A Small Northern Detour

October 10, 2007

Hey all!

As promised, the travel blog is back! I’ll be hitting the road on Monday the 15th of October for a swing through south Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri. I hope to stop in Baton Rouge and Memphis with a long rest stop at Lake Charles LA and Jackson MS. With luck and good weather I should land in STL in time for dinner (late!) on the 17th. Lady P has graciously offered accommodations. Hopefully her three Russian Hounds will welcome me with open paws ūüėČ

Before I can head out I have a few chores and commitments to attend to. I’m still job hunting and doctor shopping (haven’t scheduled the neuro people yet but I won’t get to the surgery until I get back to Houston at the end of the month). In support of the employment search I’ll be volunteering this weekend with the Candlelighters Camp for Kids with cancer and their families. Lots of classy people on the board of this organization and I suspect I’ll be drafted as a long term volunteer type. It will be good to be back, socially speaking, especially from the perspective of a volunteer. No staff duties or responsibilities! I’m really looking forward to being able to complain and whine without having to do anything about my gripes ūüėČ

Pictures, lots of pictures, are pending. Houston, NASA, soccer, a MoveOn.Org protest on the 4th, and all of the new travel pix will start to appear Sunday. Do check in on Monday evening for the first day’s road recap from Baton Rouge!

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Catch Up Time

July 17, 2007

To all:

My apologies for the short absence. Recovering from my trip to Silver Spring and Washington, DC took a bit more time than I anticipated. This is primarily due to the sluggishness of a muggy summer setting in compounded by my own search for motivation. I’ll spare everyone the internal dialogue and get on with the travelogue!

The drive down to DC last week, via route 95, was the best “drive” of the trip I think. The weather was beautiful. Southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland present hundreds of postcard worthy scenes and the traffic, while moderately heavy, was smooth and swift. The same can not be said for the drive back. One feature that might trip up a resident of St. Louis on this drive, as it almost did to me, is the paying of tolls. Tolls for roads (NJ Turnpike), tolls for bridges (Delaware Memorial), tolls for parts of roads (Delaware Turnpike), and tolls for tunnels (Baltimore).¬† I had just enough cash (car-wide coin search included) to cover all the fees on the way down to Silver Spring. The total down came to $10.05 and $7.00 on the return trip (I skipped the Turnpikes and the Bridge and took a longer route back to Medford, NJ…it was not worth the savings!).

Baltimore presented a great stopping point for lunch and some photo opportunities. Maryland crab and a burger at the Rusty Skupper on the Inner Harbor post-lunch crowd is the way to go. Driving the scenic harbor route covered all the basic stuff like Fort McHenry and the massive harbor development in progress. A similar development effort is underway on the Wilmington, DE riverfront on a much smaller scale. If you’re a tunnel-phobe you’ll need to take the Baltimore Beltway way west to avoid the harbor crossing tunnels.

The few remaining miles to Silver Spring (see Kathryn, I can spell it consistently without the extra “s”) went quick and led to the only traffic of the day at the exit for the University of Maryland. My hosts, fellow godparent Kathryn and her husband Steve, scored a major bit of real estate luck in finding a great house in Silver Spring just minutes from the Metro and downtown Silver Spring (a ‘tres funky, artsy deco, mingling spot for a range of ages and ethnicities). I’m sure they will be able to retire on the sale of this home in a decade or two!

Annabelle and William, the kids of the house, provide enough energy to light most of Silver Spring. Boundless is perhaps the word I could use. How Steve and Kathryn keep up is a mystery to me. I did have some nice “table time” with them Friday night and Saturday morning. Steve was very helpful in letting me blather on about some grant ideas that I have and hope to run by him in a few months related to science education. No one better suited to the task as he is one of the major project managers on the upcoming (August 2008) final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. After the Apollo landing on the Moon, Hubble ranks in my mind as NASA’s greatest achievement. Below is a link to a recent article on www.space.com related to the mission:

http://www.space.com/news/061013_hubble_cost.html

I’ve included pictures from Baltimore, Silver Spring, and DC on my google picture site: http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste

I’ll save my thoughts on DC for a separate piece as it was, in its own way, as overwhelming as NYC. Both places have a distinctive “gravity” unlike any other place I’ve been. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos and feel free to share the blog address with anyone you care to. And comments, BTW, are always welcome. Job offers too!


Manhattan Part 1

July 2, 2007

Hello from Barclay Street in the Center of the Financial Universe…Lower Manhattan! It’s all fairly overwhelming and disorienting. The post-9/11 contruction boom dominates the landscape. I walked up to the WTC site from Battery Park and made it 3/4 of the way around Ground Zero. I¬†gave in to tired legs and found a Starbucks to crash, reflect, and dump my camera. Unfortunately I had a “short” of some kind in my camera battery and had to let the camera cool down. My thanks to the nice gentleman at World Trade¬†Photo for the diagnosis.¬†¬†Photos from the first part of my water taxi tour, middle East Side to Battery Park are posted at:

http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste/ManhattanPart1

I’ll catch up with the pictures on the way back. I’m probably going to shorten my taxi tour and head back to the South Street Seaport and then to 34th Street for a nice dinner at a local place. Going to save my strength for the Ameican Museum of Natural History tomorrow!


New York, New York!

July 2, 2007

Finally made it to New York! Arrived late Saturday after a great little BBQ in Maplewood NJ. A thirty minute train ride but me and my friend Judy in Penn Station and exiting into the crowd from Madison Square Garden. And, yes, I was a total rube; gawking skyward, tripping over people, saying “Wow” more than a dozen times to no one in particular. The true New Yorkers were either amused or indifferent to my sudden loss of “New York” virginity. I was taken with the orderliness of people lining up for cabs under the watchful eye of one of New York’s finest. One women did cut the line and grab a cab much to the chagrin of the crowd. Unfortunately the officer was busy helping to load a van with a group of New York Newbies. The gods of New York will probably subtract some serious cab karma points from this women!

¬†Spent Sunday recovering and enjoying the local sights of the NYU Medical Center and the central East Side. Judy’s faculty apartment is on the 15th floor facing the river. The view is stunning although marred by the recent construction of a new science research building which obscures the center part of the view. Some pictures will be posted shortly on the photo site with many more to follow today and tomorrow. I have some personal business this morning; negotiating prescription refills long distance for shipment via UPS. This could be interesting. Both my doc and my pharmacy told me last month “no problem” to this arrangement. We’ll see. I also plan on doing the “Hop On. Hop Off” tour of the Island by water taxi. Lots of opportunities for great pictures and venues. Hope to hit Battery Park, the WTC Memorial, Greenwich Village, and perhaps one other stop. I’m on my own as Judy has both clinic and the start of a new rotation of interns and student. I probably will not see her until tomorrow morning. She an amazing doc and makes Matha Stewart look aloppy with her hospitality.

Much more later. BTW…weather is outstanding. Sunny, warm, 78 degrees, moderate humidity. Hope this doesn’t make anyone feel bad.


A Walk Down Memory Lane

June 19, 2007

It’s a rainy day in Pittsburgh and a good time¬†time to catch up with this blog and some “employment search” activities. Please see the newest addition to the photo gallery for a walking tour of some of my memories from my years in Pittsburgh (between 1970 and 1974). I’m trying to make sentences out of the waves of recollections my physical touring¬†summoned up¬†yesterday.

 http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste/PittsburghMemoryWalk2007

One quick¬†snippet concerns a former teacher, now Business Manager, from Central Catholic High School. ¬†Harry Tuminello, social studies teacher and debate coach, just happened to be walking between administrative offices at the School when I climbed the entry stairs. Harry was a memorable man, both in appearance and manner, so my brain cells fired pretty quickly and I caught him in mid-step. We reminiced for about 15 minutes. Who went where. Who’s still alive (yeah, Pat Harrington!). Who’s not. Who’s in jail or should be. He is well. Married. Kids. Happy. Far younger looking that anyone his age has a right to be.

I had Harry for only a small number of coaching sessions. But one in particularly has stood the (cliche’ here) test of time. No real need for the details of the practice debate session except; I was a sophmore, we were gettng our butts kicked by the senior squad, and I elected to “morph” a piece of written evidence from what it really said into what I really needed it to say by leaving out an important conditional after the comma. The ruse was so inept that everybody caught it including Mr. Tuminello. I will not forget the verbal lashing I got for cheating (which is exactly what it was). To this day, any time I am tempted to “fudge” some data or budget projections to put a little extra polish on the apple I recall Harry’s admonitions. It truly is amazing the things that you recall or have a lasting impact on your life. My thanks to Harry for making me a better person in less than a minute.

Travel update tomorrow. I want to get to New York before the July holiday. And I need to get to New Jersey to conserve the cash. Looks like I’ll be meeting the road Thursday or Friday at the latest. I did have a very nice birthday celebration concocted by my two youngest sisters. It made making 51 even more enjoyable than it already is.


More Pictures and Tidbits

June 17, 2007

Howdy from Pittsburgh and the US Open!¬†Just a quick post to direct you all to photos from Cincinnati. I splurged and got a field box seat behind home plate so…lots of pictures of the Great American Ball Park (sponsored by Great American of course) to justify the expense!

http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste/CincinnatiJune2007

Also, a note on mileage. I broke 1,000 miles on Thursday at Route 71 and 275 south of Cincinnati on my way to the Creation Museum. I’m now at almost 1400. At some point I’ll do a calculation of final estimated mileage for this adventure¬†or…maybe I’ll post the rest of the itinerary and hold a contest?

Monday morning note: Pittsburgh pictures on-line!


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/