Friday, December 31, 2004

Archpriest Victor

Today I received a letter from my pastor, the Archpriest Victor of Holy Trinity Cathedral. The cancer has spread from his lungs to his bones. He has lost his voice and he is unable to serve anymore divine services. It must be horrible to be a priest but be unable to sing the liturgy. Please pray for him and his family.

A blog worth reading

Wonder how the worlds largest democracy, with the worlds largest civil service is responding to disaster? Wonder no more.

In other news, I went to spend my Nordstom giftcertificate today. Not one pair of shoes in my size (8 1/2 EEE or 9 EEE), not one shirt in my size (20), not one pair of slacks in my size (46), not one jacket in my size (56R). It was very diapointing. So I used the giftcard to buy sterling silver cuff links and brass collar stays. I had just enough left over to buy the little boy a hand made candy cane.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Global Warming

Hmmmmm. When I was a kid of about 6 or 7 I remember hearing warnings about global cooling. Now this: Snow in the United Arab Emirates So, come on, alarmist groups, whats it gonna be? I have a wardrobe to buy. Sheesh!

Cue the music..."Young man, there's no need to feel down..."

Right Thinking Girl has posted this story on her blog that just screams out for a Village People soundtrack.

So, lets all sing it together, and hey, remember to do those fun Y-M-C-A arm movements.

Young man, there's no need to feel down
I said young man, pick yourself off the ground
I said young man, 'cause you're in a new town
There's no need to be unhappy

Young man, there's a place you can go
I said young man, when you're short on your dough
You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time

It's fun to stay at the YMCA (rpt)
They have everything for young men to enjoy
You can hang out with all the boys

Young man, are you listening to me
I said young man, what do you want to be
I said young man, you can make real your dreams
But you've got to know that one thing

No man does it all by himself
I said young man, put your pride on the shelf
And just go there, to the YMCA
I'm sure they can help you today


Young man, I was once in your shoes
I said, I was down and out with the blues
I felt no man cared if I was alive
I felt the whole world was so jive

That's when someone came up to me
And said young man, take a walk up the street
There's a place there called the YMCA
They can start you back on your way

It's fun to stay at the YMCA (rpt)
You can get yourself clean
You can have a good meal
You can do whatever you feel

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Rain, Mom Update, and a few other things

I'm sure people in the eastern half of North America, or almost anywhere else in the world think this is strange, but we citizens of the Golden State know that water is worth a lot more than gold. Next to the amount of money in the Lotto jackpot the information we all want to hear from the media is the level of the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada range. Everyone over 35 remembers the drought of the mid 1970's.

The rainy season in Northern California is October 15 - April 15. Until this week week we have had only one or two days of rain. Most of the rain guages around the state are well below average. The resevoirs have been going down instead of up. I was getting worried that next summer we might have drought conditions. But in the last few days we have had record rainfall. Right now as I look out the window of my office, I see that the pool is overflowing. Three days ago it was a foot low. Some sewer systems were pushed past the breaking point today and some parts of the Bay and the Ocean have been polluted. We've had more rain fall in the last 3 days than fell in all of October and November. But the important thing to watch is the snow on the Sierra Nevada range. Is it deep or shallow. Is it wet snow or dry snow. Is it dense or loose.

I hope these storms don't drop all their water here, close to the coast. Or in the central valley. (As long as I am on the topic of the Central Valley, I think it is horrible the way the orchards and vinyards are being ripped up to build ugly tract house in a vast suburban sprawl. I hate suburbs. And I don't like air conditioners very much, either.) They need to make it to the mountains. The snow pack will make us or break us next summer.

My mom is still in the rehab center. They are going to put her in traction and try to wean her off some of the narcotics. The side effects of the narcotics are pretty gruesome. There is a fear that the drugs are causing the smooth muscle of her digestive tract to atrophy.

For those who are interested in such things, as I write this I am listening to a recording of Dean Martin singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

This is still excellent. James Brown, look out.

Amount of time it takes a two year old to make 6 different colors of Play-Doh into an amalgamated grayish brown: 1/2 hour.

All of you who make an issue out of the "pagan origins" of Christmas should read this.

It has been more than a year since I wrote this:

"I heard about dance halls in Texas in the 1890s-1950s. They were big square barn like buildings with benches around the outside walls, a refreshment stand outside, and wood floors for dancing. They were the kinds of places whole families would go to on a Friday night. Square dances, circle dances, two steps. Warm nights, fiddles, and cold beer, the weak flavorless kind, Texans drink. Kids would run around outside, see adults interact with each other, run around between the dancing adults, fall asleep under the benches, learn to dance, hang out with adults. It sounds like such a great idea. I wish there were some way to bring that kind of thing back. But television is heroin that kills communities. Getting people out of their houses, away from "Survivor" and their video games is not easy. Square dancing takes effort. Teaching children to be social is difficult. Much easier to turn on TV in the parents room, turn on X-Box in the kids room, segregate communities by age, and get fat. When I was a kid I was in a denomination that at one time opposed television. I am not sure why people in that denomination opposed television, but at one time they were also opposed to movies, and bowling alleys. They ended the opposition to movies and television before I was born. They hung onto the prohibition on bowling until I was a teenager. I don't know what evil they saw in bowling, and I don't know what they saw in television of the 1950's; but I see the fruit of television today: a decline in reading, a rise in vulgarity, increased sensuality, rampant violence, inability of youth to pay attention to weighty matters, and the loss of Texas family dancehall culture. It is my understanding that the Coupland Dance Hall is one of the last. If you find yourself in Texas and want to waltz, you better stop by. Who knows when television will kill it."

I've been thinking about ways to counter the effect of television, air conditioning, and suburbs on our communities. Finally, an idea came to me that I think might work.
In Laura Ingalls-Wilder's book "The Long Winter" the people of her town form a literary society. It has nothing to do with a literature but everything to do with people getting together to be entertained by each other. After thje Third Day of Christmas Party it occured to me that there is no reason whjy we can't have our own literary society. We'll have to think up a name, and a program for the first meeting, and send out an announcement. I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

4th Day of Christmas

I have been having such a wonderful Nativity Feast! The services have been sublime! During the services I think I heard chanted every prophecy of the Lord's coming. But I noticed that Gen 3:15 had not been read. Then, on Christmas Morning, during the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, I heard it in poetry. I do not remember the exact words but it was something like: "Rejoice, O Eve, your sin has been undone by the one born of the Virgin" I loved it. And then right after comunion the letter from Metropolitan Herman was read. In general, his letters seem to me to be pretty boring. But this one moved me to tears. Then as the Cross was being venerated, and while the Prayers of Thanksgiving were being read people in the Cathedral began exchanging kisses and presents and exclamations of "Christ is Born! Glorify Him!"

Last night was the 3rd Day of Christmas Party. Because of intense weather (floods in much of the Bay area) we didn't know if any one would come. But 12 brave souls made it. We had a grand time of it. My wife's Godmother, Matushka Elaine brought a wonderful little children's book that tells the story of the song "Good King Wenceslas". (FYI a good site for western saints in the Orthodox Church is "Orthodox England".) After I read the book to everyone, my friends Jeff and Frances joined me in singing the song in three parts. (I was the narrator, Jeff was the king, Frances was the page.) My great nieces Ava and Adi hung out in my son's bedroom most of the night, playing with toys they had never seen before.
Athanasia made beautiful little cards upon which were inscribed the names of Christmas songs. Everyone had to draw a card and then pantomime the song until the rest of the group guessed what it was. It was much fun.
Jeff played the guitar and we sang many songs. My sister, Rebecca read the story of the writing of "Silent Night" and we all sang that song. I played "I saw Three Ships" on the Soprano Recorder and everyone sang along. We sang "Wassail", "Joy to the World", "Jingle Bells" (Frances played the bells for this one), and others.
The eggnog was yummy. (Dear readers, if the only eggnog you have ever had is store bought eggnog you have been deprived of great joy. Go now and find foryoursef the "Joy of Cooking" egnog recipe and play with it until you have found the tast you like.) I've made better mulled wine, but many people had second and third helpings. Athanasia's ham was amazing. Someone brought a platter of shrimp, and several people brought fancy deserts and candies. My boss came. I was very happy about that, and she seemed to have a good time. Irene (the little boy's godmother) brought a fabulous dessert wine from Russia, and read the story of St. Nicholas saving the three girls from a life of prostitution. Champagne and hot cider flowed like water. The smoked trout and salmon both were much enjoyed. Even Father David drank the eggnog!!!

Our little house was very nicely decorated thanks to Trader Joe's. One of the cool things about being Orthodox is that we do not decorate our houses for Christmas until the Fast is over, and that is not until Christmas day. So, on the way to church on the morning of the Nativity, Athanasia and I stopped at Trader Joes and loaded up the car with a Christmas tree, a bunch of wreaths, holly boughs, ivy, and poinsetias. We got it all for free because it was about to go in the dumpster. I love it! So, now we keep our house decorated until the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, and then we get ready for Theophany on the 6th of Jan. I totally love the Church Calendar.

Bad news: Father Victor has tumors in both lungs. Bishop of Berkeley and and all the priests in the deanery are going to do the mystery of Holy Unction on him Jan. 9. Please pray for the Archpriest Victor.

Chrst is Born! Glorify Him!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve

Bought: a lot of smoked salmon, a 25 lb. ham, panatone
Services: liturgy of St. Basil this morning, Festal Vigil tonight.
Round trips to SF: 2
Trips to rehab center to visit my mother and sing carols to her: 1
Number of different Christmas ties worn: 2
Number of loaves of cranberry-orange bread baked: 20

Still to do today: make salmon mousse, wrap two presents, go to bed.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Last Night and Happy Festivus

Last night the little boy and I went to church, forgetting that the service had been cancelled for lack of a priest. But we had a nice drive up to SF. I took a different exit off of the freeway than I normally take, so instead of driving through the civic center, I drove by PacBell Park, Union Square, and the Theater District.

Going through Union Square reminded me of this passage from "Of Water and the Spirit" by Fr. Alexander Schmemann:

"The Fall of Man is the rejection by him of this priestly calling, his refusal to be a priest. The original sin consists in man's choice of a non-priestly relationship with God and the world. And perhaps no word better expresses the essence of this new, fallen, non-priestly way of life than the one in which our own time has had an amazingly successful career, has truley become the very symbol of our culture. It is the word consumer. After having glorified himself as homo faber, then as homo sapiens, man seems to have found his ultimate vocation as consumer. And there are people today who see in the defense of "consumer's rights" a bright and heroical vocation! Do we have to prove thjat this "ideal" is simply excludes the very idea of sacrifice, the priestly vocation of man? It is indeed the sad achievement of our age - quite honest in this - that it proudly affirms what preceeding civilizations tried, however hypocritically, to conceal. But the truth is, of course, that the "consumer" was not born in the 20th century. The first consumer was Adam himself. "

In addition to that, today is Festivus. So get your greivences ready. Feats of Strength start at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christians - Oh, yeah, we're uneducated idiots.

I'm sure everyone reading this blog already knows about Andy Rooney's remarks at Tufts University's Fletcher School, that we Christians suffer from a ""a lack of education. [We] haven't been exposed to what the world has to offer."

Hmmmm. Andy, we have seen the world and and felt the death that resides therein. When a smart person smells plague he is cautious about what he touches, what he breathes.

As for Christians being uneducated, I'm shocked that you think that. I won't go into a long list of famous smart Christians as proof that you are wrong in this. Others have already done that. But I do want to point out that the the famous physicist Nikolai Bogolyubov is an Orthodox Christian. (All the lists of famous Christian Scientists usually only include Roman Catholics and Protestants.) With the Jew Matest Agrest, he established an underground theology and Hebrew seminar in the heart of the Soviet Union's nuclear laboratory. (The laboratory had the spooky Cold War name: "The Insatallation". )

So, instead listing a bunch of smart Christians of I'll just direct your attention to this story about the religious beliefs and practices of medical doctors, people who as a class have reached the pinnacle of the educational experience.

The story makes reference to a study conducted by the Louis Finkelstein Institute and HCD Research Inc. that finds:

72% of medical doctors in America believe that religion provides a reliable and necessary guide to life.
58% attend worship services at least once a month.
46% believe prayer is very important in their lives.
37% believe the miracle stories in the Bible are literally true.
73% believe miracles can happen today.
67% belive the Bible was either written by God or inspired by God
67% encourage their patients to pray. Of those physicians, 5% did so for God to answer their prayers, 32% for psychological benefits and 63% for both reasons. 33% did not encourage their patients to pray.

(Editors/Reporters: For more information on the poll, please contact Sherry Kirschenbaum via email )

Poor Andy. And I mean that. I'm not being sarcastic. He has been blinded, or even worse, has blinded himself so he can pretend God does not exist.

Oh, okay. Here is a list of noteable scientists who are Christians:
William Phillips -1997 Nobel Prize in Physics
Roy Rustum - The leading materials scientist in the U.S.A.
Francis Collins - Head of the Human Genome Project
Oh, I should give a shout out to my friend and co-parish member, Dr. Karen Relucio who is working on treatments for HIV/AIDS at Stanford University.
There are more, but I have a real life to get to.

Christ is coming! Prepare!

Winter Pascha

Well I wasn't sure I was going to get it done, but I finished Fr. Hopko's "Winter Pascha". Essentially it is a comentary on the various liturgical texts an Orthodox will hear in church from the Feast of the Apostle Phillip in at the start of the Fast in mid-November through the Meeting of the Lord on the second of February. (Is that when candles are blessed?)

There was a notable exception to this commentary-on-liturgy motif; Chapter 11 deals with the repose of Fr. Alexander Schmemman. Also, Chapter 10 is a short biography of St. Herman of Alaska, whom we celebrate during the Nativity Fast.

The book, in addition to helping me better understand the things I hear in Church, also helped me know some people better. For instance, I have read St. John Chrysostom's homilies, and I knew he died in exile. But I didn't know he was surround by so many supporters who are also canonized Saints. The same is true of Ss. Basil and Gregory the Theologian.

The odd thing about my experience with this book is that I was mostly dispassionate while reading it, but when I got to the last chapter and looked at the Incarnation through the eyes of St. Simeon I was so moved I could barely see the page for my tears. But the chapter went on, and Fr. Tom reviewed all the things revealed to us over the course of these Winter fasts and feasts, and all of those things are really one Person, Jesus. And it was almost more joy than my body could bear. O, if I am overwhelmed by a little ink on a page how will I ever be able to see my Lord face to face? I will melt.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


When in San Francisco, one should consider buying meat at Bryan's.

Bryan's Quality Meats
3473 California St, (Laurel Heights) San Francisco - Phone: (415) 752-3430
My favorite: your best bet for all meats and sea foods. Call ahead for those special orders (crown of lamb, bones, marrow, etc.).

I just ordered our Christmas ham (whole ham, bone in). I'll be picking it up just before Church on Christmas Eve.

Grades & Pictures

I got my Fall quarter grades yesterday. Straight Bs. Brings my GPA down a little but, heck, if "Cs earn degrees" Bs are better.

I have a new picture blog. I'll occasionally put photos there. I'll always reference them here. The first picture I'm putting there is a picture of my Aikido Class. Can you find me? (Thanks, Mateo, for directing me to image shack)

Monday, December 20, 2004

St. Ignatius

Today the Church remembers Hieromartyr Ignatius, Archbishop of Antioch (He succeeded St Evodius of the 70 who who succeeded St. Peter.) He is especially dear to me. I can not begin to tell of my love for him. St. Ignatius lead me to the Orthodox church through his letters to the churches.

St. Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John and might have been baptized by the Apostle Peter when the later was in Antioch. He wrote several letters to various churches during his transport to Rome where he was fed to beasts in the arena.

There were sevral things in his letters that impressed me:

1) His love for the people to whom he was writing
2) His confidence that his impending marterdom was pleasing to God
3) The tone of his letters - To the churches in his region he spoke as a father. To St. Polycarp the senior bishop in another area he spoke as a brother.
4) The very well defined roles of the various ranks of clergy. Even stating that where there is no Bishop and no council of Priests there is no Church.
5) His insistence that he was still learning how to be a disciple.

Yesterday and Today

The little boy and I went to church yesterday. (Cyndi stayed home. She has to study for her real estate exam on Jan 5) I wanted to get there before before the liturgy started so I could go to confession while the reader was praying the Hours. But, the drive from San Jose to San Francisco is a long one and I walked in the door just at the end of Hours... And saw the Bishop of Berkely standing in front of the Altar.

Yesterday's Gospel was Matthew's geneology of Jesus. Now here is why I love Orthodoxy. When I was kid growing up Protestant it really bothered me that the geneology of Luke did not match the geneology of Matthew. When I looked this problem up in books I was told that it was a minor discrepancy and that St. Matthew edited the geneology to make memorization easier. That never sounded right to me. Yesterday, Bishop Benjamin explained the situation. I love how the church tradition, time after time, answers all the questions I had as a Protestant.

After the Liturgy Fr. David heard my confession, the little boy helped blow out the candles and lampadas in the temple, and we went down stairs to the hall for lunch.

After lunch, we walked back to the car and passed a holly bush. I explained to the little boy that that was the bush we sing about the song "The Holy and the Ivy". Then he wanted to see ivy. Oh, well. The thirst for knowledge is unending.

When we got home we took a nap and then Cyndi and I visted my Mom in the hospital. They have had to double the Oxycontin. She said surgery has been scheduled for the 23rd. But I'm not sure she knows things right now.

This morning, lots of fog. The little boy had three bowls of Kashi Golean. (It's the best breakfast cereal ever.) I'm finishing my coffee (Peet's holiday blend Yum.) and listening to the St. Vlad's Seminary Choir sing the music from the Nativity Services... "God is with us! Understand all ye nations and submit yourself, for God is with us... Them that take counsel together, them shall the LORD destroy...Him will we fear...He shall be my Sanctification... through Him I shall be saved, both I and the children God has given me...for unto us a child is born.."

Well, I have to come down from this mountain. The little boy needs a bath and I have housecleaning to do. I hope all my readers have a good day.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Harr! This be Iron William Vane's recipe for Christmas Pate

Smoked duck breast – 1
Duck livers – ½ lb
Lean ground pork – ½ lb
Bacon- 1/2 lb
Crushed garlic cloves – 2
Pepper corns - 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tbsp
Ground mace – ½ tsp
White wine – 1 quart
Bourbon from the English colonies up north. Puerto Riccan Rum works just as well. Harr!)– 3 tbsp

Line bottom of loaf pan with diagonal strips of bacon, me matey. Put ground pork, duck liver, remaining bacon, and smoked duck breast into food processor. Grind it up real good. Harrr! Throw all other ingredients into the food processor, else ye’r keel-hauled by the crew. And then, me matey, ye put the whole mess into the loaf pan (or a soufle of approriate size, harr!), and by Black Beard’s pistols, ye put the loaf pan into a bain-marie at 300 (farenheit). Cook until it is done. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Can keep up to two days. Serve whole on a pretty platter, garnished with prunes and orange slices. Slice up a baguette and bake the pieces to make crostini (learned this from those Venitian dogs. Harr!) upon which the pate can be spread.

It's serious, but that just makes it funnier

I was looking at the Paidea Classics website today and saw a book title that cracked me up: "A History of the Church from Pentecost to the Council of Chalcedon - For Children". It was the "- For Children" that struck me as funny.

It got me thinking about other book titles that might be produced "- For Children"

10. Canonicity in North America: Toward Jurisdictional Unity - For Children
9. Grain Production in Anatolia and the Stability of the Eastern Roman Empire - For Children
8. The Whore on the Altar: The Fourth Crusade - For Children
7. The River of Fire - For Children
6. Issues and Controversies regarding the Dual Nature of Christ - For Children
5. Value: Price Stability and the Inflationary Practices of Central Banks - For Children
4. Ultrasound Process Control for Vulcanization and Polymerization of Organic Molecules- For Children
3. New Calendar/Old Calendar: The Controversy Explained - For Children
2. Against All Heresies - For Children
1. Laboratory Reproduction of Pathogenic Viruses - For Children

Kurds and Castaways

"...the Skipper trades his fish for Ginger's decorative shells, not because he wants shells, but because he knows he can trade them for Gilligan's coconuts. The price of a commodity is its exchange ratio for the most marketable good, e.g., 12 shells per coconut. The value of the shell money is based on the goods it traded for yesterday -- since we can't know what prices will be today. Right now, the Skipper is willing to trade one of his fish for two coconuts, and he knows that Gilligan was recently willing to trade his coconuts for a dozen shells each, therefore the Skipper wants to price his fish at two-dozen shells each: enough to buy two coconuts. "

The above quote is from the best article I've read about the astounding post-invasion growth in the value of the pre-invasion Iraqi dinar. Read the whole article here.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Company Christmas Party

I want to tell you about how cool God is. I had this company Christmas party to go to. I was thinking I would have to choose between breaking the fast and being part of the party. But no. It was at the Fish Market. I had oysters, clams, and crab! I was so happy! Also, I've needed new shoes for about a year. My black capped-toe oxfords are totally worn out. (I bought them in 1999 and wear them almost every day. Have had them resoled a couple of times.) And guess what I got from my boss for Christmas? A $100 gift certificate for Nordstrom. I already have my new two-tone wingtip oxfords all picked out!

Visited my mom in the hospital. She greatly enjoyed the audio book Athanasia and I gave her a few days ago, so we gave her another one tonight. It is the first volume of the #1 Ladies Dectective Agency series. (Find out more about this series of books in the sidebar.) Mom has been attached to a machine that interferes with the brain's ability to receive pain signals. It seems to be working. It doesn't cure anything, and she still has to take the drugs, but she seems to be getting some relief. Her kidney's are still working. They are weaning her off of the steroids in attempt to get her sugar down to a safe level. She is confident that she will go home from this stay in the hospital. I can't tell if it is real confidence or if she is just trying to comfort my Dad.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A few days left

Okay, I'm very happy that the Nativity is almost here, but I am also sad that the fast is almost over. I feel like there is still so much work to do and I didn't work hard enough during this fast. It seems that all any of the fasts do for me is help me see my sin a little bit more clearly. But I don't think I sin very much less. Well, Great Lent starts in a few months, maybe I'll do a better job of laying the axe to the root then. God can help me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pictures, My Mother, the San Jose Police

I was telling Athanasia that I'd like to put pictures on this blog but am unwilling to spend the money. She said, "why not just post a link to some pictures on shutterfly?" I married a very smart woman. Pictures are here. I hope you enjoy them. They are of the events of Sunday night, which are described elswehere on this website.

My mother pretty much fired her cardiologist and her regular doctor and put herself in the hands of the surgeon. My mother said her cardiologist only cared about the health of her heart not about the pain she was in. He kept vetoing surgery and powerful drugs. Her regular doctor just kept doing what my mom called "half-measure cures" and seemed unable to really go after the problem. So now she is pain free. But the drugs she is taking will destroy her heart. She is meeting with the bone surgeon on Friday to decide the best way to do the surgery. No one really expects her to live. But all of her doctors thought she was going to die on Thanksgiving, too. And her blood sugar is so high she should be dead right now. Tonight, while I was visiting with her in the hospital she told me what she wants done at her funeral.

When I got home from the hospital tonight, at about 10:30 I saw a very loud drunken party across the street. They kept screaming. And singing along with very loud Flaco Jimenez tunes. One man urinated in the front yard. I called the police. A little while later four officers arrived. One was carying a shotgun. I couldn't hear most of what they said, but I heard one of them say, "I'm giving you an opportunity .... will be quiet...not disturb your neighbors....come back here tonight you'll ... the county jail...judge tomorrow morning" That was some good policeing. Big show of force, clear statement of expectations, communication of the consequences for not meeting those expectations. All is calm. All is mild.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Yesterday and King Michael of Romania

Yesterday morning the little boy and I took breakfast to my Dad. That evening was my Dad's birthday party. Athanasia and I took him out for Chinese food, and then to the convalescent hospital (The sign out front says it is a "Rehabilitation Center" but it looks like a convalescent hospital. ) dining where my brothers and sisters and some of my parents friends celebrated Dad's 78th birthday.

After the party I drove my dad back to his house. Then Athanasia, the little by and I drove to Palo Alto where we walked up one side of Fulton Street and down the other. We were there late at night, about 11 pm, so there was no car traffic. It was just we three walking down a beautiful street in the middle of the night. As much as the little boy admired all of the lights and decorations, I admired the little 1930's tudor revival houses. I just don't understand why builders don't build more houses like that.

When we got home we did evening prayers and got the little boy to bed, Athanasia began to knit for a little while, and I read to her.

Also, and I don't know how I missed this, King Michal of Romania (the last living annointed Orthodox monarch) received the Patriarchal Cross from Patriarch Teoctist in October. Some say that when he dies the anti-christ will appear. I have no idea, but I tend to dismiss all theories about the appearance of the anti-christ.

And, finally, today is the day of St. Herman. Father Herman, your American flock flees to you for protection. Intercede with Christ our King for your land and its people, peace for the world and salvation for our souls!

Saturday, December 11, 2004


"When we wish to call the passions by a common name, we call them the world. But when we wish to distinguish them by their special names, we call them passions. The passions are the following: love of riches, desire for possessions, bodily pleasure which comes from sexual passion, love of honor which gives rise to envy, lust for power, arrogance and pride of position, the craving to adorn oneself with luxurious clothes and vain ornaments, the itch for human glory which is a source of rancor and resentment, and physical fear. Where these passions cease to be active, there the world is dead ... Someone has said of the Saints that while alive they were dead; for though living in the flesh, they did not live for the flesh. See for which of these passions you are alive. Then you will know how far you are alive to the world, and how far you are dead to it." - St. Isaac the Syrian

I didn't go to church tonight. Had some presents to wrap, a mother to visit, Athanasia had cakes to bake. Can't go to church tomorrow. Have breakfst to take to my Dad. But I can still work on defeating the passions. It isn't easy. Usually, they defeat me. But I can still try.

Fruited Molasses Balls (Sharing the goodness)

Every Christmas of my life until I was 12 years old and moved to Florida, I went to my Aunt Nettie's house. She always had these amazing cookies set out for us. A few days ago I called my Aunt and asked her for the recipe. Here it is below.


There is only one change. In my memory, the bars are spooned into hands and rolled into balls about 1 and a half inches in diameter before they are rolled in the powdered sugar. Stack them on a plate like cannon balls.

(Thanks, Aunt Nettie. I'll be making these to give to the people in my parish after liturgy on Christmas.)

Aikido, Gingerbread, Suffering

"Long periods of well-being and comfort are in general dangerous to all. After such prolonged periods, weak souls become incapable of weatheringany kind of trial. They are afraid of it. Yet it is a fact that difficult trials and sufferings can facilitate the growth of the soul. I know there is a widespreadfeeling that if we highly value suffering this is masochism. On the contrary, it is a significant bravery when we respect suffering and understand what burdens it places on our soul."-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Today is Mssr. Solzzhenitsyn's birthday)

Yesterday, I was trying to say something like this to my Dad. He has been so negative. I was really surprized by it. But I shouldn't be surprized by it. I was raised in that Pentecostal/Charismatic "theology" which is pre-occupied with "getting the victory", receiving blessings (usually in the form of a trouble-free life), and always being happy. Just think "PTL" or Benny Hinn without the conspicuous wealth. So, when my Dad says "I just don't understand why God would let His servants suffer like this" I know where it comes from. It comes from a lifetime of a deficient theology that ignores verses like 1 Peter 1:7 and James 5:10.

How is my Mom? The pain in her shoulder is much reduced but the steroids are causing her blood sugar to go through the roof. Last night her blood sugar was at 600. Most people slip into a coma around 500. So, it looks like she won't be able to stay on the steroids. On Monday she will get a shot directly into the nerve that is supposed to anesthetize it.

While I was taking my Aikido final (a very grueling 2 hours. Every muscle in my body is aching today.) last night, Athanasia and the little boyvisited my mom in the hospital. After wea all got home, Athanasia and the little boy made ginger bread angels and ginger bread teddy bears for my sister and my Dad. We got the little boy into bed about 11 pm. (Way way too late.) then Athanasia knit Christmas presents and I rolled yarn into balls for her until about midnight.

It was a good day.

Friday, December 10, 2004

WOW! amazing things.

Okay, update on mom: I moved her from the hospital to a convalescent hospital today. She will be there for one week. The shoulder pain is caused by two pinched nerves in her neck, the result of spinal surgery she had in the 1970s. Treating it with steriod shots. It seems the kidney failure and cariomegaly was her body's response to the terrific pain.

Update on my dad: In all the worry about my mom, he forgot to take his blood pressure medicine and his potassium. Result: Sky rocketing blood pressure and racing irregular heart beat. It almost scared him to death. I had to spend the night with him last night.

Now: Off to class to take my lat exams of the quarter.

Thank you all for your prayers. They have helped.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Recent happenings

The physicians say my Mom does not have cancer. That's good news, but they still do not know what she has. I am continually amazed at her good cheer. The little boy and Atanasia visted with her in the hospital while I was taking my Clinical final. My Mom enjoyed the visit.

The math final was hard. I worked on one problem for 1/2 an hour before I realised that I had the right answer in five minutes. I knew the answer had to be a real number, but for some reason I got it into my head that the answer was supposed to be an integer. So I did the problem 5 or 6 times using different strategies each time, that expressed the value in different ways. Finally, I re-wrote the problem and realized all my attempts to solve it were correct but my understanding of what I was looking for was wrong. I worked on the exam from 7:45 to 9:45. It seemed like only 5 minutes. I left three questions unanswered. It was all that wasted time on that one problem that killed me. Oh well, it was a 200 point exam and those three questions were only 8 points each.

The contractor who has been slow in getting his part of the remodlw done just told me that he can't finish the job. So now I have to ring in another contractor, and reschedule the carpet installers and the painters. This is costing the owner of the property a fortune.

We just fed a couple of handfuls of pine nuts to the squirrel that lives in the tree outside our door. I think it likes us. I pray for her sometimes. I worry that a cat will catch her.

As soon as the Sun sets, the little boy and I are going to go for a walk and look at all of the Christmas lights.

I am so glad my Mom does not have cancer. I hope the doctors figure out what is wrong with her and are able to fix it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Update on my mom and other things

Today we are supposed to find out exactly how bad it is. The doctors have already decided to operate in an attept to relieve pain. They say Mom will probably die during surgery. But she will definately die without surgery. The pain is causing her blood pressure to rise to extremely dangerous levels. The amount of morphine she is taking is lethal, but still the pain is unbelievable. I know it must be intollerable. Her whole life she has been sick but I have never heard her complain. Not when she underwent heart surgeries, not when her neck bones had to be fused, not when her foot was broken, not when she was diagnosed with dibetes, not when she began to lose her sight. I just can't imagine the pain that now makes her cry out in agony.

I've been in communcation with my priest. He reminded me that because of the resurrection there is no more death. I've felt much better since reading his message. It is startling to me, but it shouldn't be, how a priest can speak into your soul and dispell illusions.

I took my chemistry final last night. I did very well. However, I did forget the the formula for the Ideal Gas Law. Thankfully, I only needed it for 2% of the questions. The exam took me 1 hour, 42 minutes. Today I have final exams in Clinical Procedures (3 p.m.) and Math (7:45 p.m.) Friday at 8 p.m is my Aikido final.

My siblings cancelled the annual family Christmas party on the 12th. My and Athanasia's 3rd Day of Christmas party is still happening.

The little boy is having a lot of fun. He loves Christmas decorations. All we have up is a sible pine wreath (Gift from sister-in-law. She said "I made a Solstice wreath for you. But you can call it a Christmas wreath if you want.") but all of our neighbrs have lights and garlands. The funny thing is that our first neighbors who put up decorations are very devout Hindus.

On the eve of St. Nicholas Day I delivered cigars to my brothers. The little boy put both pairs of his shoes and his slippers outside. In the morning he found candy in them.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Singing Songs

Athanasia, the little boy and I have been having a lot of fun in the envenings. We've been singing Christmas songs. Some silly, some sappy, some stupid, some serene, some sage. An interesting thing to do is comparing the events of the Nativity as recorded in the Bible with the events of the Nativity as reported in songs such as "I Saw Three Ships" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem". But the Christmas song par excellence is It's a Marshmallow World. (It helps one to sing this song if you can imagine a tumbler of whisky in your hand, and Dean Martin, Shelly Winters, Buddy Hacket, and Frank Sinatra singing along with you. Or maybe all one needs is a real tumbler of whisky.)

In other news, we finally got the invitations to the Third Day of Christmas party designed last night. They are being printed today. Hopefully, we will get them in the mail on Monday or Tuesday.

The little boy and I are going to Christmas in the Park in Downtown San Jose today. It is your typical faux victorian village. But it is a nice way to get out of the house.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Holy Prophet Zephaniah (Excerpts)

Well, today is the day of the Holy Prophet Zephaniah. Try reconciling this with
"Merry Christmas, Baby"

"Wail ye inhabitants of Maktesh [re: the place where the Jerusalem marketplace was located]; for all the merchant people are cut down, all they that bear silver are cut off." (1:11)

"The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD; the might men shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of waste and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD; and the blood shall be poured out like dust and their flesh like the dung." (1:14-17)

"Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad, and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord has taken away thy judgements, he hath cast out thine enemy; the King of Israel, even the LORD is in the midst of thee. Thou shalt see not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem 'Fear not'; and to Zion 'Let not thine hand be slack'. The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save. He will rejoice over thee with joy. He will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." (3:14-17)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

This day

My mom is still in quite a bit of pain. They won't give her morphine for home use so she is on Oxycontin (sp?). I understand their reasoning but it makes me nuts. I am not happy about U.S. drug laws. God gave us morphine and it is the best pain killer we have but.... Well I'll get off this horse now. I'm happy she can at least have the oxycontin.

Today is the last day of academic instruction. Studying up on chemistry. While the little boy is snapping I'm enjoying a stein of Duvel and a fine Nicaraguan cigar.

Athanasia said she wants to have a smaller 3rd Day of Christmas party than we had last year. I'm fine with that. Last year was was Way way way too many people.

One contractor is messing up all of my carefully laid plans for the apartment remodel.

I got the go-ahead from the owner to re-plaster the pool. Unfortunately, it devestated the landscaping budget. Oh well.