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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Monday, August 28, 2006

With deepest condolences

She lay in the dark,
On the shadow of darkness,
Cold are her feet, cold her hands,
My baby rest,
Rest my baby, rest,
Let me one more time,
Touch your fingers,
Breath your breath,
My baby.
How long can you bear to suffer,
How long will our Lord ignores you?
Farewell in the darkest night,
Without/ within your cherished one.
May the light warm your soul,
May we ever find an answer.
May you rest in peace,
My sweet baby gently rest.
My Julia.

This morning my sweet baby died, I was alone with her and held her hand.

May the time stand still for one more prayer for her road, from you to her.


May the LORD bless and keep you and your family in this time of darkness, Patrick.

Godspeed your soul to the undying light, Julia.

Parents should never have to bury their children.


Requiescant in pace.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Terminator 3

This had me rolling on the floor in stitches.
Oh, this so wrong!

The scene at The Last Supper

JESUS: Brothers, my time with you is almost over, but for now, let us eat.
[ARNOLD bursts through the doors with a shotgun]
ARNOLD: Eat this!
[ARNOLD fires shotgun at Judas, killing him]
JESUS: You just don't get it, don't you?
ARNOLD: You have been targeted for termination.
JESUS: I already told you, I'm supposed to die for the sins of mankind!
[JESUS resurrects JUDAS]
[JUDAS gets up]
ARNOLD: I'm programmed to protect you!
[ARNOLD fires shotgun at Judas again, killing him again]
JESUS [shouting]: Stop! Stop killing Judas!
ARNOLD: But he is going to betray you!
JESUS: I know. Look, look, I've got a lot on my mind right now, and you're really starting to stress me out, OK? OK?
[JESUS resurrects JUDAS again]
ARNOLD: Pontius Pilate at ten o'clock!
JESUS: What?
[JESUS turns around]
[ARNOLD fires shotgun at JUDAS yet again, killing him for the third time]
JESUS [rushes at ARNOLD, yelling]: Gimme that thing!

I heart my bike

All your fakes are belong to us

This drives the liberals crazy. Mainstream Media (MSM) photographs, news and articles exposed as fakes or outright frauds by bloggers. First, Reuters photographs exposed as being doctored using Photoshop. This led to Reuters to firing the photographer, issuing 2 unprecedented "Picture Kills" to news agencies around the world, and withdrawing 620 photographs from sale, distribution, or circulation. Now, it is turning out that the alleged strike by Israeli warplanes on 2 Lebanese ambulances is a hoax.

Looks like the lefties will need a ride in this:

Hope unto joy

He leads us on the way of wisdom's
Everlasting law that truth
Is only learnt by suffering it.
Ah, in sleep the pain distills,
Bleeding on the memory,
And makes us wise against our wills:
God's grace by solemn force.

(Aeschylus, Oresteia)

A selection of quotes from, and ruminations on, Father Paul G. Crowley's book, Unwanted Wisdom.

Hope is thus not an "emergency virtue" that would paper over the muck of life. Nor does it suggest merely transcending difficulties, escaping imprisonments through various escapist schemes or by succumbing to the desire for absolutes. For all of these can be forms of denial of reality, and reality cannot be dealt with except by going through it. Hope, therefore, is born in part of an act of imagination, envisioning what cannot yet be seen. As such it is an inner resource, linked, as a sense of comedy is, with an ironic acceptance of the ordinary, even if that ordinary is a convoluted and conflicted reality.

Hope begins with the "help" of finding a way of standing outside oneself , if one can. But, at the same time, it is not a matter of self-help, as if the answer to suffering somehow comes only from within--following the familiar bromide that "God helps those who help themselves." Hope depends, first, on the offer of help, and the mutual recognition that we depend on one another in life-giving ways. In the Isenheim altarpiece, this is poignantly depicted in the hands of Mary, clenched in anguish at the foot of the cross, the consoling hand of John the Beloved Disciple grasping her arm and holding her up. This sense of mutual support, sharing in suffering--what Jon Sobrino and Dorothee Sölle and others would later call "solidarity"--is born, first, from the inward act of taking help--not passively accepting it, but of appropriating it, making it somehow part of oneself. This is the only way we can face and go through reality, as part of a dynamic response to reality and the suffering it entails. We could not hope without help, but help alone, as unappropriated offer, will not facilitate our penetration into the reality of our own lives. Solidarity depends upon acceptance of solidarity, the solidarity of others with us. Something of this insight is certainly at work in the process of psychoanalysis, where the analysand must undertake an active effort to work at appropriating the "help" that comes in the process and through the mediation of the analyst. So, too, in more ordinary and everyday human settings. And this calls for an exercise of imagination, of putting things together in order to be able to see in new ways. (54)

What[. . .] is hanging in the background of the entire project, is a theological conviction that this humanum is made known in all its aspects in the full mystery of Christ, from incarnation through the cross and resurrection--all that is contained within the Christic imagination.

However, the new self and world that we imagine must belong not to an ideal world, but only to the real. The alternative is an absolute ideal--of goodness or purity or holiness or health--that may have nothing to do with the flesh and blood existence of human beings. What [William] Lynch called the "absolutizing instinct" is the enemy of the human and of hope, leading to a world of false hope, and investing certain aspects of life, especially the moment of death, with an importance disproportionate to their actual weight in the whole of a life. The result can be an exacerbation of the suffering that already exists. In religious categories, this absolutizing instinct can result in calculated theologies, ranging from theories of retribution rebutted in the Book of Job, to the theodicies of the Enlightenment period, that would calibrate the relations between God and humankind so precisely as to reduce them to rational categories. The absolutizing instinct would therefore drive us further away from the real and more toward an ideal of both who we are and who God is in relation to us. We could well end up establishing false gods: personal power, wealth, prestige, repressive political ideologies, and dangerously selective forms of religion. Yet, for Lynch, the "entire good" of religion is to fight the absolutizing instinct. Religions ought to teach people to be able to live in waiting, in ambiguity, in something less than the full light of day." If, therefore, we wish to imitate God, let us make men free." (56-7)

The sentiments expressed in the preceding block quote reflect my feelings towards many Protestant non-denominational churches. I was not surprised to discover that the Roman Catholic Church considers most non-denominational churches to be fundamentalist (* "Most nondenomination "Bible churches" are fundamentalist, as are many communities which claim to be evangelical or Pentecostal" (5). Catholic Answers to Fundamentalists' Questions.) Having experienced my share of non-denomination churches, I must agree with the position of the Roman Catholic Church. Most non-denominational churches preach a world view that is otherworldly, that is Manichaean, pitting an evil, fallen material world against an afterlife that is pure goodness. Hence, with blinkers on, the immeasurable suffering that goes on in this world pass unnoticed, the "good works" that are so desperately needed, undone; all that matters is the rapture and the OCD-like longing to get into the next world ASAP. These Christians heretics, in my opinion, are the people Don Henley mock in the song, "The Last Resort":

And you can see them there,
On Sunday morning
They stand up and sing about
what it's like up there
They call it paradise

The cross stands not just as a reminder of the sacrifice that Jesus endured for all humanity, in all ages, but it is also the way to hope, the way to wisdom (though sometimes unasked and undesired). Paradoxically, the cross serves not as a shield against suffering or a means to avoid or numb suffering, but functions much like the cross-hairs for the Christian to encounter suffering head on, to embrace it, to dive headlong into it, to suffer like Christ suffered, in all the little crushing crucifixions of a daily life. But it is not stoicism, despair, or a false front of bravado that is asked of us, but an invitation to solidarity with humanity, for "it is only by driving into the reality of suffering, and not evading it, that one can find a pathway to hope and encounter with the sacred" (86).

The price of the avoidance of suffering is ceasing to love; the cross is the sign that love has not avoided suffering, but entered into suffering in solidarity with the victims of suffering. It is a realistic sign of things as they are, to be sure, and that reality includes the places that love finally leads us into, the forms that love finally assumes, in flesh and blood. And it is in light of this reading of the cross that we find in Jesus' own sufferings, including his utter aloneness and his waiting for the scream to come forth, an active acceptance born of a love that desires to share in the sufferings of others. (74)

Christianity could allow no escape from the real and that is a command of Christian life to enter fully into it. This is the demand of the cross. And if the demand of the cross can only be found by facing and penetrating the reality of suffering which marks the "real" in a Christian theological sense, this is because the real is made sacred by virtue of the incarnation, the entry of God into human flesh and blood.

[ . . . ]

Beset by sin, humanity is in need of a redemption that will be its source of final hope. That redemption is accomplished by the cross, a symbol of the entry into the bloody history of the human race of the saving God of Israel. There is no authentic Christianity apart from the cross. (89)

The Christian, therefore, is entitled, even called, to be a realist, indeed, a kind of "pessimistic" realist, because faith " . . . obliges [us] to see this existence as dark and bitter and hard, and as an unfathomable and radical risk." There are no short-ranged answers to this harsh aspect of reality on the human side of the scale. Only by running the risk of this existence and embracing the sorrows that it brings in its wake, as God in Jesus, can one begin to speak of hope.

Christian pessimism, then, describes the experience of being a Christian within the perplexing and often dark reality of existence. But it is not an everyday sort of pessimism, a despondency bordering on despair, or a thinly veiled cynicism, much less a suppressed rage. No, this pessimism is a "Christian" pessimism because it is precisely in the experience of perplexity that Jesus knew in Gethsemane and on the Cross that the Christian finds hope, not as the possibility of an escape from suffering, but as the locus of the encounter with God. it s within reality that Christian faith believes God to have been most fully revealed in relation to us.

[ . . . ]

One is reminded again of Reinhold Niebuhr: "The mystery of life is comprehended in meaning, though no human statement of the meaning can fully resolve the mystery. The tragedy of life is recognized, but faith prevents tragedy from being pure tragedy. Perplexity remains, but there is no perplexity unto despair. Evil is neither accepted as inevitable nor regarded as a proof of the meaningless of life." (93-4)

With "considerable artifice"--and only for the sake of elucidation--Christian pessimism can be separated into three characteristics: "a constellation of a robust realism, a sense of entanglement in sin, and a surrender to life's uncertainties" (94). I will, however, only expand on the third characteristic with a quote:


The reality of sin makes our lives morally ambiguous. As [Karl] Rahner states, "[E]ven a person's most ideal, most moral act of freedom encounters tragically into the concrete in an appearance which, because co-determined by guilt, is also the appearance of its opposite." Just as grace meets and transfigures the darkness of life, making room for patterns of goodness, so, too, does guilt in many subtle ways affect the good acts of a good person.

. . . [T]he good act itself always remains ambiguous because of the co-determination of this situation by guilt. It always remains burdened with consequences which could not really be intended because they lead to tragic impasses, and which disguise the good that was intended by one's freedom.

What I may intend as a gesture of love may turn out to be an act of selfish domination, one "lured on" by cupidity, to borrow a phrase from Bernard of Clairvaux. Conversely, even the experience of grace is not without ambiguity within the contours of what Paul terms flesh.

This means that free decisions are not always undertaken without complication, even pain. Thus, truly free decisions are painful: "All of [human] experience points in the direction that there are in fact objectifications of personal guilt in the world which, as the material for the free decisions of other persons, threaten these decisions, have a seductive effect upon them, and make free decisions painful."But, under most normal circumstances, painful though they may be, they are not absolutely impossible. There is a path to freedom even in the conditioned and perplexing state within which that exercise takes place. The actualization of freedom can result in either an objectification of grace or an objectification of guilt, or, more usually, some admixture of both. (96-7)

While reading another book, God's Soldiers: A History of the Jesuits, I came across a passage describing how, when the Jesuit missionary, Matteo Ricci, was proselytizing to the Emperor of China in the late sixteenth century, the latter found it incomprehensible that Catholics would choose to portray their most sacred god on a crucifix, a punishment reserved for the most heinous of crimes in China. To Christians, the cross symbolizes the sacrifice that God made for us--that He sent His only Son to redeem our sins through death. But Father Crowley's book points out that it goes far, far beyond that. The cross is more than a reminder of Jesus' death and resurrection, and a promise of our eventual resurrection. The cross is a beacon of hope. Hope that is not easily--or painlessly--gotten. For the hope that the cross offers comes only with the acceptance of one's lot, the embrace of suffering, and the ensuing empathy with the collective groaning of humanity. For only then do we experience solidarity: the solidarity with Jesus on the cross--the empathy of God; the solidarity with fellow sufferers. "The cross leads to a focus on the full reality of enfleshed human life, not only my own, but what I share with others; and the destiny of this life, reached through solidarity with others in sharing the human lot" (127).

Putting oneself at the service of the resurrection means working continually, often against hope, in the service of eschatological ideals: justice, peace, solidarity, the life of the weak, community, dignity. . . . And these partial "resurrections" can generate hope in the final resurrection, the conviction that God did indeed perform the impossible, give life to one crucified and will give life to all the crucified. (Jon Sobrino, S.J.)

Against the backdrop of the horrors of World War II, where people were asking how can so much suffering happen under the gaze of a loving God, the Dominican preacher Gerald Vann wrote:

When I share in the suffering of someone I love, that actual sharing is the expression of something deeper, something permanent: the will-to-share, which is what we call love. And so in the mystery of redemption: the actual sharing is done through the humanity of Christ, but that actual sharing is the expression of deeper and permanent mystery in the Godhead, the will-to-share, i.e., the will to be a companion.

And here, Sobrino gives us a beautiful image of what it means to live the resurrection, to do the work of the resurrection, to live in service of it: People of faith in the resurrection show that faith by helping those who suffer, letting them down from their crosses. If the resurrection is the reversal of the cross, it means the end to the sufferings of the cross, and the beginning of new life, a release from those sufferings. This is the eschatological hope of Christian faith: final freedom from suffering, the wounds of human suffering met by the kiss of God. But this eschatological hope is realized, gradually, in the present times of history, as human beings enter into solidarity with one another, take one another down from their crosses. It is a hope planted in the real, ever in the process of being realized, and only fulfilled in the final (as yet hidden) reality of God. (143)

While awaiting the promised day, we make this world--each day--a better place, a little closer to heaven. This is the hope that I took with me after reading Professor Crowley's book, and this is the hope I leave with you.

Indeed, we can truly say: in this experience of the heart, let yourself seemingly accept with calm every despair. Let despair fill your heart so there no longer seems to remain an exit to life, to fulfillment, to space and to God. In despair, despair not. Let yourself accept everything; in reality it is only an acceptance of the finite and the futile. . . . Do not be frightened over the loneliness and abandonment of your interior dungeon, which seems to be so dead--like a grave. For if you stand firm, if you do not run from despair, if in despair over the idols which up to now you call God you do not despair in the true God, if you thus stand firm--this is already a wonder of grace--then you will suddenly perceive that your grave-dungeon only blocks the futile finiteness; you will become aware that your deadly void is only the breath of God's intimacy, that the silence is filled up by a word without words, by the one who is above all names and is all in all. . . . Notice that God is there. (Karl Rahner, S.J.)

There are times when the suffering that attends tragic reversal, both in one's own life or in the lives of others, forces upon us a wisdom that is not asked for, not even wanted. But that very wisdom can become a key to a joyful freedom, where one discovers all of a sudden, as if awakened from a long trance, that what once seemed very important simply no longer has any power over us. [. . .] God's accomplishment of this in us, entering into and working through our sorrows and sufferings, is the gift of what [Saint] Ignatius [of Loyola] called the "Contemplatio," the hope of faith fulfilled, not by us, but by God. Precisely by living in and going through our sufferings, we can in fact enter into joy--perhaps a quiet joy, but nevertheless real. The final hope of Christian faith is that this reality, the reality of joy born of suffering, may become good news for all the suffering world. (147)


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I bow in the presence of a master

Australian Terence Tao has just won the Fields Medal (the math world's version of the Nobel prize). He was trying to teach other toddlers how to add numbers at age 2, scored 760 in the SAT at age 8, graduated with a B.S. at 16, obtained his PhD from Princeton at 21, and became a tenured Professor of Mathematics at UCLA at 24.

John Garnett, former UCLA college chair of mathematics, recently placed Dr Tao on a level with Mozart, "except without Mozart's personality problems" and noted that "mathematics just flows out of him."

More here.

Extra points awarded to anyone who can identify who uttered the phrase in the title to this post. Owing to his vast store of specialized knowledge, crufty cannot play :-P

Fighting Morpheus

Sometimes I am like that too... behind the wheel.
('Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Get out of my way!" I'd suppose.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Video: I, a Muslim

"I, A Muslim," a controversial documentary about Islam in the Czech Republic and Europe, where a reporter uses a hidden camera to record the going ons inside mosques, has been posted to Google Video. The 27 minute 57 second video was aired over the public airways in Czechoslovakia, provoking much outrage and anger among muslims.

Well worth watching despite its length. There's even a segment on the finer aspects of wife beating. I.e. you wouldn't want to break too many bones--you still want her to be able to do the housework, don't you?

After viewing the video, read the following quote of Wafa Sultan:

The Jews have come from the tragedy [of the Holocaust], and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.

Hat tip: Little Green Footballs.

Joy beneath the waves

It's time for my regulators' annual service again. If I am certified to perform the procedure, I would be able to save myself a significant amount of dough. Oh well...

The tanks are also due for their annual inspection.

Sigh... All for the love of the sport, eh?

To a kindred spirit out there (you know who you are), enjoy your vacation! Dive safe and have fun blowing bubbles!

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Duckling

A page from The Song of the Bird, a collection of stories that are Buddhist, Christian, Zen, Hasidic, Russian, Chinese, Hindu, Sufi; both ancient and contemporary; compiled by the late Father Anthony de Mello, S.J. The book was a parting gift from my first GP teacher.

The Sufi saint, Shams-e Tabrizi tells the following story about himself:

I have been considered a misfit since my childhood days. No one seemed to understand me. My own father once said to me, "You are not crazy enough to be put in a madhouse, and not withdrawn enough to be put in a monastery. What shall I do with you?"

I replied, "A duck's egg was put under a hen. When the egg hatched the duckling walked with the hen to the edge of a pool and went straight into the water. The poor hen stayed anxiously clucking on land. Now, dear father, I have walked into the Ocean and find in it my home. Am I to blame if you choose to stay on shore?"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I, Lucifer

This song, by The Real Tuesday Weld, is the latest ear worm to writhe within the tortured confines of my head. Enjoy.

The Ugly and the Beautiful

Well after all that we've been through
Would you still call this love baby?
Cause love's the only proof
That the ugly could be beautiful
God knows I'm feeling spent
Though I've still got my money honey
Money's the revenge
Of the ugly on the beautiful

Well the drugs just ain't enough
Though I like the way they made us crazy
But love's the only drug
It turns the ugly into beautiful
And I can't tell you why
I'm still so much afraid of dying
Dying reconciles
The ugly with the beautiful

Though we've been burned by it
Let's still believe in love
Cause love's the greatest gift
Of the ugly to the beautiful

The MP3 of the song can be obtained here. The French version, La Bete et la belle, is even more playful, IMHO.

A brief blurb by Declan Gunn about this London-based artist:

Equal parts stage-savvy showman and pop-music mastermind, Stephen Coates (aka the Real Tuesday Weld) has a biting wit and snappy style that beautifully meets and matches the genuine human angst and emotion rising from his dark yet snazzy little balls of melodramatic pop splendor. Lots of flavor in there, so keep chewing.

It’s a lot to ask: Write songs about love, death, time and memory. Inform them with a narrative and musical sensibility at once intelligent, wry, witty, playful and profound. Be understated yet poetic, romantic yet post-modern, English yet universal. Admit your worst fears and failings, but remain charming and irresistably cool. Pay homage to heroes as far apart as Al Bowlly and Serge Gainsbourg, pass the sparkling style and champagne spirit of the '20s and '30s through a no-nonsense 21st century filter. Be accessible and sophisticated. And when you’ve written these songs, punctuate them with instrumental interludes to catch those of Psyche’s moods and Cupid’s moments language is apt to miss.

It’s a lot to ask. But, having been visited in a dream by the aforementioned Bowlly, one-man-industry The Real Tuesday Weld (a.k.a. Stephen Coates, a.k.a. The Clerkenwell Kid) has made it his working brief. Urban anatomist of love and sampler par excellence, The Real Tuesday Weld has honed a musical method of succinct composition and delivery ("antique beat", as he’s been wont to call it) that has the effect common to all nifty invention: it makes you wonder why no one’s done it before.

His first full-length release, When Cupid Meets Psyche, provided the stylistic range at which its shorter predecessor, The Valentine EP, had hinted, with songs that were, according to the U.K.'s Q Magazine, “…warm and welcoming as well as arty… a gypsy knees-up, a psychedelic bossa latino, the polite reeds of a ‘30s dance band crushed by booming hip-hop bass…”. A nice niche to nestle in; but I, Lucifer, his Six Degrees debut, has new territory to explore. Conceived as a soundtrack to Glen Duncan’s novel of the same title, the album gives us the Devil’s take on humanity, and The Real Tuesday Weld’s take on our favourite sins. The result is a mischievous, astute, funny, and ultimately melancholy collection, “…meticulously arranged, touching, intimate, and with mesmerising melodies… superbly atmospheric…” - Uncut (U.K.), delivered with the assistance of an eclectic mix of collaborators. The track "Someday (never)" contains an extraordinary performance by Coates’s long-time friend and Grammy award nominee Martyn Jacques, of castrati-cabaret stars the Tiger Lilies. Scottish jazz chanteuse Pinkie McClure features on the Bond themesque "One More Chance," while Gallic crooner David Guez provides the chanson anglaise strains of "La Bete et La Belle". Antique horn embellishments are courtesy of Dutch aristocrat Jacques Van Rhijn.

A near-death epiphany in icy waters off the Siberian coast inspired another ongoing collaborator, Brooklyn-based Russian animator Alex Budovskiy, to create the international award-winning, Sundance-nominated video for the track "Bathtime in Clerkenwell", which is a multi-media element on the CD. This visual extravaganza features (what else?) an army of cuckoos colonising first one apartment, then Clerkenwell, then the whole of London.

There’s no handy summation. These are songs that speak intimately of intimacy and dispassionately of passion, but never at the expense of humour, brevity, or that much maestro-neglected phenomenon, the Tune. You can listen, you can shuffle around the lounge with a pink gin and a cheroot, you can ponder. You can even - if you’re that way inclined - groove.

Why friends rock

Props to crufty.


I am seriously contemplating removing the hair on my legs. As I am neither partial towards shaving (it would leave stubble, which would catch on my tights), nor waxing (hot dripping wax. Umm... S&M not in to I am.), I am probably going the route of depilatories.

Why shave / wax the legs?

1.) Cycling tights, knee and leg warmers are easier to don and doff.

2.) Less mud and horse crap cling to your legs when mountain biking.

3.) When you crash while road biking, the road rash is less severe as there are no hairs to catch on the asphalt and rip patches of skin off.

4.) Wounds are easier to clean, keep clean, and heal faster (no hairs in the way).

5.) Removal of bandages is less painful as there are no hairs to yank off.

6.) For long rides, the hairs on your legs increase aerodynamic drag (though it is miniscule).

7.) Bare legs feel cooler during warm weather as there is no hair to impede passing airflow.

8.) With no hairs to get yanked or pulled, it is easier to massage the legs after hard rides.

9.) Without hair, sunblock, insect repellent, deep heat pain-relieving creams go a long way.

Homophobes and men insecure about their sexual identities / preferences should hold their tongues with regard to this post. If hair follicles are the defining mark of masculinity, then Sasquatch and Chewbacca the Wookie must be history's epitomes of the alpha male.

Interesting poll here.

Picked this up tonight.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fog & Night

Went for a night ride at the Marin Headlands.

Barry Baker Tunnel.

The Golden Gate Bridge partially lost in fog.

It was dark. Wind gusts occasionally knocked me sideways. My bar ends became slick from condensation. The whistling wind, lonely and grateful for company, played counterpoint to my ragged breathing as I climbed into the night.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cycling Pooch

The footage of the dog sitting on the saddle is priceless.

Solo Dawn Patrol

Catching the sunrise from a mountain top.

For more pictures, click on the image or here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What kind of book am I?

You're The Grapes of Wrath!

by John Steinbeck

You're mired in a deep depression that encompasses you and everyone you know. You're trying to get out of the depression, but your idea of help is, in itself, pretty sad. While some are convinced that this all has a deeper meaning, you're really just dull and tedious. And utterly obsessed with dust. You really need to focus on something other than dust. Your best moments center around turtles.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.


Well, the turtles are only thing I am going to comment about.

A couple years back, I was diving off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, at Pulau Redang. Having just shelled out substantial money (US$500) for a spanking brand new pair of Excellerating Force Fins, I was finding every excuse to use them.

These fins are more efficient than the Jet Fins; are just as powerful; are way more manoeuvrable; and do not suffer from a handicap common to all the other Force Fin models--being next to useless when finning on the surface.

The original Jet Fins. I never put them on again after I switched to the Excellerating Force Fins.

On previous dives at Pulau Tioman I had tried to keep up with turtles using Jet Fins, but while the Jet Fins provide enough power, the turtles quickly outmanoeuvre me. The low efficiency of the fins also cause me to use up air at a prodigious rate.

On a particular dive back at Pulau Redang, we encountered a Hawksbill Turtle. Anxious for a rematch (and to see if I got my money's worth), I sprinted up to it. As usual, the turtle tried to swim away. It couldn't outrun me. Next, it tried to outmanoeuvre me. That too, failed. With every bank, dive and sweeping turn, I would be right alongside it, gazing into its eyes. This wonderful dance (at least to me) lasted over 10 minutes. Finally, frustrated, the turtle made a sudden, sharp right turn without first looking...

...and crashed headlong into a wall of coral formations. The noise of the impact (a resounding crack!) echoed through the water. Head fully retracted back into its shell, the turtle drifted down to the sea floor like some kind of giant sinking penny at a fountain of luck. I looked at the other divers: while struggling to control their buoyancy, the guys had tears of laughter in their eyes masks; the gals were beaming death beams of disapproval and condemnation toward me.

So I descended to where the turtle lay (56 feet), picked it up, and finned around with it until it stuck its head out once again and swam--somewhat erratically--off. I guess the collision must have rattled its noggin somewhat.

What has this got to do with Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath? Why, nothing. Nothing at all. It was one of my best moments in diving though ;-P

Telling it like it is

A stunning speech by Lieutenant Colonel Randolph C. White Jr. at the Infantry Graduation at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Video highlights hosted by Hot Air.
(Complete 12 min 10 sec speech can be found here.)

A partial transcript of the speech:

For my money, there are two kinds of men who walk the earth:  there are men of action, and all others.

[ . . . ]

The best and the brightest are not necessarily on campus or in the corporate board room right now. The best and the brightest are you out there in the parade field.  Men, don't ever think for one minute that the kids running around on some university campus protesting, breaking things or whining about this, that and the other, have anything on you.  You are privileged to have the one advantage that they all covet.  You will know--you will have facts--about the goings on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, the Philippines, the Balkins and many other places. Your head will not be filled with the empty theory of those, who in actuality know very little because they lack the intestinal fortitude to commit to anything that requires risk.  I'm speaking of the snide, arrogant sort who spend the day blaming America for every wrong in the world before going home to sleep at night under that blanket of freedom provided by better men, better men just like you.

 Don't let the pessimist television talking heads, the highbrow newspaper writers, Hollywood idiots or any other faction of the "Blame America First" crowd, get you down.  I'm speaking of the “latte biscotti” crowd.  They are simple background chatter, men, and they will always exist on the periphery  of any endeavor that requires selfless service or loyalty.  They are not worthy of your concern.  And truth be told, in the pit of their fickle, cowardly hearts, they wish they could be just like you.  The intestinal fortitude that is a part of your fabric is something that they covet but will never know.  

I, for one will never, ever apologize for being an American. And don't you ever feel that you have to. We're not perfect, but I can think of no better place on earth.  We didn't become the great country we are by accident. We earned it.  And while we were at it, we kept and continue to keep a large portion of the world free. Just ask the veterans that are here today. American blood and sacrifice is an indisputable part of the world equation. We keep a large part of the world free. And no matter what disaster strikes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, we are the ones who show up first to help. American aircraft carriers. American soldiers. American marines. Air Force transport planes flying in supplies. And even local American church groups. More people in this world are trying to come to our shores than any other country. We remain the beacon of hope for many, and God willing, it will always be so.

We're number one.  Don't apologize for it. Be damn proud of it!

Watch the heads of liberals explode :-P

(Grateful hat tip: Amy)


Father Hamilton puppysitting his brother's six month-old Labrador.

While I was doing homily preparation for last Sunday, Gilly decided to help me by doing some research in my copy of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. He was most interested in this manna substance that came down from heaven and wondered if we might work out a similar deal with dog treats. I told him to stop reading his own cultural framework into the gospel text.

This had me in stitches :-D

More pictures can be found here: Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Got round to replacing the bent handlebar from my crash at Bolinas Ridge Trail:

The casualty: X-Lite's 540 titanium handlebar, 3 degree sweep. No, it's not "Mad in England." The "e" rubbed off over the years :-P

Red circle denotes the bulge when the bar bent.

The replacement: a Litespeed titanium handlebar.

The Litespeed bar is 2 inches (5.08 cm) wider than the X-lite bar. While I appreciate the added room in the cockpit (for more lights, gizmos, etc.), I wonder if it will increase the risk of hooking hanging vines, branches and bushes on tight singletrack.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Grace under pressure

Watch for the puppy's dripping saliva :-D

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ave Maria

Acquired another rosary. This one is made by Ghirelli of Italy. Isn't it gorgeous? Some might deem it a little feminine, but I prefer the term, "Elvish." :-P


'Had it blessed after Mass this morning.