Monday, December 27, 2010

My grandson recently did an excellent project at school about the Nuremberg Trials. He did it as a video tape report. It was extremely well done and really stimulated my interest in the Nazis criminals who were on trial at Nuremberg. One of the sources for his report was a book, “Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn who was an American psychiatrist. He was able to interview most of the defendants and witnesses. He interviewed many of the top people in the Nazis party and folks who were very close to Hitler, like Hermann Goering and Rudolph Hess. Missing from the group was Hitler himself because he committed suicide. Also missing were Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbel who, likewise, committed suicide. Adolph Eichmann escaped to Argentina, but was later caught by the Israelis and hanged.

Most of the people tried at Nuremberg claimed they were following orders and were opposed to Hitler’s tactics. One of the most interesting interviews was with Rudolf Hoess. That’s not Hess who was also interviewed, but was completely crazy. Hoess was head of the famous concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz. He readily admitted to heading the camp that exterminated about 2.5 million Jews. He described the process in some detail. Train loads of prisoners would be brought to the camp and paraded before a couple of doctors who made the decision about who was fit for work and who would go to the gas chambers. The people weren’t even examined. The doctors just gave a casual glance, and decided who would live and who would die. About 40% were determined fit for work, the other 60% were put to death. Those who died were made to undress, and about 1500 at a time were herded into a chamber where they were told they were to bath, but instead Zyklon B, a poison gas, was released which produced death in 3 to 15 minutes. Many were cremated but large numbers were buried in mass graves where wood would be stacked on layers of bodies and ignited by straw soaked with gasoline. Prior to cremation the gold in the victims teeth would be extracted as will as jewelry collected.

I have read all about the Holocaust many times, but it gives me a chill every time I am reminded about it. It amazes me how the Jew hating President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinjad, denies the Holocaust ever happened. It further amazes me how the German physicians could justify their actions in deciding who lived or died. Even more amazing is the actions of physicians like Josef Mengele who performed horrific medical experiments on prisoners

When I think about all this it ‘s not a lot different from what we did to the American Indians and even to what we are currently doing. Recently, because of budget problems, several states are rationing care for Medicaid patients. In some places transplants are no longer covered, so people with end stage renal disease have no other choice but to die. Medicaid in several places will not cover dental work for root canals to save a tooth, but only pay if it is extracted. I’m afraid much of this rationing is going to get worse and those of us who are weak or infirmed may as well be pushed into a gas chamber. The gas chamber may be more merciful.

All these issues are too heavy for pondering on the porch. I will go back to watching the deer and wishing there was a Heinrich Himmler in Salado to offer a final solution to the deer problem.

Monday, December 20, 2010

During the Christmas season there are several things I like to read and reread. First, I enjoy all the personal notes and little newsletters I get with Christmas cards. I like to keep up with folks and enjoy reading their stuff. It’s even fun to hear their bragging about kids and grandkids. Some like to inform me that their offspring have done marvelous things like winning the Nobel Prize for discovering the cure for cancer and such. Only a few tell the real truth about such matters as a kid being release from prison or being on probation for narcotic possession, etc. Anyway, I always enjoy hearing from friends.

The other reading I enjoy at Christmas is rereading Charles Dickens, ‘” A Christmas Carol.” I never tire of that one. I also enjoy rereading Truman Capote’s, “A Christmas Memory.” These are great stories. Of course, even at my age I find an excuse to read Clement Moore’s, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” or “The Night Before Christmas.”

One of the best descriptions of Christmas is from the “Pickwick Papers,” Chapter 28 by Charles Dickens. Those two paragraphs are as follows, and are sure worth reading slowly to savor the language of Dickens and the feeling of Christmas.

“And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas
brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How many
families, whose members have been dispersed and scattered far
and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then reunited, and
meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual
goodwill, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight;
and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world,
How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!”

“We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot
at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous
circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have
ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then,
have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the
eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old
house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest,
the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected
with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each
recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but
yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the
delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the
pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the
traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and
his quiet home!”

The only other writings better than these are found in the Bible in the second chapters of Matthew and Luke. So, Merry Christmas from the porch. The deer who are enjoying a Christmas feast, provided by my yard, also wish you a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I enjoy Christmas and the cooler weather this time of year for many reasons. One of the things I really enjoy is pulling out my two woolen Pendleton shirts and wearing them during the holidays. I have had the shirts for several years but they are like new. They look like Christmas. Both are a subdued Christmas red. One has subtle black stripes and the other blue and thin yellow stripes. One of the main things I like about these shirts is they were made in the USA.

Most of my other shirts are cotton and synthetic fabric and are made in China or other foreign lands. They start falling apart after a few washings. I can usually only wear them one time before they need to go through the washing and ironing process to look fresh and presentable. I wear the Pendleton shirts several times before cleaning, and they look fresh every time I put them on and they don’t even smell bad.

When I was a kid we used to snicker at the country kids who wore clothes made from feed sacks, but those would be great compared to the shoddy stuff we get from overseas today. I would love to have a feed sack shirt like those when I was a kid, but even the feed sacks today are junk.

The other thing about foreign made clothes is the sizes don’t match those in the USA. Chinese and Indian folks are smaller and an extra large in their clothing is equivalent to a medium in this country. I found this out the other day when I was going to buy and extra large sweatshirt and it would about fit my normal size granddaughter in junior high. The foreign made stuff is sized to fit pygmies.

I just wish all our clothes were made in the USA along with most everything else. The quality would certainly improve. I know it would probably cost more because the labor in the US makes it unprofitable to manufacture goods here. If we could abolish greedy CEOs and white collar bosses along with the ruthless labor unions, maybe we could turn out affordable, high quality produces and solve the unemployment problem at the same time.

I guess all I can do is just be thankful I can sit on the porch in my old Pendleton shirts and wish we could again have quality and made in the USA. At least, it’s a Merry Christmas thought.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It’s Christmas Card time again. Every year I have mixed emotions about this ritual. I love to receive cards and know that someone cares enough to include me on their list. I also enjoy sending cards because I reflect on each of the names on my list and about what those folks have meant in my life. It’s the process of sending the cards that gives me a little pain. To begin with, it has become fairly expensive. The cost of the card and postage, plus a photograph of the grandkids, becomes a little steep compared to the days of the three-cent stamp.

It’s not the cost that bothers me the most. Keeping up with the address list requires a full time secretary plus a private detective to keep track of everybody. I can’t believe how often folks move, especially the younger generation. Of around 250 addresses I on my Christmas list only a couple of people have had the same address since I started the list almost fifty years ago. At my age, many of my acquaintances have lost a spouse or obtained a new one, so I am constantly altering the list to avoid sending a card to somebody who has passed on or has been exchanged for a new partner.

We attach a photograph of the grandkids in our card. We have done this since they were tiny infants. A picture of an infant is always good. The infant is like a dog when it comes to photography, all the pictures are keepers. We have seven grandkids and it has become progressively more difficult to get the perfect picture. My son is great with a camera, but it takes him about a hundred shots to get the perfect one. Someone is usually looking away, has their eyes closed, or is squinting at the sun. It’s a big job just to get all the kids in one place at the same time, especially since we now have teenagers.. Thank God for digital photography, it make picking the perfect shot a little easier.

We keep many of our cards for years and sometimes look at them and just reminisce about friends, some of whom are long gone. Thinking about these folks, who are no longer here, makes Christmas a little sad, but I am cheered when I open the new batch of cards for the current year.

I plan on keeping up the ritual of the Christmas Card exchange to maintain contact with folks I care a lot about. I also want to do my part in keeping the postal service in business. Christmas Cards and junk mail is about their only business these days. I like the e-mail cards, but there is nothing like getting that piece of real mail at the post office.

Sorting through the Christmas Cards is one of my favorite activities on the porch this time of year. We even have a Christmas tree on the porch that helps keep us in the spirit. All this Christmas activity on the porch puts me in a positive frame of mind and the deer eating my yard almost becomes tolerable. I just pretend they are part of Santa’s herd. Christmas does make you a little crazy.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Almost every year at this time I give a talk about the birth of Jesus and some information about the Star of Bethlehem. A monk, Dionysius. under the direction of Pope John I calculated the year Jesus was most likely born. He reworked the calendar and came up with the concept of BC and AD. He didn’t use 0 because that number didn’t appear in math until about the 12th Century. Dionysius determined that Jesus was born in the 23rd year of the reign of Augustus Caesar which would be in about 6BC. Herod lived 2 years after the birth of Jesus and Herod died in 4 BC, so this also puts Jesus birth in 6 BC. Jesus was born about 2 years after the tax decree of Augustus Caesar that was in 8 BC. All this would have placed his birth in 6 BC, He was most likely born in the spring because the Shepard’s were in their field at night with the sheep at that time of year. Almost certainly Jesus was not born on December 25 in 1BC or 0.

As far as December 25th is concerned, this is a man made holiday celebrating the birth of Christ. The first record of a celebration was in 336. Emperor Constantine had the festival of the nativity moved to December to rival a Pagan festival which honored the return of the Sun as the days began to get a little longer as the Sun moved north in the celestial sphere after the winter solstice. Finally, Bishop Liberius ordered the celebration to be on December 25th starting in 354.

So Jesus was probably born in the Spring of 6BC around March 16th and we started celebrating Christmas on the Dec. 25th 354 by order of the Church. Of course not everyone buys this story, but they are the facts as I have determined them. I have another good theory about the Star of Bethlehem regarding a celestial event in March 6BC.

Atheists don’t believe any of this. Those folks are very uncomfortable this time of year and at Easter. Many of them are well versed in the Bible because they are all groping for an answer to life and why we are here. They can’t accept the idea of Faith. It’s hard for me to understand why they are such zealots in trying to convert everyone else to their belief in nothing. They don’t want any of us to feel comfortable in our beliefs or to display it in any way because it is offensive to them. They are on a sinking ship and want everyone else on board so they will have company as they go down. Misery loves company.

I know a lot of folks who like to fish and just get a lot of joy out of putting a hook in the water whether they catch anything or not. Some fishermen may even throw the fish back. I am not going to try and persuade these folks to give up fishing because it’s the thing they love. Why can’t the atheist just leave the believers alone rather than trying to outlaw fishing and close all the ponds.

Porch sitting is my thing. I guess if somebody determines that this gives me great joy and satisfaction they will try and outlaw porches. Porches may be offensive to some because they know it gives peace to others. Maybe that’s the reason we rarely see porches on houses anymore. Someone like the atheist have found out that they give joy to a persons life.