Thursday, August 30, 2007

Recently deceased real estate billionaire Leona Helmsley, also know as the “Queen of Mean”, left her dog, Trouble, 12 million dollars. Trouble, a white Maltese, will also be buried alongside her in a mausoleum.
Mrs. Helmsley had four grandchildren. Two will receive 5 million each, if they visit their father’s gravesite once a year. The other two kids got nothing. They must have really hacked her off at one time or another. The bulk of the estate goes to the Leona and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Leona apparently managed to hang on to most of what she made in her life rather than paying taxes. She once said, “Only the little people pay taxes.”
Being a dog is not all bad. We once had a great dog, named Hero. He was a beautiful Collie and was part of our family for 13 years. He preceded me in death, but even if he had outlived me, I couldn’t have left him anything because I am one of the little people Helmsley talked about. Everything I have goes to taxes.
I have often said, I wanted to be like my dog when I retired. He had a great life. He slept when he wanted. He might be up half the night chasing something but would snooze during the day. He was well feed and groomed. When it was too hot, rainy, or cold he would come to the back door, whine a bit, and then be admitted to the utility room, which always had an ideal temperature and kids to pet him.
Neither Helmsley or I will be able to take our dogs into heaven. I don’t think she has a lot to worry about on that one, but if she did make it she couldn’t take Trouble. Mark Twain one said admission to heaven is by favor, not merit. If it was by merit the dog would be admitted and you would stay out.
If Hero was alive today he would be keeping me company on the porch in Salado. I miss him a lot. Mrs. Helmsley was a bitch herself, but I understand how she felt about her dog. 12 million for the dog does seem like a little much compared to the 5 and 0 for the grandkids.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another senator bites the dust and joins the long list of politicians and celebrities who are perverts or highly dysfunctional. Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho was charged with lewd conduct in an airport restroom. He is now saying he did nothing wrong. Next he will be entering rehab and will have found Jesus.
The Senator was accused of soliciting sex. He now says, it was nothing. Republicans don’t do such things. He was peaking into an adjacent restroom stall, placing his foot against the person in the adjoining stall and putting his hand under the partition. He claims he was trying to get a piece of paper. That seems a little strange to me, especially since it was in the male restroom. The behavior is probably okay for a politician because most of them now condone homosexuality. It’s the politically correct thing to do. So what’s wrong with a little hanky panky in the restroom? It’s certainly something I would have expected from either Bill or Hillary Clinton; both, of course in a female restroom.
At the other end of the spectrum, celebrity heterosexuals were also in the news, airing some of their antics. Former astronaut, Lisa Novak was back in court saying she was temporarily insane when she tried to kidnap and assault a woman who had stolen her fellow astronaut lover. Lisa was dressed in diapers, a wig and trench coat when she pepper sprayed her victim. I would sure buy insanity on that one.
Even the Boy Scouts were in the news this week. Former victims of sexual abuse are coming forth claiming, when they were scouts, they had been molested by their leaders. The poor scouts are under fire about everything. They can’t have trust in God as part of their oath and they refuse to let girls into the organization.
There were no pervert priests in the news this week. There are no more priests left to accuse and the Catholic Church is out of money, so there is no story for the news media.
I guess, at my age, I’m fairly safe from all this stuff. My life, on the porch in Salado, is pretty sheltered. Except for the news I have no contact with these weird ones; however, I have noticed the deer in the back yard doing some fairly strange things. There are about 5 bucks who always hangout together and pay little attention to the good looking does. I thought the human was the only species in the animal kingdom that tolerated homosexuals. I may need to call the game warden.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I ventured off the porch this weekend to attend a family reunion of my wife’s clan. Those in attendance ranged in age from 2 months to about 78 years. Women don’t reveal their age, so you have to estimate. It’s hard to guess someone’s age and I found myself doing a lot of calculating if I knew the parent or someone in the same generation of an individual in question. One lady was pretty hard for me to figure out because she had no teeth. She had just been in the hospital where her false teeth were lost. She hadn’t gotten her new set, so she looked a little older than her actual age, but great anyway. The majority of folks there were over 30. The young usually don’t attend reunions. People are generally over 30 before they start realizing they have relatives other than parents or siblings. Most folks can’t tell you where their grandparents are buried or even care. It’s sad. People get interested in genealogy in their latter years when they finally realize they are mortal. They want to become acquainted with those they may meet in the hereafter, and increase their awareness of those who have passed on, so as to recognize them and apologize for being so inattentive in life.
Some of the older statesmen couldn’t make it to the gathering because the meeting place was hard to find and not accessible by stretcher. A few of the ones who did make it got lost on the way and had everyone worried. Older folks usually don’t know how to use cell phones or a GPS system. They just drive around hoping to run into their destination. Another trick about cell phones is that they have to be turned on to be effective and the numbers on those small keyboards are hard to see. It’s also hard to speak into one when the mouthpiece is over your cheek rather than your mouth. As the human species evolves, in future years our mouths will probably be centered over our cheeks.
The people attending were most interesting. Each has had a remarkable life experience which can best be revealed through a private conversation. I love to interview the folks and find this is best done when I get them off, privately in a corner. I focus on their life and say very little about myself. I just ask questions. I heard some real interesting stuff that was better than what you see on TV or read in a novel.
This weekend I heard a sermon about Fruits of the Spirit that reminded me of the reunion. Some of the stories I heard at the reunion were about works of the flesh including; divorce, adultery, uncleanness, lewdness, hatred, contentions, jealousy, outburst of wrath, selfish ambitions, envy, drunkenness and the like. Most of what I heard though, was the Fruit of the Spirit that were part of these folks everyday life and included; love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They are all good people and I’m proud to be part of them.
I’m sure glad I went to the reunion. I brought home a treasure chest of memories, which I plan to ponder on the porch in Salado. Pictured above is one of the past reunions of the group, well over 60 years ago. I sure hope we have another one before then or I might not make the next one.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Some of the prison sentences for celebrities are getting a little ridiculous. Last week Nicole Richie served 82 minutes of her 4 day term for driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Lindsay Lohan is expected to receive a sentence of 1 day. With a pardon she will probably end staying about 8 minutes in jail. What a neat deal these people have. The publicity is worth millions. If O.J. Simpson was convicted today for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman he would probably get a much more severe punishment, like 45 minutes in jail and with a pardon he would be out in 21 minutes. O.J. would have been punished and everyone would be happy. He could go back to running through the airport for Hertz and announcing football games. Like the current celebrities, he would be more popular than ever. It pays to be a jailbird. Look at Martha Stewart, she is making more than ever.
I continue to be amazed with America’s infatuation with these maladjusted delinquents. In the meantime, someone like Billy Graham is still in the hospital and hardly anyone notices. I guess reading about the spoiled, drug-crazed celebrities is more entertaining than reading about the war in Iraq or global warming. Years ago, during the depression, the American public was infatuated with the pulp magazines and stories about fantasy. The comic books were born and folks like Tarzan were the craze. The west was glorified in the pulps and on the movie screen. This was in a time when people could read, now they just push a button.
The only other interesting thing of note about the current celebrities in the news is the popularity of the name Nicole. Nicole Richie, Anna Nicole Smith, Nicole Brown Simpson. I’m sure glad none of my grandkids are named Nicole.
Also, did you notice how the large sunglasses completely disguise Nicole Richie. It's a trick the stars learned from Superman and The Lone Ranger. No one could tell Clark Kent was Superman when he wore glasses and The Lone Ranger was completely disguised with his simple eye covering, even Tonto didn't know who he was in real life. I'm going to get me some of those big sunglasses to wear on the porch in Salado. I might even install some bars on the porch, then everyone would think I was a big drug-crazed celebrity and I could sell my blog.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

George Washington Frontiersman was published in 1994, long after Zane Grey’s death, which occurred in 1939. The manuscript was resurrected by Carlton Jackson. This book is not one of Zane Grey’s typical westerns. Grey’s first books were historical novels about the frontier and specifically about the settling of the Ohio River Valley by his relatives the Zanes. His first was Betty Zane followed by Sprit of the Border and The Last Trail. George Washington Frontiersman is a continuation of his first three historical works.
The book is about Washington’s early life as a surveyor and frontiersman. He surveyed much of the Shenandoah Valley and the Ohio River Valley. The book over glamorizes Washington’s life on the frontier and his expertise as a woodsman and Indian fighter. Much fiction is mixed with fact, but it makes interesting reading.
The book was based on Washington’s Diaries and highlights his relationship with Sally Cary. Sally was his first sweetheart but she ends up marrying Washington’s best friend George Fairfax. They all remain friends through life and Sally arranges Washington’s meeting with the widow Martha Custis. Martha has two children by her previous marriage. Sally Fairfax introduces them and after a two-day courtship they fall madly in love and are married after his French and Indian campaign.
The portion of the book about the French and Indian War is the most interesting. It covers the debacle at Fort Necessity and the massacre of General Braddock’s army trying to capture Fort Duquesne. There are lessons to be learned from the arrogance and stubbornness of Braddock as he led his men into an ambush and needless slaughter against the advice of skilled frontiersmen who knew how to fight Indians. Washington emerged as a hero from the massacre and saved some of the remaining troops. He was later appointed Lt. Colonel and successfully defeated the French and Indians and took Fort Duquesne.
All this led to the beginning of the American Revolution and the book ends when Washington was appointed Commander-in-Chief.
It’s an interesting read especially about the role of Washington in the French and Indian War. The Frontiersman: A Narrative by Alan Eckert is probably a better book about the life and times of the frontiersman. I would recommend both. Both of the books make life on the porch in Salado exciting. I was right in there fighting Indians and witnessing the stupidly of General Braddock. It made me wonder if we are not doing the same thing in Iraq.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

There was another great medical breakthrough this week. Researchers found that human stem cells exposed to a common virus turned into fat cells and stored fat. The virus is adenovirus 36, which is a common cause of colds and pinkeye. A virus has now been blamed for the obesity epidemic. Just a few weeks ago it was reported that obesity was contagious, this may explain why. Researchers were thinking that if a member of your family ate a lot, this caused you to eat more and become fat like your spouse, parents or siblings. This latest research indicates that we may indeed catch the fat virus from close contact with fatties, just like we catch a cold. Where are we to go for safe hiding? Fatties are everywhere. The safest place may be in a third world country or refugee camp.
The researchers expressed hope that a vaccine may be developed within the next 10 years. The bad news is that it probably won’t help if you already have the fat virus.
The virus ranks close to George Bush as the cause for most bad things. The virus has been implicated as the cause for many things including, numerous infections like the common cold, flu and AIDS. Many think a virus is to blame for cancer and even heart disease. George Bush, of course, is responsible for the war in Iraq and all of terrorism as well as being the major contributing factor for global warming, the energy crisis, hurricanes, poverty and the hatred of all foreigners for he United States.
I suspect that medical researchers will soon find out that George Bush may, in fact, be a virus. They will label him Bush 43 just like they do other viruses such as adenovirus 36. He, with the other politicians, we already know are kin to microbes. The plague is cause by a bacteria, Yersina pestis, which is spread by fleas who live on their host, the rat. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Congress is filled with rats who have caused many plagues. Medical researchers will eventually discover that congress must harbor the deadly bacteria Yersina Pestis.
My best bet is to stay on the porch in Salado and not be exposed to fat people or politicians. It may be too late for me. I think I already have the fat virus and may be doomed. My hope is that researchers recently showed that fat people tolerate heart attacks better than skinny folks. Anyway, I can have another piece of pie with a clear conscience because it’s not the real cause of the problem: it’s that bad virus or maybe even George Bush.

Monday, August 20, 2007

When I was a kid, summer ended on Labor Day. We started to school the next day and this also started football season, quickly followed by Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Now school starts sometime in mid-August or even before. Kids have a very scheduled and regimented summer, so it doesn’t seem like they had a summer at all, just one camp or activity after another. They have no real time to lollygag. There are no more Huck Finn days.
We always know when it is time for school to start. Shortly after July 4, the stores start posting their “Back to School” signs. They get the sales started as early as possible.
Those “Back to School” signs always gave me butterflies in my stomach. I had mixed emotions about the signs; a little depression, yet a feeling of excitement about a new beginning.
The year should really start after Labor Day rather than January 1. Starting after Labor Day would give the kids an adequate share of time to enjoy the freedom that summer offers. Their freedom ends all too soon. The kid’s calendar would have Christmas early in the year, followed soon by the Super Bowl then March Madness and before you know it, summer would be ready to start.
Anyway, that’s the kid’s year. I just wish they would give them a little more unstructured summer time. There are to many fish that need catching and who knows, we might even resurrect an interest in baseball.
As for me on the porch in Salado, all seasons have merged and I just pretend it’s summer all the time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The news is almost always bad, the war in Iraq goes on and the stock market has crashed in the past couple of weeks. I try to avoid listening to the TV news as much as possible, but I can’t resist because there is so much to poke fun about. Most of my stuff, I get off the internet.
I get an internet bulletin, from the AMA every weekday, with news items of interest pertaining to medicine. As an example of how absurd things are, here are a few examples from the past couple of weeks. Believe it or not, these are all true and appeared in the newsletter.
1. Obesity may be contagious. A husband may catch it from his wife or siblings.
2. Drinking 52 gallons a year or 20 ounces per day of soda, diet or regular, increases the chance of developing cancer, heart disease and stroke.
3. Women with breast implants are 3 times more likely to commit suicide. Could it be they had psychiatric problems to begin with?
4. Antioxidants do not protect women against heart disease. These include vitamin C & E and beta carotene.
5. Prilosec and Nexium, common drugs for heartburn and reflux, may cause heart disease.
6. Removal of the tonsils may cure AD/HP. Several years ago it was a fad for doctors to remove tonsils, then it became a no-no and the pendulum has now swung back to a yes-yes because most children have AD/HD. Half the kids in school are on Ritalin.
7. Raw oysters are on the lethal food list, with warnings all over the medical literature.
8. Children will eat almost anything if it’s wrapped in a McDonald’s wrapper. Advertising works.

Other interesting news in medicine this week was that WalMart, Target, Walgreens and CVP Pharmacies are going to open walk in clinics in their stores. There will be menu boards for you to select what you want. Just like standing in line at a fast food place and selecting a cheeseburger. You may now select treatment for a URI or urinary infection. Soon a coronary bypass vs. stint may be on the list.
The bad news item is that currently 1 in 10 people over 65 have Alzheimers and half over 85 are affected.
I’m now thinking about stopping my AMA newsletter. The other printed items I have stacked up on my porch are much more fun reading. Even Harry Potter and some of the fantasy stories I love are much more believable than the AMA news and sure make you feel a lot better than the stuff on TV.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

In baseball the great Babe Ruth is a legend. His records may be broken by folks like Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds but his legacy will never be diminished. Babe Ruth established the records to be broken. The same can be said for writers. In the western genre there are greats like Louis L’Amour and Elmer Kelton but the all time master remains Zane Grey who started the whole thing.
I recently read his first book Betty Zane. This book is about his great- great-grandmother who was a pioneer woman during the settling of the frontier in the Ohio Valley. She witnessed some terrible Indians fights and was a hero in one of the last battles of the American Revolution, which was the defense of Fort Henry against the allied forces of the Shawnee Indians and British.
I had read Zane Grey before and thought Riders of the Purple Sage was a great story. Recently we heard a reading on the radio from Call of the Canyon. It was a beautiful description of the West and rivaled what an artist might capture of canvas. This stimulated my appetite for a revisit to the old master Zane Grey.
On our return trip home, from the Santa Fe vacation, we stopped at a quaint bookstore, we had heard about, in San Angelo called Cactus Books. It’s a small store in downtown San Angelo filled with used and new books, all devoted to Texas and the Southwest. The works of virtually every known Western writer is in that store. I went crazy and purchased four Zane Grey novels plus a couple of Elmer Kelton books which I didn’t own. Found another great book on murals in old Post Offices of Texas. That bookstore is an absolute gold mine.
I have enough to keep me busy for a while on the porch. I don’t have time for the paper or the TV news so I’m in pretty good spirits.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This week I was ask to serve on a review board for a local boy scout troop. This board or panel of folks ask questions to a scout who is moving up in rank to make sure they know their stuff and deserve promotion. The scout moves from Tenderfoot to Second Class to First Class to Star, Life and finally Eagle. The review is a great thing for them to do because it puts them under a little pressure which is good experience for interviews in the future. Everything they do in scouting is invaluable experience for the future and results in a better citizen and all around better person. It has been shown that Eagle Scouts fare much better in life than the average person. Most go to college, end up with higher incomes and are the leaders in our society.
I was a scout many years ago but unfortunately didn’t make it to Eagle. In my case I had no one to encourage me and had other obligations. It does take a great deal of encouragement from adults and some time away from TV, but it is worth every bit of it. There is much more to scouting than camping, although that’s one of the things the kids love the most.
I was most impressed with the way the scouts ran their meeting. I’ve seen professionals who didn’t do as well. They were orderly and disciplined while having fun. When I questioned the scouts about what they had learned while earning the various merit badges I was amazed at the depth of understanding they had gained about the subject. It’s a great way to learn and I’m sure the projects may spark an interest for a future career.
We would all do well to live by the Scout Law. Be Trustworthy, Loyal, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. It would be great if the Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus and Atheist adhered to these laws, we wouldn’t be so busy fighting. For those who oppose the Ten Commandments to be on public display the Scout Law might do the trick, but I’m sure there would be those who would object. Even the Boy Scouts have come under fire in recent years.
Anyway, I sure enjoyed my experience with the scouts this week and am very happy my grandson is a member. Also happy that I have a granddaughter who is very active in the Girl Scouts and has not petitioned to be in Boy Scouts. I do hope she may someday marry an Eagle Scout as her mother did.
From now on while saying my prayers and reading a chapter from the Bible while on my porch, I think I will recite the Scout Oath and Law. It sure does me a lot more good than reading the paper or listening to the news about the war, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, murderers, molesters, politicians and others in the trade.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thoreau wrote a great essay on walking. He was a master walker. Since retirement, I have tried to follow Thoreau’s example on walking. I tell people my walking is for exercise and even wear one of those little odometers to see how far I have walked. I take about 3000 – 4000 steps on my morning walks around the neighborhood. It’s only a little over a mile but it’s a good start to my 10,000 steps a day.
The truth is that I’m not only doing it for exercise but it’s a stroll with myself and nature. Thoreau didn’t walk for exercise either. He called it sauntering. My route has varied and I just take in everything along the way.
The morning is by far the best time for walking. If the sun has greater than a 25 degree angle with the horizon it is too late. In the evening it is usually too hot and the mosquitoes are in search of a blood meal best obtained on my ankles or forearm. In the morning sun, there is a misty haze coming from the ground and trees, that is a signal from the earth, announcing it’s awakening. Everything is awakening and it’s just a marvelous time.
On my street there is a pond. The stillness of the water on a summer morning gives a beautiful reflection picture of the trees and sky. You can turn the picture upside down and it looks the same as right side up. The wildlife around the pond is a show itself. It’s a great place to stop, for a minute or two, on my stroll and ponder the meaning of all I see and hear.
A lot of people walk in my neighborhood. The walking people are usually very friendly folks and we often have interesting conversations. The runners are never very friendly, they seem to be in a great deal of pain and don’t want their routine interrupted with a greeting, much less a conversation. The bicycle people whiz by so fast, I hardly know when they have come or gone. It’s just too fast for them to absorb the essence of nature and human contact I experience on my amblings. After my brief outing on foot, I come back to the porch for a cup of coffee and the morning paper. I reflect on the peacefulness I have experienced and then the paper brings me back to the harsh world of reality
Anyway, I love to think about those short daily excursions as I go through the day. The next morning, I’m ready for a refill. I am thinking about stopping my subscription to the paper. If I could then, somehow, prolong the morning it would almost be like being in heaven.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A highlight of the recent vacation trip was the three-hour train ride from Durango to Silverton. Silverton is an old mining town up in the mountains. Silverton has long been abandoned as a mining town and now looks more like a set for a western movie. It is nothing but gift shops and restaurants and of course the main attraction, the train station.
The train is a narrow gauge, which means the tracks are 3 feet apart rather than 4. This makes it easier for the train to negotiate the sharper curves in the narrow mountainous terrain. The rails cost less and construction of the line is much more rapid than for conventional railroads.
The railroad follows the Animas River as it winds its way through narrow mountain ravines. The river rushes over a riverbed made up of huge boulders. It would be a rough ride on a raft. The scenery, as you peer down from the side of the mountain into the deep gorge containing the river, is breathtaking. The way is lined with beautiful spruce and aspen trees. The train passes through giant rock formations and the sites of many previous rock and snow slides. The course of the line has been the backdrop for several movies.
There is sure nothing like the experience and the scenery of that train ride to be found in Bell County. The only distraction was the large number of tourist, which made the whole affair a little like a ride at Disney World. I realize that the entire operation exists because of tourist but that sure does dampened the effect. No matter how hard I tried to pretend I was back in the 1800’s on my way to do a little mining and to encounter a few desperados, it didn’t work.
My imagination works a lot better on the porch at Salado and the view I have through the oak trees isn’t bad. Also, at the end of the trip I am not covered in soot from the steam engine. I have been to many great places on that porch and I could write some exciting movie scripts to match.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

For years the mystery of the Anasazi Indians has fascinated me. At last, I was able to visit their home at Mesa Verde. They flourished there for around 700 years and about 1300 AD they vanished from Mesa Verde or left very quickly. They were even in the middle of building pueblos and simply picked up and left the buildings unfinished.
Their history makes you think about the fate of human societies. This is the subject of an interesting book: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. What happened to the Anasazi? The recent fires that have devastated the forest in Mesa Verde makes you wonder if this was a factor. The Park Ranger told me that the fires have been occurring for centuries and it takes about 60-70 years for a complete regrowth. Lightening starts most of the fires. In our times a careless camper or a cigarette can start the inferno, but lightening is usually the offending agent because mother nature is ready to ignite the place and purify the region. Sort of like washing dishes for nature.
It was probably not fire but a great drought that led the Anasazi to seek water and more fertile fields in another place. Whenever a civilization uses up its resources or is encountered with something like a severe drought, it moves on. Look at the dust bowl in America in recent history. This caused the farmers of Oklahoma to evacuate the state. The Okies are the modern Anasazi.
History is replete with stories of vanishing civilizations by things like; war, disease, climate and depletion of resources. Civilizations who use better technology triumph over those who do not. Users of metal tools overwhelmed those who used stone implements. Totally peaceful societies have been consumed by those who make war. History has proven it doesn’t pay to be a pacifist if you wish to live. The nature of homo sapiens is to kill everything which doesn’t resist. This is the reason for the extinction of much animal life. Look at the Bison, we slaughtered them for sport and in the process destroyed a main resource for the Indians, which in turn destroyed the Indian.
Anyway the Anasazi are gone but it makes me ponder our fate as I sit here on my porch in Salado. Oil is not a finite resource. We are fighting for it now, but it is eventually going to be be depleted. Our climate is changing so that we are probably doomed to be a desert planet even if Al Gore is able to get us all to turn off the electricity and stop using gas immediately. To turn everything off immediately would devastate our economy even more quickly.
With all this doom and gloom, what are we to do?
We need to develop another energy source immediately. Unfortunately, both Republicans and Democrats have a Scarlett O’Hara mind set on this subject. They will just “think about that tomorrow.” Tomorrow may be too late.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Even though I was on vacation last week I couldn’t miss reading the last Harry Potter book. Since the series began I have been a Harry Potter fan mainly to be conversant with my grandchildren on the subject. I have also come to love the books and the story.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the final and also the best of the books and brings everything into clear focus. The reader finally knows what everything is about and who are the true good and bad guys. There are a number of surprises and sadly a number of deaths. The deaths are not nearly as numerous or as bad as I suspected from all the hype which preceded the book’s release.
Some Churches are down on the book because it contains witchcraft and other fantasy. I simply don’t understand their objection when they approve of C.S. Lewis and many of the stories in the Bible.
Harry Potter is about good over evil. He even gives his life to destroy evil and is resurrected from the dead for good to triumph over evil. Is that a familiar story? It is not only the most important story in the Bible, it has been repeated in many tales such as C.S. Lewis’s story The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
People who are down on Harry Potter for religious reasons obviously have not read the books. Like Huck Finn said, “That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it.”
One of the most remarkable things about the Harry Potter story is the author. J.K. Rowling started from nothing and was infatuated with an idea which she transformed into a beautiful story that captivated the imagination of millions and in the process made her one of the wealthiest women in the world.
I have been served well by reading the stories. I have enjoyed the books and gained much pleasure from reading them. Of greatest importance, I can talk to my grandchildren and am made to feel as young as they are. I’m also reading some much heavier and more depressing stuff as I sit on my porch in Salado, called the newspaper.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I have always been overwhelmed by the beauty and wonder of our National Parks. I simply don’t have the words to describe the ones I have seen. The peaks of the Grand Tetons are majestic, the waterfalls, mountains and valleys of Yosemite are spectacular and the geysers, hot springs and wildlife of Yellowstone are awesome. Mesa Verde is not only beautiful but haunting.
I was captivated, not only, by the beauty of Mesa Verde but by the story and remains of the people who once inhabited a seemingly uninhabitable place.
The Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans came to this place about 1400 years ago. They lived and flourished there for over 700 years and simply vanished by 1300AD. They were gone by the time Columbus discovered North America. They raised corn, squash and beans on the mesa. They hunted and used pinyon and juniper for building materials. They weaved baskets and finally learned to make pottery and use the bow and arrow.
The amazing thing is that they moved off the mesa into the cliffs and built elaborate dwellings of sandstone and mortar. The pueblos were positioned to protect them from the harsh winters and predators.
The pueblos consist of elaborate multistoried buildings and a room called a kiva. The kiva was an underground chamber used for healing rites and as a ceremonial room for prayer. They prayed for rain, luck in hunting and good crops. As I stood there, in awe at what these primitive people had done, I wondered if they had a soul. To whom did they pray. There is no evidence that they ever heard of Jesus, Muhammad, Abraham or Moses. There are no statues of Buddha or Hindu Shrines. The mystery about the salvation of these people is in the same category with the creation of the universe, dinosaurs, Cro Magan Man and Neanderthal man. Maybe there is more than one path to the house of mansions in the hereafter.
For now I am like Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
In many ways the pueblo people were more advanced than many of us today. The cliff dwellings sure beat most of the mobile home parks I have seen. It was dangerous climbing up some of the ladders to their living quarters but not any more dangerous than some of the modern bridges over our rivers or driving a car at a high rate of speed down the interstate.
As for me, I’m now just thankful to be home from my vacation, and sitting on my porch in Salado. I’m trying to not worry about the souls of the Anasazi but remain in awe at their accomplishments and ability to survive without; TV, washing machines, automobiles, air conditioning, fast food and of greatest importance, the internet.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Plaza in Santa Fe has changed little through the years. The Governors Palace that occupies one side of the Plaza is one of the oldest buildings in the United States. The Indians sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Palace building have peddled their jewelry there for many years. The Plaza is a place where time seems to stand still.
When I visit the Plaza, I walk about half a block up Palace street to see the address and plaque commemorating one of the greatest achievements and changes in the history of mankind. The address is 109 East Palace and is the site of a little office where all those who participated in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos had to register and be cleared before proceeding to the site where the atomic bomb was to be constructed. The story of this place is the subject of a fascinating book by Jannet Conant. She tells the remarkable story of the Manhattan Project. All the great scientist involved in the project had to be cleared and go through this office. Folks like Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller and Richard Feynman entered through the portals of the simple little building at 109 East Palace. These men changed the world.
In my life there have been many scientific advance, but two stand out as extraordinary and tower head and shoulders over all the rest. The merits of these two great scientific achievements can be debated, but they are the crowning achievements in the world of science that changed mankind and our way of life. These two projects were; the Manhattan Project that resulted in the atomic bomb and the Apollo Project which resulted in placing a man on the moon. Both projects were a highly focused effort by our greatest scientific minds to accomplish a mission.
It would be wonderful, if today we could have a similar project to develop another energy source. This would end the crisis in the Middle East almost as fast as the atomic bomb ended WW II. After all, we are fighting for oil in the Middle East and without the need for oil there is no reason to fight. We need someone like a Roosevelt or Kennedy who can articulate that vision and has the political clout to launch the mission.
One of the ironic things about the Manhattan Project is that it also, at least, partially solved our energy crisis, but people in ignorance and fright have not accepted nuclear energy.
Also, ironic and somewhat haunting is the site of the plaque commemorating the Manhattan Project at 109 East Palace. !09 E. Palace is a gift shop and the adjacent shop at 107 is a gallery which has a courtyard extending behind 109 in which the plaque is almost obscured on a back wall. The courtyard is filled with Mexican Art commemorating their big holiday, Day of the Dead. This art work consist of figurines and paintings of skeletons going about life as if they were alive. It’s an eerie reminder of the results of the Manhattan project and also what may result from our reluctance to solve the energy crisis which ironically has the answer inscribed on that plaque at 107-109 East Palace.