Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reading vs Doing

I realized today that I have certain things that I just can't stand reading about but I love. There are other things that I love to read about but don't like doing, and there are things that I like reading about AND doing.

I like camping and I would read about it or do it, but too much reading with no doing would be frustrating.

I like reading about history. I also like reading about strange and sometimes frightening people that I don't care if I never meet. The list of things I like to read about and not do is pretty short though.

But the list of things that I can't stand to read about and not do is, if not longer, much stronger. Archaeology, swimming and Rugby are things that I can't stand to read about if I can't do them. I've tried. I have books on Rugby, I've taken books out of the library about swimming and Archaeology (and Anthropology) but I just can't read them. I'm trying to get back into the swing of Anthropology, I'd LOVE to go back to school to get my doctorate in it, but I just can't stand to read it.

Maybe there is some other way to interest myself in reading about it. I do like to WATCH shows about it, but shows tend not to have the cutting edge information and are not detailed enough to make me satisfied.

I'm like that with learning Greek. I really can't sit there and try to learn it from a book. I want a class and tests and teachers being disappointed in me for not doing well. I want to earn a good grade.

Do you think there is a correlation?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"My" Troops Have Come Home

Time to take down the candle from my virtual window. There has been a candle image at the bottom of this blog for about a year now because a portion of the unit I retired from was deployed to Iraq.

The slice of the Headquarters of the 108th Sustainment Brigade that was deployed to Iraq has come home safely now. I'm so happy and proud of them.

We tried to make sure their families were well informed and looked after while they were gone. Thanks to tireless efforts by many of the wives and friends of the soldiers I think they were, which I'm sure, eased the effort the soldiers made. Speaking from experience, when the home is taken care of, your mission away from home is just a little easier to deal with.

There should be a big thank you going out to lots of people. I don't want to name individuals, but I'd like to send out thanks to a couple of groups.

AVMRA Chapter 7

Vinyard Church

Berwyn VFW


Thanks everybody for helping the families. And


Monday, November 17, 2008

Memorial Services, Ceremonies and Faith

I went to church yesterday and had a lot to think about. They were having a memorial service for several former parishioners and for departed veterans in honor of Veterans' Day.

First of all the bulletin had a short essay about how the gospels are "written icons." I thought, "Are you kidding me?" In my opinion, icons are strange looking, not beautiful or lovely. I'm also of the opinion that icons, statues and stained glass are there to help educate and guide the illiterate. To say that the gospels are an imitation of what amounts to picture books is to belittle the written and even spoken word. I find it suspect.

In John's gospel, chapter one he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God." Hmm, did he say, God was the picture? When you put icons ahead of the actual words of the bible then you are basically dumbing-down the thing and that irks me.

Okay, enough of that. That is PURELY religion and will lead to trouble if I go down that road.

An eFriend of mine (Sadie who commented on my Obama post) said that she would pray for me. In my crisis in faith that may sound hollow, but I do find value in prayer and in attending church. I appreciated her offer.

When I was in Afghanistan I went to mass every Sunday. My faith was stronger then, but whenever I have been away on military missions I always make time for prayer and church services. Why? It gives me time to meditate and reflect. It gives me the time I need to get my head right. It give me a small space of time when I don't have to, in fact I'm not supposed to think about mundane things, but the bigger picture. I think that is important.

Another thing I've noticed since I've been looking at religion and faith with a more skeptical eye is that there is a sort of need for ceremonies. I think human beings need ceremonies; we have them all the time. Some are religious of course and the thinking is that God has to be treated in a special, not an ordinary way. But, we also have purely secular ceremonies and they can have just as poignant and traditional meaning and place in our lives.

A good example is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Even if you do not believe in any sort of god and you don't believe that we have any life beyond the one we now know; you would still show reverence to the memory of the men and women who served our country and gave the ultimate sacrifice.

I think that prayer and church attendance falls within that greater umbrella of ceremony, but that Ceremony is a much bigger thing. It is also a thing that I think we must have. I think that Ceremony helps cement the morals of our culture. Whether there is a god or not, we as humans need Ceremony.

One of the things about ceremonies is that sometimes your mind follows what your body is doing. I mean, if you get dressed and go to church you will naturally be thinking churchy thoughts. If you get dressed and go to the gym you will find yourself motivated to exercise. If you get dressed and go to work, you are likely to actually do your job. Maybe we have a kind of mental inertia that sometimes must be overcome.

On the other hand, sometimes we do something (go through the motions, if you will) but hold a different thing in our mind. That's something I could never understand about atheists who file lawsuits. You often hear about an atheist who filed a lawsuit because they had to say, blah blah blah with god in it, or blah blah blah to god. Why don't they just say it, but (to them) know it isn't true? Is it hurting them? If they really want the thing that is surrounding that god reference then why can't they put up with that word?

I'm jumping topics a bit here. When I was in Afghanistan, as I said I went to mass every Sunday. Some Sundays we had no priest, so I led the service. When it was available I administered communion, when it wasn't, I led the liturgy service. Even then I felt a pang of guilt at this because I felt like, I'm not worthy. Who was I to lead a church service? I wasn't holier than anyone else there.

What I found within myself was that I was not leading the service because I was better than anyone; I was leading the service as a service to others. I was doing what I could to facilitate their faith and religion. They were the ones who were holier than me, and I was helping them to be so. I want Sadie and anyone who wants to partake in a discussion about these topics to feel that way too. Even if you don't restore my faith, I hope I can, through our discussions, help to facilitate your faith.

The Roman Catholic gospel reading for this Sunday was very interesting to me. In the story Jesus says that there were three employees who were each given an amount of money. The first two invested the money and gave back more than they had gotten to their employer. The third buried the money and gave exactly back what he had given. The employer was mad that he hadn't even thought to put it in a bank to at least earn interest. The employer praised the other two and even gave the third man's money to the first man so that he could make more.

Given the market lately it would be easy to see this parable as a story about money. Alternately, you could also think of money as representing grace or faith and the employer as God. Immediately, for me, the money stood for the word. I saw it as another version of the parable about the sower and the seeds. That's interesting that I feel that in a way I hope I'm helping strengthen people's faith, just like investing money.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Winning Entry! Lycanth Boiling

I entered a contest at Mirabile Visu and WON! Woo Hoo! I love winning! I shared the podium (or rostrum as she put it) with Valamber.

The contest was to write a story of 1000 words or less with the topic of Collision, Windfall and Gift. The challenge was to include a spider and make it really scary.

Here is my winning entry. See what you think.

Lycanth Boiling

The Halloween Decoration Judging Committee squeezed into Bob's cubical. He'd always said that he was a true witch, in league with the dark forces, a claim that rankled Stacy, the Wiccan in the office.

Bob was a small greasy fellow who wore a van dyke, shaved eyebrows and always smelled of clover and olive oil. He had surgically split his tongue, inserted small horns in his forehead and enough piercings for ten people.

His cube always looked decorated for Halloween. As near as they could tell, the only extra decorations added for the contest were some small medicine bottles with post-it labels in scratchy handwriting.

"What is this?" Stacy picked up a bottle.

"Eye of newt," Bob said without turning. His fingers flew on the keyboard at an unnatural speed.

"Witches don't use eye of newt," Stacy growled.

Pudgy Kevin released an ear-splitting scream, "Spider!"

He had been resting his hand on the cubical wall and a large, shiny black spider had climbed on it. It was making its way up his arm quickly, headed for Kevin's face.

"Down Max." Bob tapped the desk. The spider stopped. Bob tapped again. "Here, Max."
The spider dropped down a line to the desk and ran behind the monitor.

Kevin's scream ended, and he disappeared.

"Great. This was the first cube he had actually showed for." Stacy said.

Polly noticed a bottle labeled, "Werewolf Juice."

"Pets aren't allowed." Stacy said.

"What's this?" Polly asked.

"Rainwater collected from the paw print of a wolf at midnight under a full moon. It grants the drinker the power to become a werewolf," he said.

"Really?" Polly asked.

Bob turned to Stacy, "Max is not my pet. Petunia is my pet." He flipped his overhead cabinet open to reveal a huge brown tarantula.

Stacy and Petunia both jumped at the sudden movement. Stacy shrieked, "I'm reporting that." She bumped Polly on her way out. Polly pocketed the Werewolf Juice.

"Don't think that will help you with the contest," Polly said as she backed out.

"Who cares," Bob said. Just as Polly was leaving he added, "What's in your pocket?"


"Go on, take it. Use it. Maybe then someone will believe my powers."

As Polly turned to walk away an evil laugh peeled through the office. She whirled around to see her boss Russ standing behind her. He had just stepped on a sound effect mat.

"Polly, good, I wanted to see you. MacDonald is going to Miami this weekend to handle the Patterson case."

"Sue MacDonald? But that's my case."

"Well, I think Sue can handled it better so I'm sending her."

Sue and Russ were very bad at hiding their affair. Polly gritted her teeth and shoved her hands into her pockets to avoid punching Russ. She found the bottle of Werewolf Juice there and fingered it. If only it were real.

"So I'll have to have you come in Saturday to cover Sue's work while she's gone."

"What?" She gripped the bottle.

"Sue's a little behind in her work. Saturday will give you a chance to keep up with your work and get her caught up. We can't have her fall behind just because she's handling a big case."

"In Miami in late October."

Russ smiled, "By the way, Tom won the Halloween Decorations contest."

"What? But the committee -"

Russ winked, "Tom won."

She had a death grip on the bottle.

"$100 prize, right?"

Polly nodded. "Tom won."

"Good girl." He patted her on the rump.

If his father didn't own the company and Sue wasn't the head of HR, she'd have filed a complaint. She spun the bottle in her pocket and wondered if it were real.

At the end of the day, she discovered that someone had stolen her umbrella. As she walked through the pouring rain to her car her cell rang, "What." She demanded.

"Polly, this is Jerry. I think we should start seeing other people."

Polly screamed, slammed the phone shut and shoved it in her pocket. She pulled out the bottle and looked at it. She ground her teeth, the rain dripped through her hair. Slowly, she put it back and got in her car.

Despite the tears in her eyes, and the pounding of her heart, Polly drove the sharp curved road through the Forest Preserve with extreme care.

She came around a tight turn. There, in her lane, beyond the madly swinging wipers was a tow truck. He had taken the turn too fast. She had to swerve. The road was too slick and she flew off the road, down into the flooded ditch and into a tree.


"Lucky for you I was right here, huh?" The tow truck driver said as he winched her car back onto the road.

She had crawled out of the car, bottle in hand. Her head was bloody and her clothes ripped. She made her way back up to the road. Without asking he had walked right past her and hooked up the winch.

"These roads are real tricky in the rain."

"You were on the wrong side of the road," she seethed.

"You know, it's real hard to see anything at night in the rain."

She had the top off the bottle.

"I sure hope you got good insurance, cuz I think this thing is totaled."

She never thought about not drinking it. She was standing behind him and drank it in one go. She felt the power as soon as it hit her lips, felt it working, felt the magic. He kept talking, but she was focused on the change, the growth, the power. It hurt worse than anything she had ever known, but that didn't matter.

Just before the final change, before it was too late, she thought about control. Would she be able to control this, return to normal? Would she ever be able to be human again?

With a screaming howl she lost herself to the wolf.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

History, Lincoln and Kennedy Parallels

I see parallels with the President Elect and Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.

First Lincoln, who was not born in Illinois, but made his home in Illinois and went to Washington from Illinois, just like the President Elect. Both were lawyers here.

Lincoln was the great emancipator, Obama is the first President from African heritage, though neither had any history of slavery. I think these are very significant.

I also see a lot of cockeyed euphoria that accompanied both Kennedy's and Obama's elections. This frightens me. Calm down people.

There are people and other countries that may not have been happy with the US recently, they see this election as a grand thing and can see only hope.

I'm afraid that this president is an unknown factor as far as defense and he will be pushed, just to see what he will do. I think this is similar to Kennedy and Khrushchev with the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is why I say, "Calm down." Let's see what the man does when his back is against it.

This election may have made some of our friends friendlier, but remember, regardless of the outcome of this election, America still has people who hate us and I think the world has just gotten a little less safe.

I worry about all the "volunteers" that the Obama campaign paid to be volunteers. I fear that money drove this election rather than the issues. Slick advertising always gets Americans' attention.

Speaking of economy. Although it is clear that he Obama campaign had the message of change, I don't know how radical that change will be or how far left it will go. Will the government take more from me? I suspect so. Will the government get more into my personal business? I suspect so. Will the government get more into businesses business? I suspect so. Will any of that be good? My opinion is no.

Again, I'll wait and see what actually happens. The President is one person; campaign promises are what they are. Politics is thick, slow and messy, not grand, sweeping and level headed. Let's see what sort of camel this committee comes up with, but I'm afraid we are going to get a camel when we need a horse.

I liked the acceptance speech in Grant Park, Chicago. I love that it was in Chicago, but I also like that it was open and lots of people could be there. I like that the VP Elect is Catholic (just like Kennedy).

As long as I'm drawing Kennedy parallels maybe Obama can start a new fashion like Kennedy. JFK ushered out the era when men wore hats, maybe BHO can bring them back.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An Escape In More Ways Than One

I'll bet you all thought I was eaten by the Great Cthulhu or at least locked up for losing my sanity, but I wasn't, I escaped Cthulhu month with my sanity.

We had a costume contest and a cubicle decorating contest at work. I lost both, but here are some pics.

I went as a Man in Charcoal from Area 51 7/22. I have included a photo of myself and Max Brazel.

The other escape of which I speak is my escape from a dreaded virus (I suppose it was a virus and not a spore from Yuggoth) that kept me sick all weekend and even made me miss Church on Sunday and work on Monday. If things are as I figure they are with the whole "God Thing" then missing church doesn't really matter.

I am doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I'll post my synopsis in a later post and keep you all abreast of my meanderings.
Oh, and someone voted on the poll that they were going to dance naked in the woods for Halloween. It was warm enough, but you didn't invite me!