Friday, September 23, 2005

Chopin on the Banjo

You haven't lived until you've heard Bela Fleck playing a Chopin Etude on the banjo. If you were to listen to it while falling over a cliff while running from a bear in Alaska, your life would be complete (and possibly over). You would never need to drink another cup of coffee as long as you lived, much less any other sort of drug.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Terrorists Win

X-ray machines and metal detectors are used to...Image via WikipediaShortly after the horrible events of September 11, 2001, the president of the nation of which I am a lifetime citizen became accustomed to declaring that if people did not go along with his plans and proposals for coping with the aftermath, "then the terrorists win!" Thus was born what has come to be called officially the War on Terrorism.

Four years later about the only people left to whom it has not been revealed that any so-called war on terrorism is unwinnable are the politicians to whom it is an advantage to perpetuate the myth so they may use it as a tool by means of which to continue pursuing their plans.

Whatever heinous acts terrorists commit, the terrorists always win the minute their deeds are done. There is no justice, there is no recompense, and there is no retribution that can possibly be meted out that makes things all better again — especially when the perpetrators zealously sacrifice their own lives to carry out their warped notions.

Following an act of terrorism, what remains is entirely bad — dead and injured victims, ruined lives, social upheaval, psychological devastation, and destruction of property.

Worst of all, the damage done goes on increasing. Anyone who has had to travel on an airplane since September 11, 2001, knows that. Travel used to be fairly simple, but that's no longer the case.

Years ago when I would cross the border into Canada, a friendly security guy would ask two or three questions, wish me a nice day, and send me on my vacationing way. I never even had to show identification. Now I need a passport and immigration papers. I wonder what the people who go between countries on a regular basis have to do?

Last week I traveled from my home in Phoenix, Arizona, to Alaska. Part of the trip took me through Canada. At each airport security station I had to unhitch all the carrying devices I had strapped to myself, empty my pockets, take off my glasses, take off my belt and my shoes, and subject my body and carried belongings to a search, then spend ten minutes reassembling it all again on the other side of the gate, all while smiling, and thinking: "There's nothing wrong here!", making sure not to make security jokes in order to avoid being arrested, strip-searched, and investigated, while inwardly my anger and impatience mounted.

And why is all this necessary? Because I or the person before me or after me is a terrorist? Has all of this rigamarole resulted in snaring even one would-be terrorist? Of course not. This happens because someone else a long time ago was a terrorist, and we all still live with the legacy of his vile acts. In other words: terrorists win.
Ecclesiastes 7:29 See! This only I have found, that the true God made mankind upright, but they themselves have sought out many plans.
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Geezer's Great Alaskan Adventure

... wherein he plunges head first off a cliff while running from a bear

So there I was, last Thursday afternoon, trotting briskly down a steep section of the Dewey Lakes trails, east of Skagway, Alaska. The weather was a day to die for (and I almost did) — with temperature in the low sixties and mostly sunny skies.

The longest trail goes out about four miles in what appears to be a loop. The first part is steep, but the path around the lakes is mostly flat, and it's all heaven on earth for the legs and joints — all single track pine needles, leaves, loose and damp topsoil, but with many rocks and roots to look out for, in a constantly changing environment.

I'd left Suzy off in town to shop and told her I'd be back at the cruise ship (Holland America's ms Veendam) in an hour, or maybe two. I did much more hiking than running because that's what I was dressed for, being dressed in blue jeans and two sweatshirts, and carrying my digital camera. But I hustled most of the downhills.

Because the conditions were beautiful and I felt great, I went further than I expected, so decided to push it harder on the return trip, running more of the way. Part way back I heard, from no more than 200 feet away: "Oooouuuuurrrrll" I'm thinking: "Ack!! — a bear!" I'd been out over two hours and hadn't seen another human in an hour and a half, so I high-tailed it out of there to get out of the bear's sniffing range.

So the adrenaline had subsided somewhat and things were otherwise going great as I was having the time of my life, figuring I'd be out a total of about 2.5 hours, when I hit a steep and rocky downhill, one of those that a cautious person will walk because it was too steep and hazard-laden for running. In fact, that was my intent, but I approached it too hard. My forward momentum got ahead of me and I lost control — big time.

Suddenly I went headfirst over the right edge of a steep precipice. I tucked my camera in so it wouldn't break, but I broke instead. First I hit the right side of my head on something, tearing off my sunglasses, and tumbled eight feet down the hill until I came to a thudding stop when I hit a tree. If it hadn't been for the tree there was at least another forty feet on that hill before it re-connected to the trail it was curving around to meet via the switchback I was on.

By happy coincidence on this otherwise people-barren trail, a friendly and experienced young local-living good Samaritan named Mike (age about thirty) happened to be just twenty yards or so behind me and saw everything, whereupon he came running to my aid.

The impact stunned me and knocked the wind out of me, so at first I could indicate only with hand gestures how I was — not good. Finally I gasped that nothing fatal happened, as I began to take inventory.

The biggest problem, which Mike drew to my attention, was that my head was bleeding and the blood was running down the right side of my face rather vigorously. It was not the sort of blow that likely caused a concussion, although it was hard enough for my taste. It never swelled up. The blood was more caused by getting my head scraped against the rocks, which happened near the beginning of the fall. The second worst problem was that my lower left back got seriously discombobulated. I believe I tore a muscle, which is still healing today. I ran lightly Saturday and Sunday without too much difficulty, but bending and stretching, or doing anything at all after sitting for a while is still tough and I have to proceed cautiously.

Secondary problems were: my right wrist was twisted along the thumb line up through the forearm. Also, I lost patches of skin on my right arm, and on my back, and tore a hole in a sweatshirt. Everything else — feet, joints, toes, legs, etc., is all fine. Also, the camera was fine. The wrist no longer hurts today.

My Oakleys didn't fare as well. I have M frames with large blades, which I've used since 1996. The (expensive!) frames are fine, but the right ear of the detachable blades I was wearing broke, so that's history. They needed replacing anyhow, and I do have a spare set of lighter tints.

It took two minutes of fussing around leaning against the tree to figure out my next move. I knew that in a couple of minutes I'd be okay to walk down the rest of the trail, but where I stood I was on very loose dirt, as I strained and held onto the tree to keep from sliding further. I'd need a hand getting back to the trail surface. Mike anchored himself and reached, but I missed the grab, and the dirt I put my left foot on gave way, so down I went again another six feet or more, but this time it didn't cause any more damage. It just got me really dirty. I'm of the ignore-it-and-maybe-it-will-go-away school of thought about medical treatment. My plan was to get back to the ship (a ten-minute walk), clean up, and see how I felt, which turned out to be a reasonable decision.

I doubted that I needed anything more than a good shower and plenty of Kleenex, so when we came out of the woods Mike and I parted directions, but not before I'd made a new friend and discussed his upcoming plans to spend a year at a research station in Antarctica, which made the experience worth having.

As I walked across First Avenue in Skagway toward the dock, a lady ranger saw me, with all the blood still running down my face, and came running over to know if I needed help, offering to take me to the medic in town, or at least to help me find the public restroom just down the street. (I hadn't seen my face myself yet. It turned out to look worse than I realized, and I'm glad I didn't go shopping for an anniversary card for my wife looking like that, which was what I originally planned to do when I got back.) I was willing to keep on trekking back to the boat, but was using my conveniently bright red hooded sweatshirt to daub my head. As I got closer to the boat, I put it on and pulled the hood up so as not to shock any of the white-hairs on the boat. Of course I had to go through photo-check security, which gave the guard a moment to pause and consider, but by this time he recognized me. Suzy is used to me, so was not particularly shocked when I walked into our stateroom and presented myself. I managed to clean up adequately to enjoy dinner that night.

It's now Monday, and we got home less than four hours ago. I'm fine, except my back is still tender, so I have to take it easy for a few more days. Inconveniently, I've got the Javelina Jundred 100-mile trail race coming right up (in 26 days), so I hope it's okay by then.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New Truths on Science and the Bible

A couple of years ago my wife and I heard a lecture on science and the Bible that revealed some new truths. Fortunately, I took notes. We learned:
  • The entire universe is made out of science.

  • Einstein invented dynamite. Einstein later helped to develop the atomic bomb, but when he realized what he'd done, he wished he'd been a shoe salesman instead.

  • Zoologists are working on developing anallergic cats , i.e., cats that people are not allergic to. Suzy wrote on my notepad: "These new allergy free cats have one negative side effect — they eat small children for lunch."

    The next morning I learned that this story was true. Score one for for the speaker.

  • Years ago it was unthinkable that men would ever be able to walk on the moon, but now lots of people have walked on the moon. It's practically an everyday occurrence. (The actual number of moonwalkers is twelve, in six different Apollo missions, the last of which was in 1972.)

  • First he said "astromy," then "astromony." In between he also said "astronomy," so I guess he gets credit for one out of three. With that average, if he was a major league hitter, he'd be a Hall of Famer.

  • It boggles the mind to try to explain creation. Based on the "science" we'd learned in this talk, this is certainly a true statement.

  • Archaeology is where you go dig in your back yard and say: "What's this? An arrowhead?" And then you find a whole bunch of them and discover a whole melding (!) pot of them, and figger out a whole tribe lived right under your back porch.

  • They've figgered out a galaxy is 100,000 light years.

  • Botany is the making of plants. Like, you take a tree trunk and you drill a hole and stick in some other kind of branch, and another kind in another hole, and so forth. Then you seal up the holes with tar, and you have a tree with one each of all differnt kinds of fruit on it. That's botany.

  • Anatomy is melting down the body to see what it's made of. Bromides and stuff like that. (Bromides!!!??? OMG!)

  • Archaeologists dig down about 40 feet — about the same as the height of the average lamp pole.
We left wondering how many people left having their faith in the Bible's truthful representation in matters of science strengthened. If nothing else, they were certainly entertained.