A Bit More Catching Up

July 18, 2007

Good morning from Starbucks on Medford! I’ve been here long enough that the staff has be doing chores. Guess I could always try my hand at being a barista again (if Suzanne and Nicole would let me the cabin long term ūüėČ It’s a good day at Starbucks; new music rotation (was getting quite tired of Sir Paul and some ethno-punk-reggae mix) and I got a free drink for wrenching the top off of a reluctant vanilla bottle.

¬†I’ll spare you all the ongoing struggle with the field mice at the cabin. I’ve caught 2 and found 3 dead. Not sure what has cause the proliferation of murine invaders. Ironically I was almost a distant immunological cousin to one of these creatures. During my heart surgery five years ago I agreed to paticipate in the testing of a murine (mouse)¬†antibody in preventing the formation of micro-embolism in patients on the heart/lung machine. Blinded trial so no one knew whether I was made a mouse “blood brother” or not. However, six months after the trial I was tested for the presence of the murine antibody in my blood stream. Future exposures to mouse products could result in a serious allergic reaction (like I need more stuff to go wrong). The results were revealed to me and…no antibodies for me. Guess that’s why I have little sympathy for the vermin under my bed (although as I said…they are kinda cute).

Back to DC for a moment: How I managed to see as much as I did in the Washington Mall area still surprises me. Some of my looking was by zoom lense but I did manage to walk half of the Mall from the Smithsonian castle to the WWII Memorial and back. Stops along the way included the Museum of Natural History (hotbed of “evil’ lutionary activities including actual¬†fossil extractions and extensive dating efforts), the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery, the National Archives, the Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial. Unfortunately I did not get to see Mi Lyn’s Vietnam Memorial masterpiece. My legs barely got me back to the Mall Metro stop before the showers started.

The Natural History Museum, of course, was very impressive although I have overdosed on the wealth of data and evidence for the self evident process of evolution in organic systems. The evolution that struck me most keenly was found not among hundreds of multi-million year old fossils but stately presented in true ephemeral grace in the Hall of Charters in the Archive’s rotunda. The wait was short, 30 minutes, considering the national treasures to be viewed. All the “big boys” where there; the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence along with personal “working copies of the constitutional documents” used by Washington in his role as chairman of the Convention. Lighting and age preventing any actually reading of most of the documents (this didn’t stop people with mini-video cameras from shooting sans flash for minutes at a time…a nice book of all the documents was available in the gift shop for less than $10) but I can assure you of two things: John Hancock’s name is really big on the bottom of the Declaration and the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights really does say “make¬†no law” regarding an establishment of religion.

One final observation concerning my fellow visitors; there were a number of foreign visitors of a variety of lands and languages. I was particularly taken with an adoptive German father talking passionately with his adopted Asian daughter in german over a particulary striking piece of work in the Sculpture Garden. There was one¬†fact that was so evident that to not mention it would be like not seeing the Washington Monument from the edge of the Elipse. I could count the number of African American visitors on one hand in the Archives, fewer still in the Sculpture Garden, and a handful more in the Natural History Palace (mostly as part of a family group of mixed races and ethnicities). This was in almost absolute contrast to the security staffs of the Museum and of the Archives which were exclusively African American on the shift for which I was present. Is there a question to be asked here? And a possible answer? It could all be a matter of coincidence and timing. Perhaps some folks were worn out from the Folk Festival on the Mall from the previous week. Or is race still so divisive in the Nation’s Capitol that the best that we have to share is unapproachable by those most in need of a clear understanding of the “rules of the game” codified in the documents in the Archive and the world view enshrined in all the other repositories of achievement and art. This question is worth thinking about for awhile and any comments are most welcome.

On a somewhat related note: the Archive has the complete documents from the arrest and arraignment of Rosa Parks. I have a postcard for¬†Ms. Brown¬†showing the bus layout and Ms. Park’s seat. The simple diagram makes this historical watershead so very tangible and even personal.

I only skimmed¬†the obvious bits¬†of the Capitol. A shoddy reconnisence at best. Many trips will be needed just to complete a simple inventory of treasure to sample. I’ll be back and, thanks to Steve and Kathryn, I’ll probably have a great place to stay.

More, as alway, later. Carrsville next. Now who can find that on a map?

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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.


New Pictures plus a Mystery Quiz

June 13, 2007

Happy Wednesday night! Pretty sunset in Louisville. Light dinner tonight so I can blog away (Cheetos and Smart Water…gotta stay in shape for another travel day tomorrow). Actually I had a great lunch at the University of Louisville Hall of Fame Cafe. They take their college sports seriously in this town. The football stadium, just up the road from Churchill Downs, is awesome. Not sure about the academic standing of the University but…there are enough colleges for that stuff. Give me “Rocks for Jocks” and Horseback Riding 101.

http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste/LouisvilleJune132007

Speaking of rocks and horses…new picture album¬†at the google site¬†above. Shots from the Downs, downtown Louisville, and the coral fossil flats across the river from Louisville at the Falls of the Ohio.¬†One of the¬†photos I’ve entitled “Mystery Picture” here because it caught my eye but I had no clue what it was until checking the name plate.¬†This object was firmly inplanted outside the Cathedral of the Assumption¬†in downtown. Correct guesses will get a special present from the road.

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Hit It Dave!

June 12, 2007

Greetings from Clarksville, IN! Better know (?) as the “Sunnyside of Louisville.” I¬†arrived here well ahead of schedule around 1:30 PM and got to check into my “mini-cabin” at the KOA park on Clarksville, do a little sightseeing, eat dinner on the waterfront, and scope out tomorrow’s main stops. I’ve already posted a few photos for those who want a preview of the Louisville experience and life in another river town.

I should explain the “Hit It Dave!” or “Hit it, Dave!” title and photo. My brother-in-law, Dave, married to the former Maid Mary, my sister, has found yet another career path for those kids in school who populated the A-V club. He is the maestro of sound and video for his church in Indy (who said Methodists aren’t hip?) and puts in special time for the kid and youth programs. I had the chance to see Team Dave (Dave, my step-niece Mandy, and niece Amy) in action last night at the kickoff event to VBS (for you pagans, that’s Vacation Bible School). Dave got his moniker a number of years ago from the youth staff and kids cueing¬†him up¬†with the call to action…”Hit it, Dave!” Yes, of course, but you really had to be there to get the giggle in the joke so to speak. A good show, by the way. I’m pleased that¬†some “mainline” religious fellowships are keeping up with the evangelical and/or fundamentalist churchs when it comes to youth indoctrination via entertainment and rocking music.

As always, visits to my sister’s home result in a long period of spiritual reflection on my part. I remain comfortable with my own stew of buddhism, mystical Catholicism, neo-pagan earth mother love, humanism, and scienticism. I do, however, have to praise the genuine and heartfelt nature of their practice along with the absence of judgementalism and “meanness” that marks so much of modern American hyper-proto-holier than-christianity. This is not to say that I wasn’t concerned with the tone of some of the indoctrinal techniques used with the younger folks. The “super spy on a mission from god” theme was a touch 1984 for my taste but the kids seemed to get the joke even if I didn’t giggle. That criticism aside, I’d trust “Hit It Dave” and his kids with the Constitution any day!

As for my “Kentucky Cabin…” It’s not much of a cabin and it’s not in Kentucky but close enough to each for blog work. The KOA “Kampin’ Kabin” is a little bigger than a rich kid’s doll house, has AC, electricity, and…FREE WI FI! It can even sleep 3 0r 4. The bathroom and shower, however, are past the gas pumps on the far side of the camp store.

I’ll have more to say on the Louisville riverfront tomorrow. It goes without saying that St. Louis has a long way to go before it can match the developments in places like Louisville, Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh. And Louisville even has it’s own fossil feature. The “Falls at the Ohio River” include hundreds of yards of dry river bed with thousands of fossil impression up to 400 million years old! Pictures¬†and¬†links¬†tomorrow.


Off to the Pontoon Races

June 6, 2007

Greetings from Indianapolis! Home of, of, of…I’ll take suggestions. Actually it is home to my sister, her husband and their two kids. It’s a lovely town with a bit of a crime problem. Coming from St. Louis I can’t be too uppity. I’m on the west side of Indy, on a man-made lake with very nice homes, boat docks, and pontoon boats. More on the pontoon boat later.

I arrive in Indiana, allowing for the time zone change, around 6 PM local time. Indiana has joined the temporally civilized and added daylight savings time to their collective lists of spring chores. I never got the hang of Indiana time and I’m sure my sister will be glad to¬†no longer hear me ask “What time is it now in Indiana?”

Parting thoughts on Springfield: highly recommended. Nice people that seem to manage real life in a historical setting. The Illinois State Museum was a pleasant surprise. Dedicated to all things Illinois, the Musuem has recently open an interactive exhibit on geological, ecological, and biological change of time beginnng 500 million years ago. Illinois like many parts of the US midwest lack fossils from the Jurassic period, the time of the big dinosaurs. Due primarily to tremendous geoligical activity after the big beasties bought it in the Yucatan rock incident 65 million years ago, the Museum none the less had an exceptional display of Pennsylvanian era fossils, a coal and peat making display, and great stuff from the last Ice Age (blamed appropriately, I think, on Wisconsin).

In a rather small area, the “Changes” exhibit packs interactive Q&A, touchie-feelie stuff the the kids (yeah, okay, I felt up the beaver pelt too), and life size staff 2-D models that gave a very personal feel to the instruction. And, if you fail to look up you will miss 20% of the exhibit. Overhead, a giant “ribbon of life” documents physically the time scale of the evolution of life on earth. Much cooler than the usual “time-line” although they did utilize a “thermometer”type of time marker for all the the exhibits to help you stay in the proper moment. And there were dozens of native artifacts, including an extensive collection of tools essential to the once thriving economic life of the Illinois River tribes. A really great exhibit that will require future visits.

I wonder what I’ll find in Petersburg?

Anyway,¬†I won’t ¬†leave you in suspense any longer about the pontoon boat. I got to my sister’s house just in time to aid my brother-in-law in a minor crisis. They have decided to sell their 24 foot pontoon excusion boat to concentrate on the speedier stuff in the family collection (paddle boat, tubes, jet ski). Unfortunately, the boat developed a starter problem while at the marina about five miles from the family dock. The only option was to take one of the other boats, head off to the marina, lasso the crippled pontoon boat, and tow it home. As the cliche goes…easier said than done.

The ride to the marina was pleasant, the weather cooling and breezy. It struck me that it was the second time in 4 days that I was out on the water. That equals the number of times I’ve spent one a boat in the last 20 years! Hooking up with the pontoon boat took some serous creativety with knots and nooses. No one ended up in the drink fortunately and the tow back to the home cove went surprisingly well considering…considering the constant vigilance for oncoming wakes of speed boats and skiers. In spite of the rocking and rolling, the cruise went well. I’m thinking of adding First Mate to my list of career options!