns and rifles.

We did the exception bit with the old handgun laws here and they were one of the drivers for getting the current CHL laws past. Why? Because of unfair application of the law and the un-necessary burden that the exceptions placed on law abieding citzens. This bill would place those restrictions on kids whether they were shooting with Dad, at a 4H meet, or shooting at a Scout Ranch.

There is no good purpose for this bill except to make it more difficult for kids. Since it was introduced not into a committee dealing with gun laws or hunting, but into Juvenile Justice, there is a good chance this may clear. Burman apparent has been doing this every session causing people to give up time and money to testify against the bill. What is wrong with y'all in Ft. Worth anyway?

You can find the text of this abomination here.

Contact information for Committee members follows. Write and be firm but polite.

Rep. Harold Dutton (D) Chair
Rep. Toby Goodman (R) Vice-Chair
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D)
Rep. Joe E. Moreno (D)
Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D)
Rep. Yvonne Davis (D)
Rep. Joe Nixon (R)
Rep. Jim Dunnam (D)
Rep. Mark Strama (D)

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It's a Fish Day: Well, actually yesterday was and so we stuffed a salmon. I'm just behind on a lot of stuff this week.

1/4 cup butter

3 Tbsp minced onion

1/2 tsp basil

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp rosemary

1 tsp thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp flour

1 Tbsp Parlsey

1/2 cup milk, heated to just below where skin forms.

1/2 pound small shrimp, cooked and peeled

1 cup cooked rice

1 small (18" long) whole salmon, cleaned.


Melt butter. Using 1 tsp brown the onion. Add rest of butter. Add spices (except dill) and flour and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of  hot milk to make a thick sauce. Add shrimp and rice to the sauce and blend.


Sprinkle salmon inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff salmon cavity with stuffing and sew closed. Sprinkle outside with dill and lemon juice. Bake at 350 for about 1 hour or until done.


Serve with a nice white wine (also a wine day) and fresh bread with garlic-pepper olive oil for dipping.


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24 April 2005

Palm Sunday - the Entry into Jerusalem: Holy Weeks Begins

Today was the start of Holy Week and the end of the Great Fast. I never do as well as I hoped. Comments on the Entry into Jerusalem will probably follow, as the stuffed salmon recipe, but after Bridegroom Vespers, I find my heart too full to write.

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Hey, the Carnival of Recipes is up at Bebere. A bit late but good things are to be waited for, no? And peach porn with poetry too. My little tree budded heavily this spring, so hopefully we see some. With those lovely burrowing owls munching on my squirrels, we may even get to eat a fig or two. Go, Owls! Eat lots!

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22 April 2005

The 50 Caliber Trap:  Like most gun owners, I was upset about the attempt of the anti-gun crowd to demonize a highly specialized rifle never used in a crime and seldom even seen by most non-professionals (ie. LEOs and Military.) It struck me as just another attempt, like the now expired assualt weapon ban, to ban a gun because the anti-gunners could. In some ways, its ideal. It's an expensive toy, most people never see them, it is used for relatively specialized competitions, and it looks scary. See? Just look to the right here. That 9 year old sure looks dangerous, huh?

Now, a fair number of people in both the press and the blogsphere attack the NRA because of they aren't hardcore enough, or because the NRA didn't do what they thought was right. The TSRA gets some of that shit too. However, thanks to the NRA, details of this bill are getting out and it could ban guns with a barrel diameter of .50 inches. So it actually would include your 50 caliber muzzleloader, your brand-new SW Model 500, and maybe your shotgun. I'm not sure about the latter but I use shotgun brushes to clean my 50 BMG rifle so maybe. Anyway, the bill is more sweeping than California's ban and covers all actions types.

Even better is the propaganda being pushed by the sponsoring anti-gunner, about how this is banning heavy sniper rifles. If you can stomach it, read the whole thing (NRA summary here). Because the next time they think needs to be banned is intermediate sniper rifles in bolt, lever, rolling block and semi-automatic action. What is an intermediate sniper rifle? Oh, nothing you'd own, just .30 caliber rifles. Yep. 30-06, .308, 300 Win Mag, 338 Mag, 375 Win Mag, 30-30...Just the most common and useful hunting guns in the market. They make no bones about it. After the 50s, these are next to be lobbied against.

So what ever your opinion of your state rifle association and the NRA, get off your tush and send money. Volunteer time if you can. Email yeah, but also send handwritten notes to your state and national representatives. Tell them to stop this bill and while you are at it, tell them you want the Gun Manufacturer Liability Bill (Senate bill 399/ House Bill 800) passed with no anti-gun amendments. Make them pass something so the anti-gunners attempts to disarm us by bleeding the manufacturers to death fail.  If you are like me and get daily mailings from the RNC asking for money, tell them that any future donations depend on these bills. If the 50 ban passes, if the Liability doesn't pass clean, no donations. Money talks. Heck add a line about how immigration reform better be coming up too. After all, if they act like Democrats and there is no difference, why vote for them?

The blogsphere is a big and fun place but if all you do is post here and don't actually try to influence your representatives, its just play acting. So write a polite but firm letter tonight. You can find your representatives here...

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Bad Wildlife Management: On a totally different hunting issue, New Jersey's Supreme Court decided that the ban on bear hunting is valid. So if you live in NJ, and a black bear eats your kid, remember your elected officials decided bears are too cute to hunt... There is also a good article there on what happens when wildlife management is made a political issue...guess what? Just like regular science it starts to suck when the politicians get involved. Just like cougars in California, seals in Canada, and feral cats in Wisconsin...

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Speechless: Now what can you say about a man whose tag line is: "If your goal is to change minds and influence people, it's probably not a good idea to begin by asserting that virtually all elected Democrats are liars. But what the hell." Other than "I love you, man." Roger Schutlz on his work safe site has a Photoshop-ed paeon to Ann Coulter, along with his normal weirdness. Go to the main link too and scroll down, as the Angel Ann is only one of many... Warning Roger's definition of safe for work and tasteful may not be yours but the "she's a democrat" one is worth it.

Yes, there really is an unsafe for work site too. And yes. I am shameless in begging for links....

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21 April 2005

Catching up: Yesterday I spent most of the day with customers or sitting on a plane going to the next site. So I never got to even log on and blog.  Anyway, a bunch of cool stuff was posted and I am going to be lazy and list it all here. First of all, the Christian Carnival is up at Pseudopolymath and follows the space of a western Liturgy. Also up is the Tangled Bank, a carnival of posts on science and it's a year old. Being new to that collection of post... well, all I can say is I am a happy panda over these cool things to read. So click over to Circadiana and enjoy.

Speaking of happy, Russ still sees his cup as half full so go visit him at the Carnival of Optimists.  And finally, the Carnival of the Vanities #135 is up and hosted this week by someone with manners, tact, and talent...Next week its over at the Ravings' of John Bambenek.  That my catch-up from yesterday. Back to work.

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Spicy Thai-like Noodles: Not Thai because my favorite graduate student says they aren't authentic and she should know. However, except for the oil, they are lenten and so:

2 cups wide rice noodles, cooked

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 jalapeno or thai hot peppers, cut into slices

12 jumbo shrimp

12 sea scallops

4 Tbsp Fish sauce

1 teaspoon Soy Sauce

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp ground white pepper

1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil leaves

1/2 cup coarsely chopped lettuce leaves

3 plum tomatoes, halved

4 Tbsp peanut oil

1 Tbsp chili oil*


Brush shrimp and scallops with chilli oil and grill. If not able to grill, add the chili oil to the rest of the oil and cook the them with the garlic in the pan. If grilled, add the oil to a pan and heat, then add the garlic. After about a minute add the tomatoes and the peppers and cook for a minute. Add the grilled seafood. Toss well. Add the cooked noodles and toss for another minute. Add everything else and toss until warmed thru. Serve immediately.


Chili oil: take about a pound of hot dried chilis, I like the little chinese ones but any nice red one works. My dad used scotch bonnets peppers. Crush well in a blender, seeds and all, and add enough of a good grade olive oil to cover. (yep, this is why it isn't lenten). Let sit for about a month and then filter the oil off. You can use the oil in place of regular oil in marinades and dishes, to stir-fry, etc...

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Orthodox and Catholic Differences: Russ asked me to post on the Orthodox viewpoint of the Great Schism as they call it in the West. Since like any sinner, my own opinions may not represent the Church's, I am going to give two versions that represent the liberal and the conservative wing of the Orthodox Church. These are both mainline opinions and browsing the web you can find anything from "its all a mistake" to "everyone else is totally and completely damned, even the Orthodox who don't agree with us." So to the best of my ability, here's how I understand what happened and how I see the implications.

The liberal viewpoint is simplest and limits the disagreement to two area: (1) the filioque in the Western Creed and (2) the authority of the pope as Bishop of Rome. (Notice even the liberals will list the theology before organizational issue. This theology is what the Catholic Church often skips when talking about the Orthodox. Their focus is the second point.) Historically, a Spanish Council added the line "and from the Son" to the Nicene Creed and it was slowly adopted by the Western Church. Nicholas I and St. Photius argued about it in the 860s; a roman council actually condemned the addition in 879, but by 962 was overturned, and in the 1054 the split finally became permanent. St. Mark derailed an attempt in the mid-1200s to reunite the Churches by glossing over the differences. Driven by politics it was massively opposed by the laity and the monastics. In my opinion, the Catholic Church locked themselves into heresy when the Pope declared himself infallible in manners of faith and dogma when speaking as the Vicar of Christ back in the late 1800s.

The two issues are intertwined. The Filioque changes the nature of the Trinity and both denies the primary of the Father, and weakens the Holy Spirit by making Him almost an offshoot of the Father and Son's relationship. The Orthodox see the Fatherhood of God the Father as part of His Essence and that the Son is begotten of Him while the Spirit precedes from Him. Changing this destroys the understanding of the relationship explained in the Creed. The Spirit becomes like a force field generated by the Father and the Son, and Their relationship is also changing. Weakening the Personhood of the Spirit some claim was what leads to the need for an infallible head of the Church.  By changing the Creed, the pope disobeyed the dictates of the original councils and then claimed special jurisdiction to make dogma for the Church. (This isn't just something in the distant past: papal infallibility became doctrine only in the late 1800s and was immediately used to proclaim the Immaculate Conception of Mary.) The Eastern idea of the council of bishops was replaced with one man who God talked to. Both parts of this were refuted by the other great Sees. The change in the Creed was seen as both heretical and flouting the discipline of the Church. The claiming that the Bishop of Rome had special grace from God make laws and reveal doctrine was considered to be an usurping of the other Bishops authority as well as overweening pride. For the Head of the Church is Christ and it stays on course not because of scripture or traditions but because of the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The conservatives hold to those points but add that the Roman Catholic Church has added a whole series of doctrines that do not meet the test of Orthodoxy: that which the whole Church has believed in all times. Orthodoxy means right belief and right belief is the belief held by the Church from the beginning. Conservatives like to point out the Roman Catholic Church is really the Carolingian, as they pushed both the filioque and the special office of the papacy, and that the dwellers of Constantinople considered themselves Roman. They point out after the fall of the Empire in the West, the access to the great fathers and Greek writers were limited, and that Augustine's theology with its Manichean tint became the theology of the West. Even in Augustine's day, the East held different views on original sin (no inherited guilt in the East, more like an inherited disease), marriage and sex (the marriage bed is sacred and undefiled but is for more than just the procreation of children), women (, and God's grace. The differences continued as the interactions with Moslems caused the East to develop a theology of icon thru the Great Iconoclastic Heresy that tied into the idea of the Incarnation (Christ God can be drawn because He was fully man). The ideas of indulgence, purgatory, physical flames in Hell, the nature of Grace, Mary as Co-Redeemer, the Immaculate Concept, inherited guilt, sex only for procreation, the whole Aquinas-Scholastic line of thought, the reaction as seen in people like St. Francis or stigmata bearers, etc are looked at as part of a continuing drifting away from the true Faith.

Now I am sure my Orthodox readers will all have disagreements on this and feel free to comment. My point is there is a tremendous amount of differences between the Churches today and those of us with split families find a very different feel. It's almost as if the Western Church (in all its forms...one orthodox writer suggests catholic and protestant are like -a and +a. Same issues, different expression) is set of legal relationships as opposed to being a family with a lot of very sick people. For example, the Catholics have an interpretation of Scripture based on what the Pope says it means. Protestants let every man be his own pope. Both think in terms of legal relationships with God as the Judge and focus on the Christ dying for our sins. In Orthodox the focus is on the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, Our King and Our God, the Son of the Living God.  Orthodox has stricter fasting and canon laws than the Catholics, but allows for them to be interpreted pastorally. Instead of a speeding law where you are breaking it or not , think of a prescription for a drug. The dosage varies with the person and the disease. Orthodoxy tends to interpret things like the latter. This doesn't always come across because, for example, if you ask about fasting, I would tend to quote the ideal. What I do may be very different depending on my personal situation. And as my priest reminds me, sometimes it is wrong not to break the fast.  Now I am not claiming we don't have our own problems and our splinters and heresies; someday I'll write about the tollhouses and the rus-philes. However, the Orthodox position is the Roman Church left the fullness of the faith when it changed the creed and we all don't agree on just how far it drifted.

This is the best this old sinner can do. Pray that God does not judge me too harshly on it. St. Mark, Defender of Orthodox, pray for me.

UPDATE: Someone asked about a married priesthood. Orthodoxy allows married men to become priest. Heck, its is a standard Russian quote that to marry off a difficult daughter, you send her to study music at St. Vlad's the semester before ordination. She'll find someone... However, once you become a deacon, the marriage option or re-marriage option if your spouse dies is gone. "If he has a wife let him keep her, if not, let him not seek one." Bishop are not married so they are mainly monastics or widowers. As I understand it, there is no reason why the Roman Catholic Church could not do this as their ban is a rule of Church discipline. Eastern Rite Catholics priests can be married men as are some converts from the Anglican Church.

UPDATE: I got asked about my term "rusophile". A better term would be ethnic-extremist maybe? Every Church has them: people who believe that you must be "blank" to be orthodox, that the liturgy is not valid unless done in "blank" language, and the sacraments aren't valid unless the priest is "blank." I've run into Lebanense woman at one Dallas church who wanted to know why I did not worship with my own kind and Greek yayas who assumned my mother was Greek and why didn't I marry a nice Greek girl? I was thinking of a variation of this. Russian derived Churches like the OCA and ROCOR have another variation that believe the height of all Orthodox was the 19th Century (Tzarist Russia) or are so inflatated with Russian Church that they slip Russian in where ever they can. Many are converts from Protestant Churches: my own priest in a pan-orthodox parish with a high convert to cradle ratio insists on using more Russian that they do at the Cathedral down town. To quote a kid yesterday: Spazy-what? (no, not one of mine). Joyous Feast makes so much more sense. Anyway, having an ethnic background, I see this as a twisting of both belief and history to something it is not. Alex Riggle's Father Vasiliy over at the Onion Dome is maybe the archetype.

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20 April 2005

Happy Birthday, Little Brother!

God grant you many years!

19 April 2005

Blogging from Orange County: The plane was late and things have been hectic. I'm going to miss Shing Yi  with Stu Charno, my teacher's class brother, tonight as well as probably dinner with Sharon. Dang, maybe next trip.   If the weather clears, I'll try to post a photo tomorrow. In the meanwhile, Bonfire of Vanities is up at Am I a Pundit Now?  Well, if you gotta ask... and if you gotta go read, you were warn. For a better  or maybe more positive read, you could also go to Pajama Pundits' A to Z link fest. Donna is such a sweetie, she ever linked to me for T.

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The new Pope, Bendict 16, was chosen today. He's a hardliner so I have no idea what that means about Catholic and Orthodox relations, but the sheer whininess of the American Catholics, other liberals, and the media bodes well for the Catholic Church. After all, his election outraged Sullivan and he's already been called a Nazi on a few Moonbat Nesting sites, so at least the entertainment value will be high. Not being Catholic, my opinion is dross, but I think choosing a man know for his faithfulness to God's teachings as believed by the Catholic Church is a good thing. Again, the reaction of the left proves how great the religious to secular gap is.

BTW Prof. Bainbridge has the perfect response to Sullivan's ranting...(Via Instapundit here or here). Every since I read Sullivan mistakes on (a) the relation of Orthodox and Catholic and (b) on Dallas women, and got  that snobby little email back from him... Well, the professor made me smile with his closing line. Double meanings there maybe?

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Not having a clue: Bloggers and columnists starting to comment on the insanity of the NYT and other newspaper coverage and their opinion of the important issues in this election of a Roman Catholic Pope.  Of special amusement was the advice secularist organizations were giving to as to what the next pope needs to consider: a female priesthood, acceptance of gays, married priests, accepting abortion and birth control.  The cultural and historical arrogance of this is shocking as the US and Western Europe are maybe 25% of the world and this dominant culture is not the first that the Church has dealt with. Surprising no one with a functioning forebrain, the Roman Cardinals ignored it and chose a man know for his orthodoxy as Pope Benedict 16.  This was just another example of how the current worldview espoused by the educated elite doesn't understand the basics of religious faith.

It's not just limited to Christians as they don't really understand the implications of any belief but its worse with Christianity because Christianity's values underlie most of our traditional values and manyof them are somehow involved in a rejection of those values. By rejection, I don't necessarily mean a conscience opposition or a renunciation of faith. It can be that but it can also be the cafeteria catholicism so common in the US: for example, one well known writer wants to be considered catholic but rejects all that church's teachings on sexuality. I mean instead the very common refusal to accept these values have a place in the political arena. While I was working on this, Asymmetric Information found and commented on a lovely example of the problem. Then of course, there is Stephen L Carter's book, which has been savaged in articles and reviews for daring to suggest religion has a place in the public sphere. If you search the title of it on Amazon, you'll find more attacks on it than support.

The reaction is not limited to the left. Bill Quick and others on the libertarian right are claiming the whole Shiavo case, with the government voting interfering in State matters, represents a collapse of the republican coalition. More and more, ones sees links from places like Instapundit linking to posts suggesting that libertarians and independents (libertarians who don't want their spouses to know they are maybe?) are going to leave the party in mass. Now I am not going to revisit what has been said elsewhere -that the reason libertarians don't win elections is they are more interested in purity of position than winning.  I would suggest that, with a few exceptions like the fellow at Drumwaster's Rant, the vast majority of libertarian and, to some extent, conservative bloggers don't really understand the dynamics of the "God Block" either. Or if they do, it's a superficial understanding that expects religious people to act rational by secular standards. The fact is that Paul statement "folly to Greeks and scandal to Jews" still holds true. By purely secular standards, I as an Orthodox Christian, am probably not sane or rational.

What do I mean? Well, when you accept the Christian worldview, you also accept a lot of stuff that derives from it. It's not as simple as "I believe Jesus is Lord" because that simple statement implies a lot of other things that are required. People move into it slowly and that might be the start, but it does not take long before the other issues start cropping up. For example, once you accept the idea that there is a living God, you have to decide what your relationship is to him. Christianity (like Judaism and Islam) assumes He wants a relationship of some sort with us. Christianity actually believes He became Man to fix that relationship and that He wants a certain type of behavior. He is still around and able to influence and guide you. Along with this, you accept the idea each person has an immortal soul and some sort of life after death. Add in the bodiless powers, the creation of a soul at conception, the idea that sex has a spiritual dimension (as do all acts) and all this exists by the Will of God.

Once you start with this belief, then the train of what is rational and sane stops at another station: since we are made to be immortal, what happens in this life is choosing whether we will be the stuff of a Lovecraft mythos nightmare or something that could be mistaken for an angel. So the choices you make, like the Catholic Church's message today of "cleaving to the Faith of our Fathers", become driven by a logic that makes no sense outside. If man is just a rational animal, then sex is just pleasure, marriage just a civil arrangement, killing only wrong when its illegal, etc. But if he is a creation of God made for a purpose, then all that is evil and must be opposed. For better to lose friends here, better to lose one's very life that to lose one's eternal goal.  And since the Christian scriptures and tradition involve things like caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, helping the weak and imprisoned, -basically the whole idea liberals mutilate into "social justice"- you can not ask Christians to leave their beliefs at home. Years ago a little book by an atheist called "When wish replace thought" made the point about the abortion debate and said that if the pro-abortion groups did not find a way to address the concerns of their opposition, their arrogance in refusing to heard the reasons would lead to violence. He was dead-on. His point was that certain groups wished everyone thought like them and it wasn't true. You can't expect someone who sees abortion as murder to be willing to compromise on it.... hmmm, see a similarity in the left today and Moslem terrorists?

While these two sides really can't meet any more than no devout Christian and Moslem or Jew are going to be able to agree on theology, there will be areas where they team up, like the above. A news story recently mentioned the three faiths in Jerusalem united to oppose a Gay parade there. Similarly on certain issues, people of many faiths may be on the same side as small government types, although for difference reasons. What has amazed me is that Christians seem to realize this and to some extent are able to see the other's side logic. "Well, if I didn't believe in God, I would hold that position too." The problem is the other way. The secularists out there seem to be unable to either accept that the Christian worldview is going to require certain response and to allow that these responses have as much right in the political arena as any other. For example, Christianity for almost 2000 years now has been anti-abortion. Why? Because it comes out of core concepts in the faith. Other issues, like no sex outside of marriage, fall the same way. Since Christianity believes the world to be a fallen and corrupt place arguments like "its got a genetic component" or "it's natural" don't wash. Natural to a Christian does not necessarily mean acceptable or right. Doesn't a person have a responsibility to act on his convictions? Hell isn't that why the left is saying protest the war is really patriotic rather than treason? (I vote for treason myself.)

This separation of religion from the public sphere is recent: people like to say the last time Christian influenced policy was Prohibition. Now anything that increases the Kennedy family fortune is a failure in my book, but to claim that as the sole example of Christian influence in the US is a lie. The Civil Rights Movement had a Christian tone, which is obvious when you think what Martin Luther King's title was. Earlier, the opposition to slavery was a Christian cause. (Yes, the same faith was invoked in the South.) The fact is for most of the history of the US religion was involved, from the missions in Spanish Texas and California to the legal documents of the New England colonies. So its presence now in both politics and society is to be expected. Rationally, one would expect that the non-religious parties would try to figure out how to deal with it other than screaming that religious nuts are making the US a theocracy, but then by my standards they are no more rational than I by theirs. After all, I know this world will pass.

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18 April 2005

Over at Asymmetric Information, Ms Galt is trashing an article where one can almost see the terror the author has that those evil theocrats will take over the US and force us all into a Dark Age. (Yeah, I know they weren't that Dark...I blame Gibson personally.) Read the comments too. It's amazing that all Christians are part of this plot: I must have missed church the Sunday they revealed it. With the fear (or is the pretended fear so they can paint us like the Moslems terrorists?) that certain parts of the political spectrum have of the religious, especially as at one time there concern with social justice came from the Gospels.  Since sometime like 85% of this country believes in a God, they must be pretty nervous. Especially when you consider the same group of worries tends to be the non-gun owners. 

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17 April 2005

St. Mary of Egypt: an example of hard-core repentance.  If you are not Orthodox or Coptic, you probably aren't familiar with the story of Mary of Egypt...it's a long story with interlocking lessons throughout it. As we appraoch the end of Great Lent, it sevres as a spur to those who have been faithful in keeping the fast and a beacon to those who had not to strive harder. The story starts with a monk who an angel sends to a specific monastery for the Great Fast to save from his pride, walking alone out into the desert to pray and seeing a hermit in the distance. As was the custom in those days, he chased the hermit down to ask for a word of wisdom. (Yes, the zen like stories of teachers giving a word of wisdom are found in Christianity. See here for a collection. Read with care for these things can scorch your heart.) When he got close, the hermit told him to avert his eyes and to give her his clock for she was a woman. 

She told her story: a pampered child from a well off Christian family, she discovered she really like sex and became more and more depraved. Like many who reject, she delighted in corrupting and seducing monks, priest, nuns, and the devout. At one point on a whim, she joined a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and earned her passage on ship by doing the crew. When she arrived, she attempted to enter a church and something stopped her. She physically could not enter. She repented and fled across the Jordan. For 47 years, she lived alone in prayer and repentance. In her story, she says the first 17 were the worst. You can follow the link above for the rest of the story, but for me, this year, this hits hardest. The first 17, one for each year she spent in active sin, were the worst.  Seventeen years of prayer, fasting and isolation to undo the damage she had done to herself as a sinner. Not because she doubted God forgave her, but because she understood that with forgiveness and repentance must come a change in heart and mind, in thought and action. The evil she chose was now part of her and she needed to work with God so He could heal her. I've known people in our modern world who had made similar conversions, and similar choices... to flee their old life and companions because there was no way they could be faithful to God in their own lives. I made a much lesser choice years ago when I made my choice to really live as His: accepting chastity and forgiveness as part of my life cost me friends and family who could not understand why I became a "Jesus Freak." Yet, what I did was so little and what others like Mary of Egypt did is so much more.  What they gained back is so much greater: St. Mary walked among wild beasts unharmed, she was not sickened by bad water or weakened by poor food. When she prayed, the Light of Tabor surrounded her and she levitated above the ground. Most of us, me especially, walk our Christian life like the young man who approached one of the desert fathers and said: "I follow Christ as I can - I keep my rule of prayer, I fast, I give alms, I read Scripture, I forgive those who hurt me." The old man said "Good. Continue this way and you are saved...but if you will let Him, you can become as flames of fire." The young man looked up and saw the old one glowing like the sun, his hands raised in prayer and blazing as if each finger were a flame of pure fire.

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Patent Hell: Everyone I know in the sciences bitches about the publication hassles. I've recently had a paper altered so much I decide to withdraw it: the vast majority of the changes were based on one of three reviewers. After an endless stream of demanded changes to make the paper acceptable to that one reviewer and insults from him and the editor, my co-authors now realize why I avoided this journal. Like many smaller journals, it has a definite position on certain topics as well as patrons and disagreeing with them wasn't a good idea. It's a story I've heard from other researchers for years: a editor and/or reviewer who is insulting and has an ax to grind. What was funny about it is that a lot of it hangs on an issue that is really not a major part of the paper. (We did some work on measuring glass transitions and mentioned in the paper that the measurement of the glass transition should be independent of scanning rate for DSC. The journal's editor and the reviewer believe, because of work done by cyclic techniques, that this isn't true and want it addressed.  The funny part is our previous paper in this area was submitted to an American journal:  they said to drop any mention of it because everyone knew the Tg was independent of scanning rate.) Sadly dealing with academics is often difficult because there is a large gap between the interpersonal skills required to survive in academia and industry, and quite honestly the behavior accepted in a lot of academic institutions will get you fired in a industrial job. However, if I feel the industry is a saner if more restrictive place, the whole patent experience introduces its own special madness.

Patent law is its own separate little world and when your work reaches the patent lawyers, all the normal rules of science get bent. You don't try to limit the conclusions to a specific area but expand them to cover as much as possible. One valid US patent I know of patents the subtraction of a calculated value from the raw data. Others have been written so broad as to cover everything. Legal proceeding tend to support this kind of behavior: judges have overturned jury verdicts in patent cases claiming the jury didn't understand the science. So it makes sense to try and claim as much as possible. Legal language is very different from what we normally write for sciences and the general affect on me is that I feel vaguely unclean after the process.

Now, I understand why patents are needed and that the excessive width of the claims is a side effect of the legal system and the ethics of business. After all, the vast majority of companies practice reverse engineering without shame and in the pharmaceutical industry, its an art form. The entire generic drug industry exists by making drugs that are similar to but legally not the same as a patented drug or by making drugs that someone developed and patented after the patent expired. So I undertand why its done this way, its just as a chemist, I've trained to be precise and exacting in work and now I need to extrapolate those results to include every possible case so the patent can cover it. <grumble>

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16 April 2005

Stuff to read: Carnival of Cordite is up and while the Borg 30-50 sounds good, I think we should call it the CC 30-50 if we ever get one made.  Also the Carnival of Recipes is up too. Very yummy sounding recipes, but this late in Great Lent tofu looks good....

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15 April 2005

Photo-blogging in Hawai'i: The funny thing about this is having lived on the Gulf Coast, I don't find Hawai'i all that neat a place to visit. The Islands are lovely, but they are hot damp volcanic rocks surrounded by water and Honolulu is basically like any other big city in a lot of ways. Outside the tourist area, its just not that much fun. The people I visited were doing some damn cool stuff and good science makes any trip fun. However, even a non-fan like myself has to admit it has some really pretty places.  For example, the flower on the right grows like a weed all over the place.  It also has the prettiest airport I've seen: right is what it looks like between terminals.   The rest of the pictures that follow are from my drive around the island of O'ahu on my late afternoon of free time. The colors are actually true: it was an overcast day and the scenery looked very different under the cloud cover than it did in the sun. I wish I had a passenger. The drive across the middle of the island on HI3 is awesome but stopping to take photos wasn't possible without killing myself.




And for those of you who know what Gong Style Shing Yi Chuan is, I had lunch with one of the very few people Sifu allowed to teach it - Ricky, Tom and James' class brother. He was kind enough to take me out for Hawai'i food (all very salty...the legendary fondest for Spam now makes sense) and then to a local park to look at some of the old ceremonial mounds and how taro grows.  The poi was actually pretty good and the pork and fish wrapped in some leaf was excellent.

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Tax Day/Buy a Gun Day

And it falls on a Friday too, it counts as Friday Gun Blogging too. This is what I bought: A Tarsus Tracker in 17 HMR. I'm off to the range to shoot it as soon as the boys get out of school. I sure hope the ammo price drops someday thru. Report to follow. So what did you buy?

I tried to convince the goddess to let me spend the whole refund on firearms as that seemed to me to really fit the theme but she wants the roof fixed. Women are so difficult at times. Now to change that withholding so I am not making interest free loans to the federal government next year.

UPDATE: Aaron is collecting links on BAG Day, so drop by. Even if he skipped me...

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Just back from Honolulu where I spend a couple of days working at a small fuel cell manufacturer.  Blogging was non-existent because high speed connections were hard to find outside the tourist zone.  I'll be posting a bit today including my photoblogging O'ahu  and the posts I worked on while traveling.

Yes, that means I was away in Hawai'i on my wife's birthday. Yes, I am in it deep.

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13 April 2005

Happy Birthday, Goddess! 

10 April 2005

Spring in Texas normally means bluebonnets and they are all over this year. The gentle wet spring seems to have given us a bumper crop and folks all over town are posing their loved ones in them. Driving down University drive you see everyone from parents with little girls in their Sunday best to young college girls in as little as they can legally get away with. Some of my more rural living friends have stories of going for walks and tripping over people doing nudes and semi-nudes in the flowers. I bet that's a lovely shot but considering fire ants like bluebonnets too I am not sure that is good idea Anyway the goddess and cubs got talked into posing a more tasteful shot for me after service.

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8 April 2005

Things you should read:  The 8th Carnival of Cordite is up with a bunch of interesting stuff. Dave must be really busy 'cause its not his normal detailed essay.  So is the Carnival of Recipes at Aussie Wife.

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And yes, it's Friday...so let's look at a gun

How about an old Smith and Wesson chambered in 41 Magnum with a 4" barrel? My father used to carry this for self-defense gun but with the original wooden grips. I couldn't control it so I swapped to the Packmayr grips and I still think it need porting. But the old man could out shoot me to the day he died and I'm willing to admit I'm not that tough. Rest in Peace, Dad, I miss you...

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7 April 2005

Gun Dreaming: Dave over at Resistance is futile suggested that the 50 BMG needed to be wildcatted down to a smaller diameter. What a cool idea. If we could neck the case down to a .30, the mass of the bullet could be dropped a lot and if we loaded with copper instead of lead, we could get it down farther. I wonder how fast we could push that sucker? Since drop is affected by flight time, if we got it moving faster....

Okay, where did I put the book with the formulas? I would guess the same twist as a 30-06 or 300 would work. The local shop could make dies. I wonder if Larry at East Ridge Arms could make a barrel and estimate the loading. Dang. I think I may be hurting the college fund again.

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More school shootings: Canton Texas this time. And that's close to home as my buddy's kin all live out there. Now, if one of the marks of insanity is refusing to change behavior when it gets results you don't like, what does that say about school shooting? We've created these totally gun free zones so the children will be safe. Hell, some places the guards don't carry because the laws don't allow for that option. So what's happening? Every psycho with a grunge or a problem goes to school to get even. Why not? It's like a courthouse. No one there can be armed except the cops, and so they get shot first if they happen to be there. Or you wait for them to leave... All the fuss about keeping schools gun-free makes it obvious to anyone that there will not be a Mark Wilson there to fire back.  So where is the predator going to go? Someplace sheepdog free.

It seems that the reason response would be to encourage teachers and staff to get their CHL and allow them and other CHLs to carry on the school grounds. Israel managed to stop terrorist attacks on schools by having grandfathers act as armed guards and having the teachers armed. There is a ton of stuff out there showing legally armed people reduce crime; at least they can limit it like Mr. Wilson and other heros did. 

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6 April 2005

Junk Science: More BS on vaccinations: So Don Imus of "Imus in the Mornings" fame(?) thinks vaccinations cause autism? Well, you got to wonder about the intelligence of anyone who thinks that a shock jock is a source of scientific information for starts. This is just another step in the vaccinations are bad campaign being waged by the Luddite division of the moonbats.

We are currently dealing in many areas with the inability of US society to balance social good versus individual freedom. Vaccinations, quarantines, names of contacts for infectious disease, notification of parents for a minor's abortion all tie into the question of how much do individual rights trump other rights in society. Sticking to vaccinations for a minute, while there is some risk, it is insignificant compared to the risk the diseases pose to both the individual and to society. Talk to someone who has done medical work in a third world country: diseases we don't see are crippling or fatal.  Are there real risks with vaccinations? Yes, for nothing in this world is risk-free but  the risk are miminual compared to those of the diseases they prevent. Vaccination is better than treatment too: cheaper, less dangerous, and faster. And it works. How many cases of polio and smallpox have you seen this year?

As a public policy, I think we shouldn't care why you don't vaccinate your kids: if you don't have their shots up to date, you have to home school them. If you find a private school that accepts them, I think we should make the school post that it accepts little disease carriers so the other parents know.  Why should my kids be a risk because of your choice? You have the right to self-destructive behavior as long as you limit it to you and yours: you do not have the right to effect me by your stupidity. Being unvaccinated increases not only your risks but those of everyone around you. Personal rights must be balanced by social responsibility if a society is to survive.

The other interesting thing in the Imus article is the amazing lack of understanding of science as it relates to dosages and chemistry. Just like the stupidity over mercury in filling for teeth, this shows that not enough people understand what Paracelsus taught in the Middle Ages: dosage is what makes something a drug or a poison. Salt will kill you as will chromium, zinc, copper, and iron: it's all dependent on the chemical form of the material and the dosage. Hell, chemotherapy works on the idea that selected toxins will kill a tumor faster than they will kill you.

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The Christian Carnival #64 is up at Proverbs Daily, and it includes successful shamelessl Instaplugging. "Four things are never full, four things never say enough..." If that were written today, would it include a blog's hit meter?

Also the Carnival of Optimists is also up. It's a bit target centric but with Russ and Ferdy posting you gotta expect that. Go see.

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5 April 2005

The Carnival of Vanities #131 is up early this week. Go visit Incite and read. It appears zombies are popular this year.

Hey, the Bonfire of Vanities is up too. Over at WILLisms. It's like a car wreck on the freeway: you know you are going to look. You know you shouldn't, but you still will...

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Simple pleasures: Raising a pair of small boys has its problems, even with a goddess to help. There's the big dog effect, where they push because they want to know you are still dominant. The grumpy phase as the hormones cause them to gorw and get snarly as well as a bunch of others. However, there are days that make it worth it. The days when a nine year old tells you Saturday was so much fun it didn't want it to end. The days the 12 year old decides you are still cool as a dad because you surprise him by having done something he never suspected. The nights they both want to be tucked in and thumped before sleep. The slow evenings outdoors where they fall asleep on you as they snuggle up by the fire. All in all, if I had it to do again, I've have started younger and had a couple more.

So how much longer until I get grandkids? That's assuming these arranged marriages go thru.

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Who sang "Happiness is Lubbock Texas in my rear view mirror?" That's not really true but it sure is flat out here. I can see the curvature of the earth in all four directions. The starkness of the land is more than made up for by some of the nicest people and prettiest women I've met. It's green where they haven't turned the soil over for the next cotton crop. The white stuff in the photo is cotton from last year, which was a record breaker.  I spent the day at Texas Tech's Cotton Institute, where they are using thermo-gravimetric analysis and IR mapping to study the microstructure of cotton to see how it can be improved and how surface treatment can improve the properties. Think about a building full of bundles of snow: that's what the stire room here looks like. While driving out to catch my Southwest flight, the combination of sunset and blowing dust gives the ever-present pump-jacks a nice background. For you non-Texans, that's what a working oil well looks like. The big things are only there when you're drilling.

BTW the song quoted in the first line ends with "Happiness is Lubbock, Texas growing nearer."

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4 April 2005

The Lesson of the Ladder: Coming is the Feast day of St. John Climacus or St. John of the Ladder. The icon of his vision of the Christian life reflects a teaching of the Church from the earliest days. The icon of the Ladder shows the path of salvation as a ladder leading from earth to heaven. His book, the Ladder of Divine Ascent is a guide for monastics used by the eastern churches for centuries. Written during the great monastic movement following Christianity's acceptance as the state religion, it was a guide for those whom desired to seek the Lord in the most intense of ways. It is interesting that throughout this period where so much rich writings of the Church (the desert fathers, St. John, St. Ephraim, etc) that the warning for a monk to never think himself better than a person in the world never faltered. St. Anthony was reported sent by God to a physician living in a city when he asked God to show him one greater than he.

The Ladder as both text and icon teaches that salvation is a process, a series of steps growing closer and closer to Christ. In the icon, devils pull people off not because God lets them to be taken from him, but because God honors their choice to no longer chose to be His.  "For your adversary walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour"  Scripture is full of warnings about failing on the path we start as followers of Christ. Warnings from Jesus' parable of the foolish virgins to Paul many warnings of "let he thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." The post Reformation doctrine of eternal security, that horrible abolish of free will, has no place in either orthodox Christianity. It's the same root that grew such poisonous plants as the idea of sinning so grace may abound to today's "all sins forgiven even the one I am currently committing." ( I won't tell you what was going on when I first heard that line). You get all sorts of arguments on how those who fall away are not really Christian, how real Christians don't look, etc. but these all come down to a denial of human nature and free will. Does everyone whose marriage fails enter it dishonestly? Of course not. God created us free and allowed us to choose Christ or not.

Once we make that choice, the work begins. We can change our minds; we can decide its too much work to be serious about this and run away. He won't stop us although He will forgive us and take us back. If you look at the ladder, people on it have stumbled but still hold firm. Others are tugged off into the clutches of demons. In the lower level, its rough looking guys who fall. People caught by the sins of flesh, the desires of the body for pleasure and wealth, for sex and food. Others are caught by their own rage and hatreds, not being able to let go of the hooks that pull them to hell. As you process higher on the ladder, bishops and priest are shown falling. Today that would include the modern Christian so sure of his salvation that he denies the teachings of Christ on charity, chastity, and prayer, for all of these have larger meanings than what they mean. Being so sure of your faith you can damn others to hell, so Christian in your church going you skip the needy on the way, so strong in your faith you harm those who don't share it, so comfortably American Christian that the usury and perversity of our society doesn't strike you as counter to the faith. The list goes on. Am I Orthodox because I believe its the true faith or because I am in love with the ritual? Do I serve Christ or a political/social viewpoint that I associate with a church? Does my rejection of a tradition come from a love of God or the overwhelming pride in individuality that most Americans have?

The desert fathers warned that when you really begin to pray, you must learn to tolerate the stench of your own sewage. As you do, and you look at the teachings of those who walked this road before us, you find that your righteous is purely rags. At the top of the ladder, Christ reaches out to catch the hand of the person on top. Only by following what He said and cleaving to Him are we saved. That means following all of his teaching, for there is no social gospel or private gospel, there is only one good news, and we can fall off the ladder on either side. Only by constantly working out our salvation in fear and trembling, by striving to be perfect as He is prefect, can we hope to be greeted at the top with "Well done, o good and faithful servant." It is easier to jump off... Lewis wrote "how nearly they fall that stand." How close we come to falling off we don't know because God hides it as a mercy.  Pray for me lest I fall.

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The Captain's Quarters is banned in Canada for leaking secret testimony? Kewl!  Isn't this a first? I am so jealous. I never got myself banned by a whole country. This response by our liberal neighbor to the north makes the attempts to control blogs by San Francisco and the FEC more worry some. Not only do blogs annoy the government but they also challenge the big-money media. That's a dangerous position to be in and bloggers need to make sure that the number of voters yelling out-weigh the dollars the media is going to feed politicians to silence weblogs by travesties like the McCain Feingold Act.

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Every now and then, you read something that makes you go "wow." The discussion of gay marriage here does that. It doesn't reach a conclusion but takes a deep look at the issue without invoking the religious. I'm awed because, for me, the religious argument is the trump card. However, the implications of marriage as a cultural and social unit for the stabilization of society and for raising children to be the next generation of society have non-religious arguments too. It's like the effect on male friendships and bonding that a total acceptance of gay relationships as normal has when you couple it with our society's tendency to sexualize everything. Either way, you can see it but its hard to put in words when the religious viewpoint dominates. Some hard questions are asked here, questions we as a society don't address because most of us don't think beyond our own lifetimes.

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3 April 2005

Note to Noah and Ben: I am not a Pandarian. No way. And I am not posting that picture on my site. If I catch you two trying again, I am selling you to gypsies.

Sheeesh. Have one beer on Sunday and take a nap...

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T racing a link forward from the Instapundit, one finds the Fearless Critic talking about the disconnect between journalist and how people view them. Unlike lawyers, most of whom kind understand they have a reputation problem (they fail step 2; they mainly don't care), journalists actually don't believe it. Neither do academics. The academics I deal with think they work as hard as do people in industry...walking in both worlds I know that isn't true for the sciences and engineering. Teaching becomes a lot easier the second time you teach that class. And while I am still swapping work emails as I type this at midnight with several co-workers, the department I teach in part time had one graduate student in there at 8 pm when I snuck in to run some samples. Similarly the claim that academics are freer to do research and discover things isn't as true either. Funding depends on the popularity of the research and of the status of the researcher. Minorities for example can be flooded with grants when money isn't available to others. Unpopluar topics will not see money as the reviewers will trash the proposal if it opposed their own work.  It's really not any better with those peer-reviewed journals; the real world process at any one journal allows for considerable bias and favoritism. It works out in the long run because of we really don't expect scientists to be superhuman, the process of science has checks and balances in it and there are literally hundreds of journals. However, the myth of academic purity is quite obviously just a myth.

Journalist have the same problem and also this really weird reality gap. They seem to honest believe that they are the only objective and honest people out there. There is this maxim about "if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out." Everyone they deal with has biases and hidden agendas: they don't. It's interesting that a profession that makes distrust and paranoia its watchwords still expects us to trust them. It's actually scary that they believe themselves to be so free of the prejudice and bias that every other human being has. It's the arrogance and condescension of that belief makes makes most of us think of them on the level of pimps and crack whores.

Almost every single journalist, journalism professor, and student I met will say two things: one that they are able to isolate themselves from their opinions and two that as a journalist they want to help change the world (different phasing but same message). Pointing out that none of them can even stop the biggies like views on religion and politics from influencing their work, never mind things like social class, educational background, etc. is greeted by anger bordering on rage.  They are pure; they do not have biases or let them influence their work; they take nothing on faith but check everything; they can understand things that other people require advanced degrees for. Never mind the opposite is apparent to anyone who reads their work with an open mind. Never mind the vast majority of them hold views not shared by most of the US. They are somehow purer and more self-aware than us non-journalist. Unlike every other profession where the practitioners are held to higher standards than non-experts, journalists believe they are entitled to special privileges involving keeping silent on their sources crimes, treason, etc. because they serve the public. What would happen to the common citizen if we refused to tell a grand jury where we got some information? The very secrecy they claim to need spawns part of the problem because it allows them to make claims no one can check.

They serve the public good?  Really? Like academics, they serve their wallets and their pride, not the public good. The Constitution guaranteed a free press and freedom of speech, not some special fourth branch of government based on gossip-mongering. No government section, like federal or state or city,  established a press department like a police or fire department for the public good. They work for something that exists to make money and serve the ambitions of whoever owns it. Now for the last 50 years or so, we swallowed the line about an "unbiased" press. However despite what journalist think, most Americans ain't stupid. They notice the trends and patterns, especially now that the Internet lets you get at multiple viewpoints. We are catching on that journalists are paid guns, and while that isn't a always bad thing, it's hard to respect someone who is but tells you that they aren't.

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2 April 2005

After this morning's class, we drove out to Ben Wheeler to shoot on the Bilyeu's Farm and hang with Bryan a bit before he heads back to Louisiana to finish the semester teaching. We hauled a bunch of guns including my 50 BMG since the local range doesn't think their berms are up to it.  Bryan's father said we could shoot down by one of the stock tanks, which let us get ranges up to 250 yards. In addition, he told the boys he'd pay them for any of the varmints from that tank and the one across the road they shot...

So Bryan and I took turns watching each boy while we worked the first 10 shots thru the fifty, cleaning after each shot. We weren't able to sight it in with the bore sighting system I use because the scope sits too high so we used the old method my father told me about. Removing the bolt, we align the barrel by looking down the bore to a point about a mile away. We then adjusted the scope's settings to that point. My first shot with that set up at 249 yards gave the result shown here on a five gallon bucket filled with water.  The impact was impressive. While the noise of the rifle scared dogs and cattle all round, the recoil was    very light, less than my deer rifle. Ben even shot it a bit and then decided shooting critters was more fun. After the first ten shots, Bryan's father, uncle and the neighbors were coming by to see what we were up to.

Noah on the other hand almost welded himself to the gun and most of the initial break in rounds (10 singles with cleaning, and then a string of 10 followed by cleaning) were his. The military surplus ammo we got from Sportsman's Guide shot fine, thru the stuff from Mitchell's gave tighter groups. At the ranges we were shooting, the groups were all under 2" and the gun isn't really broken in nor the sights adjusts. I see no reason why it won't hold 4" at 1000 yards like claimed. The only real problem with the surplus was that we had to peel it off of a belt which took a bit  of work (left). However, it works out to $1.25 a round instead of the 1.75 a shot the Mitchell costs. This is not a cheap toy to shoot and I guess I'm glad the farm is two hours away. I'm about 60 dollars poorer right now. Noah did most of the work un-belting the ammo but he also shot most of it.  For some reason, the way the cans and old wheel hubs reacted to the shots amused him. Since we had to run 20 rounds in to break in the barrel, we shot water bucket, wheel hubs, old gas cans, etc. It was a hell of a lot of fun and we had a blast.  Bryan decided he hates me because now he want one too and it isn't in his budget.

While Bryan and Noah were hogging the big gun, Ben was working on seriously reducing or at least scaring the local pest population: muskrats, water rats, turtles, stray beer cans... He had a blast and we almost had to drag him back for dinner at the end. Most of his kill wasn't really edible so we add it to the composte heap.  He was a bit disappointed we forgot the spinning rod since the fish in both tanks were visibly feeding.  He also spend more time climbing trees, digging holes, and visiting with the farm dogs than the rest of us, so he's not in as many photos.  Bryan's folks are really good with strays like that and he had a lot of fun just running wild. I really miss having farmland in the family. Since we were there, we also shot with the .17 HMR, the .243s the boys hunt with, and the 12 gauge I keep for home defense. The nice thing about here is that you can move around and play more than you can at a range.

About 7, Bryan's mother called us in for dinner (she would like me to point out he is single) and we called it a day.  After cleaning up the remains of the targets, and policing the area (Bryan's dad is not amused by his cattle eating old brass), we let the kids drive the jeep back to the house. We got fed venison backstrap fried with onions, mashed potatoes, macaroni with cheese, and green beans cooked with pork. Bryan's father said we need to come back and shot hogs with it as they are real bad this year. We've neglected visiting them too much this year and we really need to drop back more often.  Noah and Ben could use the experience haying...


So we drove back so we could make service tomorrow as well as a full day of scout and swim team stuff. Anytime you go to Canton, for First Monday Trade Days or whatever, you need to hit the local product stands and also get shakes at the Dairy Palace. We did. Noah slept in the back on the ride home while Ben and I sang along with Guy Clark and Chris Wall CDs. We hit home about 10 and I got the boys nose-hosed, medicated, and showered. We said our prayers and they are both tucked in. I cleaned the guns and then blogged. What a perfect day...

So now, I got 30 minutes of mandolin practice before I call it a day. Why did I ever decide to start learning an instrument  and blogging at 49?

UPDATE: Yes, the gun is bigger than Ben and just about the same weight. It's about as tall standing on its butt as Noah is. The markings on the barrel are the fluting to reduce wait.  The bipod is built in. And as to the ammo, here's Noah's hand, a US quarter and a round.

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Pope John Paul 2 has died. May God have mercy on him, grant him memory eternal and let perpetual light shine on him.

We'll see if his successor continues at attempt at an honest dialogue with the Eastern Churches, or continues the older and more prevalent policy of denying there are real differences and calling us just schismatics. Someday I'll have to offend my catholic friends and discuss what the East West split looks like from both sides.

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1 April 2005

Finally...Dave had me worried with his April Fool's post, but the Carnival of Cordite is up at Resistance is futile. This week has us discussing feral dog killing as well as hunting children - no, seriously, someone has a poll - and Dave spends a bit of time explaining why ferals are bad.  More sanely, there are multiple sides to the discussion of carrying guns at work, advice on trigger jobs, on pistol shooting (what I need is younger eyes personally...what sights?), a cool pink shirt I want for my birthday, a du Toit shirt, combat rifles, guns and civilians, zombie hunting (and I bet someone is gonna object to that too), and journalist ignorance (or maybe arrogance>). Anyway, go and read...

Yes, there are no links to the articles here. You need to read Dave's insightful commentary too. Ignore the whines about being a poor college student. My graduate students say that all the time and I feed them at least twice a week...

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Carnival of Recipes is up at that city fellow down the road TexasBestGrok.  Lots of good stuff there. I actually don't know why I read it. I can't eat half of it for another four weeks.

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Friday's Gun Photo:  yesterday squirrelly wrath met the .17 HMR. The gun is a Marlin Model 17VS in .17 HMR caliber,  in stainless with the laminate stock and a Simmons 3-9 x 32 scope. The .17 HMR Hornaday ammo was 17 gr hollow points with these little plastic tips and is reputed to have a muzzle velocity of 2550 fps. For a detailed review, see Varmint Al's.

My impression is it is both louder than the .22 rimfire. Recoil was non-existence as I expected. From shooting paper, the gun groups as tight as I can hold it. Over its a nice round and gun, the ammo however is a loud more expensive than

And the squirrelly wrath -well, lets just say the .17 HMR won.

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