Crash Landing in New Jersey

June 23, 2007

Hello from Medford, New Jersey! Home of cabins, pine trees, gypsy moths, and some pretty friendly people who talk very funny (sorrry, Suzanne). I got in to town late yesterday afternoon after a one night stay in Gettysburg, and a rainstorm driven drive from Pittsburgh on Thursday. The gas tanks on me and my chariot are both running low. My car I can fix at the station down the way. As for me, my energy level will take a few days to restore.

For those of you who have been spared all¬†my annoying medical details to date, I should tell you that part of the reason for this adventure was to restore some “vitality” to a body that has been on a downhill slide for some years. (People who have heard the story way too many times can skip to the last sentence.) In 2002, I had multiply cardiac bypass surgery (CABG) along with 4 angioplasties, three stents, and a little “clean up” surgery to fix some clipped muscles in my chest. During the CABG surgery, my surgeon discovered an enlarged heart and a septal defect (hole) between my ventricals. Along with all of this medico-carnage, I inherited the family tradition of arthitis. Several vertebrea (L3-L4 and L5-S1) are a mess and have compromised two nerve bundles. One nerve bundle has been radio-ablated (fried with sound waves). One remains to wake me at night and make walking and sitting without drug therapy a chore. Actually, the only real complaint I have (besides the pain, of course; I’m no saint) is the constant fatigue and sudden onset of exhaustion. So far on this trip I’ve only had one serious incident of daytime sleepiness. Fortunately, the folks in New Jersey have a very nice welcome rest stop on 95/295 coming from Delaware. Before I could nod out I found a nice shade tree and slept soundly for almost 2 hours yesterday afternoon. It meant I hit a bit more of Philly rush hour than I wanted to but…at least I was awake for it!

The fatigue and pain cut short my visit to Gettysburg (along with a cash poor wallet due to some poor budgeting on my part). I originally planned for 2-3 days of touring at the most famous of US Civil War sites. It was pretty clear by the time I got in from Pittsburgh on Thursday that the only touring I’d be doing was in my dreams. However, this too was problematic as there was a very large contigent of Harley bikers (and other wannabees) in town for a bit of pre-4th tuning up for a version of Rolling Thunder for the holiday. There may not be anything cooler than the sound of a well maintained Harley in the early morning unless sleep is a demanding need. (Actually, I think Rolling Thunder and other demonstrations by US bikers are tremendous and I will have more to say closer to the holiday.)

I’ll try and re-tour Gettysburg on my way back West in late July. For the time being, I’m going to enjoy a few days of recouping in the Jersey woods, reading, and sorting through the boxes of ephemeral that I’ve accumulated so far on the trip. My road weary body sends it’s thanks to Suzanne and Nicola for the use of their special retreat. The cabin is charming and I hope to get some needed but minor maintenance work done on it over the next week or two. You both are okay with me painting the window frames electric blue, right? ūüėČ

Pictures of Medford will follow later today. I did add one photo to the trip gallery at http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste

This fierce creature is JJ the Wonder Dog, my sister Gerri’s constant companion and faithful guard beast. He really is sweet but very territorial and protective of my sister which is fine by me. Gerri has taken the greatest beating of time and the genetic “deal” in the family. Rheumatoid arthritis, RSD, Lupus, and a family of quite often insensitive siblings has given her the life of Job. Fortunately, she has a large reserve of patience, a maturing, talented daughter,¬†and a great dog to help weather¬†her personal storms. She, however, does need air conditioning if she wants visitors in the summer ūüė¶

Tidbits: Some time this morning, probably on an errand to the store, I will break 2,000 miles on this trip. It will probably come in the parking lot of the Starbucks in Medford. States traveled in to date: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware (a quick shortcut around Philly on the way to Medford). Coming up: New York, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisianna, Texas, and New Mexico (Donna, Arizona is still on the list if time allows!)

Reading will be the rest much needed for my mind this coming week. I hope to finish John Scalzi’s Ghost Brigades (Sci Fi), along with one book on Lincoln and another on Gettysburg. Reviews will probably follow as you all now know how difficult it is for me to refrain from commenting on…everything.

On a past topic…if you are so inclined, check into the DefCon web site (Defending the Constituion). This progressive site is dedicated to protecting key aspects of the Constitution especially in the area of church/religious entanglement with public/state issues. Highly recommended (means that I really like them and have given them money).

http://www.defconamerica.org/

Below is a link, found¬†by DefCon, to a breaking story on the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Possibly a case of “reap what you sow” here?

http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/story/100183.html

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Dangerous Idea, Part 2

June 15, 2007

Hello from 4th and Vine in downtown Cincinnati. I’m in need of extra caffiene to get through part 2 of my reflections on the “Creation Museum” in Petersburg, KY (a project of Answers in Genesis). Yes, I did lose some sleep over this one. I recall saying that I was going to try and have a balanced approach to this issue of creation pseudo-science. And by balance I meant an attempt to be open and sympathtic to the holders of these views. As there is no controversy or scientific clash over any of the core issues of either evolution or the basic mechanics of the scientific method, there is nothing to “balance.” Creation science, and it’s driving dogma of Intelligent Design, are religious and, yet¬†again, ¬†political “creations” that are gathering thunderclouds on an approaching¬†horizon. After my encounters yesterday, I now found it very difficult to be generous of intent.

Thirty years ago, as an aspiring philosopher working his way through the gems of Scholastic Theology, I accepted the Argument¬†from Design as an interesting but ultimately flawed methodology for proving the existence of an all powerful god. Scholasticism and the urgent struggle with dancing angels on the tips of pins gave way to Francis Bacon and the beginnings of real empiricism and scientific method. No more metaphysical relativism. Facts and facts and more facts, forcing us forward to define clear statements of verifiable reality, in a language that trancended individual biases and preoccupations. And yes, Charles Darwin was an accomplished practioner of this method. His works remain, even with the missing tools of genetics, massive taxonomical databases, and plate techtonics, an intellectual and rational response to all of creation psuedo-scientism. He wins this debate before it even starts so I’ll leave the particulars to others (see links and citations below for some great readings to provide to your local school board and science teachers).

You see, the Creation Museum isn’t about science, or truth, or even the origin of life. It’s a neatly wrapped box, with ribbons on tunnels and baubles of “interactive” experiences, targeted at the ancient segments of the human brain. It’s about branding a frighten emotional response into the minds of true believers in order to separate them from the godless world and the vast majority of decent people who live in it.¬†Think Waco or Jim Jones with lots of money and political leverage. This world of ours is in decay and hellbent on hell. All pain is the result of the orginal fall from grace combined with our refusal to accept the unwavering word of god. When judgement comes, in the very near future, those “left behind” will not just be bereft of god’s countenance. They will suffer unspeakable pains at the hands of the “final Adams” who will mete out god’s judgement.

There is little if any real evidence on display. 90% of the exhibits are carefully crafted video feeds, spewing forth simultaneously from multiple screens, claustrophobic hallways of rapid news reel and TV news feeds or second rate dioramas of prehistoric and biblical scenes. The “tunnel of time,” an arch walkway of perhaps 20 feet, is a laughable black tunnel wth lots of last year’s twinkly holiday lights suggesting the perfection of the celestial firmament. The anomatronic dinosaur, spotted shortly before the fall of man due to Eve’s seduction by the serpent,¬†is simplistic by current science museum standards.

The museum patron has little if any control over the exhibits or the flow of the experience. Images of all things Nazi Germany are a special favorite¬†of the video walls,¬†flashing a sense of fear and doom into the passive limbic system. All good displays channel viewers through the sometimes complicated presentations. The better¬†exhibits, like the previously mention Illinois State Museum “Changes” exhibit in Springfield, offer multiple options and plenty of light and¬†air.¬†This museum funnels viewers through dark and shrinking warrens with all exit doors closed or blocked by smiling creationist docents attired in faux field fossil dig fashions. No deviation from the proper path is encouraged and¬†one older visitor had to be helped out of the exhibits by “security” staff after¬†she became disoriented trying to find an exit to a bathroom.

Let me not forget the “security” or Creation Museum Protection Services officers. When I pulled through the gates of the Museum estate I was greeted by a large Kentucky State Police Trooper in full gear, K-9 dogs included. At least, he really looked like a State Trooper in two-tone beige/brown uniform, round brim “smokey bear” hat and utility belt. At closer inspection (like right up close so I could see the Answers in Creation corporate logo on his shoulder), he was just one of a number of Protection Officers prepared to protect the Museum from…what? When was the last time you went to a public museum that had guard dogs and fake State Troopers as parking attendants? This alone speaks volumes about the indoctrinal techniques of the Museum sponsors. Fake police, overkill security, frightening intimations¬†of impending doom, mind numbing video displays (recall the training segments from the short-lived James Cameron TV sci fi series, Dark Angel?), and “Stepford Staff” of true blue tour guides. To top it off, they even had a special “Men in White”¬†theatre segment¬†to explain the real deal of how the universe works. I skipped this¬†part of the exhibit. I recall there being some type of mind erasing tool wielded by Tommy Lee Jones in the “Black” movies and I wanted no part of the Creationism version.

Just as this Museum has nothing to do with science it also has nothing to do with the search for truth. The opening exhibit presents a video of two “colleagues” on a dig discussing how their different starting points explain their different interpretation of the facts of fossils and the massive geological record of physical upheaval and organic evolution. The hatless, t-shirt wearing NON-WHITE scientist explains in a halting voice that he “believes” these fossils are millions of years old because the theory of evolution tells him so. His older, WHITE, creationist associate, decked out in proper head gear, safari vest, and real scientist work boots explains how the Bible more clearly documents the entombment of these poor creatures in the GREAT FLOOD that was god’s justifed response to the wickedness of man. Is not the pot calling the cultural kettle black? I’m certain that this “same facts, different starting point” is as close to a simple definition of relativism as you can get. Shame on those creation scientists for waffling on the absolute nature of truth.

And, finally, speaking further of the relative nature of truth…INCEST! The exhibit actually tries to explain how Cain come up with a wife in Genesis by asserting that, since we all decended from the same parents, we all marry a relative in some small way. And, at this point in biblical history, God had not made incest a sin so it was perfectly okay to marry your sister or propogate with your daughters (forget not Lot). And there seems to have been a dispensation for Noah and his brood. I believe Caligula made this same argument along with the Marquis de Sade.

Do not take these people lightly. They hold these beliefs as firmly as gravity holds my mass to the surface of this planet. At the very least, hide your daughters. What we all should do, more productively, is watch our town councils and schools boards very closely for signs of creationist encroachment. Do not let an opportunity pass to insist that creationism is religious dogma, not science, not good public policy, and not good education. There is no “other side” to represent, no “controversy” to teach. Inspect textbooks and the stands of political candidates. We have three candidates lusting for presidential office who hold firm to the creationist mythology. Is the closet empty?

I need to end this rant. Below are some useful web resources. I’ve included the web site for the Creation Museum out of fairness. The site is free. Admission to the Museum was $19.95 (it was $9.00 for the Churchill Down’s Museum and the movie was much better!).

Future reading and surfing:

http://www.nytimes.com/pages/science/sciencespecial2/index.html

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/home.php

http://www.creationmuseum.org/


Another Dangerous Idea

June 14, 2007

Hey from Sharonville, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati off of route 75 North. I’m snug in a Hilton Garden Suites and thinking seriously of hiding until my trip to the ballpark tomorrow night. I have to confess that, while the drive from Louisville was pleasant and without mishap, the visit to the alleged “museum” of the Creation in Petersburg was very upsetting. In fact, I would have to say that the experience was frightening given the mix of religion, psuedo-science, and hidden politcal agenda that was so skillfully propogated to a fairly unquestioning group of visitors.

Seriously, I am so distressed by this experience that I really need to sort out my thoughts on all the issues before I try to construction a commentary.¬†One thing I will say…do not dismiss these people. The developers of this edifice are committed to more than just presenting a “disrespected” religion/scientific belief in a more positive light. They mean to spread a doctrine of religious absolutism that labels¬†EVERYONE who fails to see the god revealed truth of creation as perpretrators and facilitators of evil, drug addiction, sexual excess, nazism, socialism, gay everything, moral decay, child porn, disease epidemics, and religious tolerance (yes, religious diversity and tolerance is a very bad thing for these folks).

And death for all these unfortunate unbeliever may not be too severe a divine necessity. After all, god has done it before. The last time I felt this intense an emotional response was after a visit to the concentration camp at Dachua. There is something vile about this place nestled in the green farmlands of northern Kentucky. Something wicked this way comes. More tomorrow.


Off to the Races

June 11, 2007

It’s summer time and the living has become too easy here in Indy. Moderate temperatures, bearable humidity, and breezy evenings out on the lake (Lake Geist to be exact).¬† It really is time to move on. I could get very addicted to taking a boat to dinner at a nice Italian place and watching the sky approach its longest day on the return trip.¬†The sky stays a¬†serene shade of blue gray almost to 10 PM (Indy is at the western edge of the eastern time zone and gets lots of extra daylight as compared to the east coast or even St. Louis).

I promised a few folks an extended tour¬†preview so here’s the plan for the coming week. Packing up today (Monday) and hitting the road for Louisville before noon Tuesday. I’ll be checking into a KOA campground just north of Louisville in Clarksville, IN. I hope to hit the races at either Churchill or Louisville Downs along with a visit to the Louisville Slugger factory. Two nights in a “Kamping Kabin” should be a bit easier than putting up my trusty and weather tested tent. On Thursday I head out of Louisville along the Ohio River until I catch up with Petersburg, KY and the “Answers in Genisis (AiG) Creation Museum. From there it’s on to a little burb outside Cincinnati for two nights with the Hiltons (thank you AAA). Friday night I’ve snagged a field box seat for the Cincinnati Reds against the Texas Rangers at the new Baseball Park of America. I hope to actually complete a score card for this game…something I’ve never done.

After Cincy, a little more time along the Ohio River before I turn east for Charleston WV. I’ll probably just spend a night there before heading for (one) of my old hometowns…Pittsburgh. I’m looking forward to driving route 79 up through the Appalachains.


I woke up in Havana

June 5, 2007

“It’s a special edition of Today…” I clicked on the TV while I was making coffee in the Red Roof bathroom (my own stash, french press, french roast, hot pot. I came prepared with the real essentials!) and found the Today Show live from Havana, Cuba. Did Castro die? Did we finally wake up and liftthe silly embargo? No. Matt Lauer and company got in on letters of transit as “news” people. A lot of Americans were hanging about, apparently on medical¬†reviewsor special missions. A few probably came in illegally from Canada, Mexico, or the rest of the world. Big fine for traveling to Cuba illegally: $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison. There was a couple from St. Louis in the crowd, duly interviewed by Matt, so they could announce that “they” were pregnant. Talk about irrefutable evidence of a crime! Could be a prison baby in the making here if these folks don’t have a good excuse.

I’m still in Springfield but headed for Indianapolis to spend a few days with my sister Mary, her husband David, and nieces Amy and Mandy. Mandy is all grown up and off at college so I’ll be enlisted into “Team Amy,” the touring theatrical, dancing, singing phenomenon that is my sister’s daughter. No beauty queen nonsense here. Serious song and dance and maybe, just maybe, some serious shot at the Great White Way. Amy is very¬†talented and committed. I hope to get her to teach me how to dance while I’m there (To Dream the Impossible Dream…)

One more stop before I hit route 36 East for Decatur and on to Indy. The Illinois State Museum. They have amassed a major collection of animal and plant fossils from the ancient belly of North America. I definitely want to catch them before they become illegal. Now I promise to be balanced on this issue. Look for a special report from Petersburg, KY in a few weeks.