Thursday, April 28, 2005

We made the paska

We have 5 terra cotta pots chilling in the fridge. We were going to make it last night but were too tired. So we made it this morning.

The recipe we use:

1/3 cup brandy
1 cup loosely packed golden raisins (5 oz)
2 lb farmer cheese
2 hard-boiled large egg yolks (reserve whites for another use if desired)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chilled heavy cream

Special equipment: a wooden paska cheese mold (They are expensive.) or a clean 2-quart terra-cotta flowerpot with a drainage hole and a plate slightly smaller than top of pot; cheesecloth; 2 lb of weights such as large soup or vegetable cans.

Heat brandy with raisins in a small saucepan over low heat until warm, then remove from heat and let steep until raisins are softened, about 15 minutes.

Force cheese and yolks through a potato ricer or a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cheese mixture, sour cream, vanilla, and salt and beat until just combined. Beat cream in a bowl with cleaned beaters until it holds soft peaks. Fold whipped cream and raisins with any remaining brandy into cheese mixture gently but thoroughly.

Line mold (or flowerpot) with a single layer of cheesecloth, leaving a 2- to 3-inch overhang on all sides. Spoon cheese mixture into mold, then fold ends of cheesecloth over top. Put lid on cheesecloth, then put weights on lid (or on foil and small plate if using flowerpot). Chill mold on a large plate (to catch drips) at least 24 hours.

Remove lid from mold and open cheesecloth. Invert a serving plate over top of mold and invert mold onto plate. Unlock hinges and open mold, removing cheesecloth. Loosely cover cheese with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

We always keep one for breakfst on Pascha, just before Agape Vespers. One is always to share with the parish after the Liturgy. We give the others away.

We won't make the kulich until Friday morning. I'd like to make it on Saturday so it would be super fresh, but who has that much time on Holy Saturday?

We are also making smoked trout dip. We'll put it on little pieces (1" x 2") of toast and serve it along with champagne to everyone as they are waiting in line for the food after the liturgy. If Huw was here I'm sure he'd do the same with his little meat-cookies.

In the basket this year is going the "traditional" salami, eggs, brie, Bogle, figs-pread, and chocolate.

Well, this really will be my last blog entry until after Agape Vespers.

Have a great Pascha.

Los Alamos Lab

This blog claims to be telling what really happened. You decide.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Found time to blog

Went to Bridegroom Matins at St. Nicholas in Saratoga last night. The big boy was so good. He just wandered around kissing icons through most of the service. I hope he always enjoys church.

Skipped Math and English tonight. But was able to turn in an assignment for a computer class. Today at the complex I had landscapers, plumbers, handymen, roofers, and janitors. It was nuts. I also rented one of my vacant units. (Thank you, God!)

I was up late late late last night combating snails. I think I lost one of my grape vines. New motto: The only good snail is a dead snail. To that end, sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) is an excellent anti-snail weapon. When employed against helix aspersa the agent physically disables them and provides a long lasting deterrent. It also has outstanding anti-morale capability. Unfortuntely, it can render the soil incapable of supporting plant life. Tomorrow I will set out beer-baited traps and put copper-foil around the base of the vines. I'll also look into getting some toads. What I really wish is that I had a family of racoons on the property. That would solve the snail problem once and for all.

Palm Sunday was totally excellent. Also the Vigil the night before (Where I got to go to confession) was beautiful beyond description. Bishop of Berkeley was the celebrant. Newly ordained deacon (ordained Saturday morning) was doing a good job. I felt sorry for him. His first liturgy was a major feast day and a hierarchical liturgy. Poor guy!

Right after the liturgy, Fr. David blessed our new car. It was fun to stand on the corner of Van Ness and Green with a priest and a reader in wind-blown vestmets, praying ancient prayers that were first said for chariots. I enjoyed the looks on the faces of people driving by.

Being Palm Sunday salmon was served for the feast afterward. (Do all orthodox parishes have Salmon on Palm Sunday, or is it just a west coast thing?) Its kind of funny, Great Lent is over but still no meat, cheese, fish, wine or oil until Pascha. Do other churches do this or is it only us Orthodox who seem to make Lent last one more week?

Well, I have a lot of work I have to do before I can go to bed. Good night.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sparse posting this week

"He who wraps himself in light as a garment, stands naked for judgement, and accepts a blow on the cheek by the hands of those he fashioned; while the lawless people nailed to the Cross the Lord of glory. Then the veil of the Temple was rent; the sun grew dark, unable to endure seeing God, before whom all things tremble being outraged. Him let us worship."

"All creation was changed by fear when it saw you hanging on the Cross, O Christ; the sun was darkened and the foundations of the earth were shaken; all things were suffering with you, the Creator of them all. You endured willingly for us. Lord, glory to you!"

"Today the blameless Virgin, when she saw you hanging on the Cross, with a mother’s love she lamented, bitterly wounded in her heart, groaning in lamentation from the depth of her soul, she struck her cheeks and tore her hair; and so, beating her breast, she cried out with grief, ‘Woe is me, my divine child! Woe is me, light of the world! Why have you left my sight, Lamb of God?’ Therefore the armies of the Bodiless Powers were seized with terror as they said, ‘Lord, beyond understanding, glory to you!"

"A dread and marvellous mystery is seen to come to pass today. The Invisible is grasped, the One who loosed Adam from the curse is bound, the One who tries hearts and reins is tried; the One who shut the abyss is shut up in prison. He, before whom the Powers of heaven stand in fear, stands before Pilate; the Fashioner is struck by hand of the thing he fashioned; he who judges the living and the dead, is condemned to a Tree; the destroyer of Hell is shut up in a tomb. You bear all things with compassion, and save all from the curse, long-suffering Lord, glory to you!"

"When she who bore you saw you hanging on the Cross, O Christ, she cried out, ‘What is this strange mystery that I see now, my Son? How are you dying on a tree, nailed in the flesh, O Giver of Life?"

"On the Cross, Lord, you tore up our record, and numbered among the dead you bound the tyrant there, delivering all from the bonds of death by your Resurrection, through which we have been enlightened, O Lord who love humankind, and we cry to you, ‘Remember us also, Saviour, in your kingdom’."

With services morning and night, homework, classes, and all the work here at the apartment complex I will be making very few if any posts until after Pascha. For my readers celebrating Holy Week and Pascha: I hope it is a life altering experience for you, that you become more like Jesus.
For my non-Orthodox readers, find an Orthodox parish near you and go there on Thursday night. I hope it is life-changing for you, as you will see Jesus there.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Dalla Morning News Article

The Dallas Morning News is having some issues with its cirulation numbers. Nevertheless, they have some good religion reporters. I read them often. Here is a little article about evangelical protestants converting to Holy Orthodoxy.

"The Eastern Orthodox Church, as far removed from a nondenominational or evangelical congregation as you can get, is nevertheless attracting a growing number of converts who are drawn by the tug of an ancient faith. Converts are trading in their PowerPoint sermons and praise bands for the ancient rhythms of a liturgy that hasn't changed in thousands of years – a pendulum swing from the casual, seeker-friendly services that have dominated contemporary evangelicalism."

The article is much longer but is copyrighted. So if you want to read the whole thing you will have to click here and register (its free) with the Dallas Morning News.

Friday, April 22, 2005

What about the new Pope?

I'm pretty happy about the Roman Catholics getting Ratzinger for their new pope. I have no illusions about the new Pope bringing Rome back to the Orthodox Faith, but I do think he will be able to keep them from drifting deeper into heterodoxy.

Fr. John Whitford is a bit more polemical than I am regarding the new Bishop of Rome. You can click here to see what he says. Oh, when I say he is more polemical I am not saying that I think he is wrong.

Rounding third

Oh boy oh boy oh boy! Here we go. Lent is over. We went to the Great Compline service for the resurection of Lazarus at St. Stephen's. Had champagne and caviar at my house house afterward. Athanasia and I had no idea how to serve caviar, since neither of us had had it before. Well, now that I've written that, I remember two times I have had caviar: Once as a garnish on a slab of salmon I had at the Brooklyn resaurant in Seattle, and once I had it right out of a jar with saltines. But today is not a salmon day, just a caviar day, and we didn't want to eat it out of jars. But thankfully, the boy's godmother was here and told us what to do. So, anyway, Lazarus Saturday is here. (Because the day starts in the evening according to Genesis.) That means that Palm Sunday is nigh and then Boom! Pascha will be here! Oh, pray for my friend Doug and his wife. They made their life confessions at St. Stephen's tonight and are being received into the church in the morning.

So.... Let me help you get ready for Pascha, WHICH IS JUST A WEEK AWAY!!!!!!

I don't know about your parish, but our priest expects us to know these in 5 or 6 languages. So, you have one week. Get to practicing.

English: Christ Is Risen -- Truly He Is Risen
Aleut: Khristus Anahgrecum -- Alhecum Anahgrecum
Anglo-Saxon: Crist aras -- Crist sodhlice aras
Arabic: Al Messieh Qam -- Huhquhn Qam
Armenian: Christos harjav i merelotz -- Orhniale harutjun Christosi
Chinese: Helisituosi fuhuole -- Queshi fuhuole
Coptic (Egypt): Pchristos Aftooun -- Alethos Aftooun
Czech: Kristus Vstal A Mrtvych -- Opravdi Vstoupil
Estonian: Kristus on surnust Ulasteeusnud -- Teasti on Ulasteeusnud
Finnish: Kristus nousi kuolleista -- Totisesti nousi
French: Christ est Resurrecte -- Vraiment, Resurrecte
Gaelic (Celt): Taw Creest Ereen -- Taw Shay Ereen Guhdyne
Georgian: Kriste aghsdga -- Cheshmaritad aghsdga
German: Christus ist Auferstanden -- Wahrhaft auferstanden
Hebrew: Ha-Mashiah qom -- Be-emet qom
Hellenic (Greek): Khristos Anesti -- Alithos Anesti
Japanese: Harisutosu Fukkatsu -- Jitsu Ni Fukkatsu
Korean: Kristo Gesso -- Buhar ha sho Nay
Latin: Christus resurrexit -- Vere resurrexit
Norwegian: Christus er Oppstanden -- Sandelig Han er Oppstanden
Sanskrit: Kristo'pastitaha -- Satvam Upastitaha
Serbian (modern) Hristos Vaskrse -- Vaistinu Vaskrse
Slavonic: Khristos Voskresie -- Voistsinu Voskresie
Spanish: Cristo esta resucitado -- Verdad, resucitado
Swahili: Khristos amafafouka -- Kwaeli amafafouka
Swedish: Kristi ar uppstanden -- Sannorligen ar
Syriac: Meshiha qam -- Bashrira qam
Tosk (Albanian): Krishti Ungjall -- Vertete Ungjall
Vlakh (Romanian): Hristos A Inviat -- Adivarat A Inviat
Welsh: Atgyfododd Crist -- Atgyfododd in wir
Zulu: Ukristu Uvukile -- Uvukile Kuphela

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ugggh. It always happens.

I had it all worked out. I was going to make it to two of the morning services uring Holy Week and all the evening serviecs except for Tuesday. But something happend. Every time I think I have my schedule cleared for the big events at church I get broadsided. It has happened again. My boss told me today that we are doing a major "due dilligence" of the building for a new owner, AND beginning a major replumbing of the whole complex. That is in addition to the ordinary stuff: I have three empty apartments when last month I had zero AND the conduit to the pool light is compromised so I have to get an electrician to run a new one UNDER GROUND AND AROUND A GIANT TREE! AND I have to get a garage door fixed AND I have to get new gates put in AND it looks like the grapes I just finished planting today might have to get ripped up to get to some pipes. Guess when it starts. In about 8 hours. Will I be able to leave the property in time to go to any of the Holy Week services? Probably not. I'm not even sure I can make it to church this week to say my confession. I'm planning on going to Compline at St. Stephen's on Friday. I can make it there in just 10 minutes. Much closer than the 1 to 1.5 hours it takes to get to Holy Trinity. I hope the priest there is hearing confessions. If not, I won't be able to go to communion on Pascha.

But, Glory to God for all things. This job gives me a place to live and I get to spend all day every day with my youngest son. It is a very good life. Also, we have reserved a room in a hotel around the block from Holy Trinity. (Because the bishop stays there so often everyone associated with the Church gets a pretty good discount. ) So, we can check in on Holy Saturday afternoon. Walk the 2 minute walk to church, and then drag ourselves back to the hotel at 5 a.m. sleep till 11 a.m. check out of the hotel, walk up the block to the park, eat breakfast (from our Pascha Basket) then go to Vespers.

Last year I made Cuba Libres for everyone after the Paschal Liturgy. It was in Honor of the new Orthodox Parish that opened in Cuba just a few weeks before Pascha. I don't know what I'll do this year.

Oh, my recipe for the Cuba Libre is as follows: Into a high-ball glass half full of ice cubes, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime. Do not use bottled lime juice. It is too sweet. We can't get Cuban rum in the United States, so add 1.5 ounces of Bacardi Reserva rum. If you don't have that on hand you can use Bacardi Gold. Do not use Jamaican rum unless you have too. Do not use white rum at all. Fill the glass all the way up with club soda or seltzer water. Garnish with a slice of lime. Now I know a lot of people, perhaps most, use Coca-Cola instead of fizzy water. That's fine, if you are into that. But to me, Coca-Cola in a Cuba Libre tastes like a kids drink. Besides, the recipe that I use is older than the Coca-Cola recipe. Nevertheless, since both the fizzy water recipe and the Coca-Cola recipe are both called by the name Cuba Libre a lot of people just order "rum and coke" or "bacardi highball" and avoid the question from the bartender. But let me ask you this , would you do that with a Martini? Would you say, "Could you make me a gin and vermouth"? or would you say, "Charlie, shake me up another one of those Stoli and Cinzanos"? No, you would not. You would say, "I'll have a Martini." Then, if the bartender is not civilized and most of them are not these days, he will ask "vodka or gin?" Of course, as we know, in a better time, vodka would not have been mentioned in a conversation about a Martini. But that is really beside the point. The point is, ask for a "Cuba Libre" and expect the bartender to ask "Cola or soda?" Be firm in your answer.

And Besides all of that, Islam is Evil and Turkey should not be in N.A.T.O. or the EU.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Pigs and Octopuses

Today, in the big boys ceramics class, we made a dish shaped like a pig. We attempted to do it in the shape of a cow but a pig's head is easier to sculpt.

After ceramics we went shopping. Got a great deal on mussels ($2.70 per lb.) and baby octopus ($3.89 per lb.). We came home and cooked them up in a marinara sauce. Served it with De Cecco penne. It was good. It might be the best penne I've ever had. I'm going to make the same dish but with Barilla penne. Barilla is supposed to be the number one selling pasta in Italy. I want to se if it is better that the excellent penne I had today.

Anyway, the little boy helped me chop up the octopus and scrub the mussels. Usually he goes nuts for mussels and eats a ton of them. But for some reason he only had a couple of them today. But he really like the octopus. He ate quite a bit of it. When we were at the store he wanted me to by some squid, too, but it was kind of expensive at $4.95 per lb. Maybe next time. I wonder why squid costs so much more than octopus. Montery bay is full of squid. They should be pretty cheap.

I think the pool might finally be finished. I've had the city's inspector out 3 times and have had to call the contractor to keep getting little things fixed. But this time I think it is all good. Inspector should be here tomorrow and then I should be able to open the pool for the season.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Millions, Chocolate Cokes, Pregnancy

Athanasia and I saw Millions today. Except for about 10 seconds of not-the-greatest editing near the end of the film it was one of the 10 best movies I think I've ever seen. I do not usually cry in movies - it's pretend, right?- but this is a tear jerker. Even for me.

I'm sure that some people will be offended at St. Peter's description of the feeding of the 5,000, and I'm sure some people will be offended at some pre-marital sex, and I'm sure some people will be offended at a depiction of an under-age boy attempting to solicit one of his female classmates. That said, it is a wonderful movie. It has St. Nicholas (Cool vestments, by the way. Hmmm... Maybe a nameday present for Bishop Tikhon?) being charitable to Mormons. It has a boy who wants to feed the poor. It has a brother who knows all the angles. It has a great juxtoposition of St. Nicholas and some Christmas-themed adverts. It has a little boy trying to follow saints as they follow Christ.

Well, look. I don't want to ruin this movie for you. I want you to go see it. So, GO! GO NOW! DO NOT DELAY!!!! FLY! Fly like the wind and the Devil take the hindmost!

Oh, what were the other movies that made me cry? Only two. Jungle Book (when Bagheera the panther eulogizes Baloo the bear), and Saving Private Ryan (when Mrs. Ryan receives the death notices of her sons).

Yesterday the big boy and I had to do a few things. First we went to the post office and mailed a birthday present to his oldest brother. (He works on a ranch so I figured a Leatherman tool would be useful.) Then we had to go to downtown San Jose to make a deposit at the bank. While we were there we visted the San Jose Museum of Art (Its FREE!!!) and took a look at thier Blobject show. The big boy touched a car that was on display and had a heard of curators come running into the room shouting "No No don't touch don't touch". And the whole time I'm thinking, "This isn't exactly art. It was built on an assembly line."

Then we went to the Fountain Restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel. You would never know it from looking at their website, but the Fountain has a fabulous old fashioned soda fountain. At the Fountain I bought the boy his first ever chocolate Coke (e.g. Chocolate syrup stirred into Coca-Cola) .

Athanasia is pretty worn out from this pregnancy. She wants to sleep all the time. And she is sick quite often. We had to leave Church early tonight.

Very happy news. We were only barely able to afford the new PT Cruiser we bought earlier this week. Well, something pretty neat happend: Athanasia just got an enormous increase in her salary. I mean H-U-G-E!!! God is very kind to us.

Friday, April 15, 2005


I have to go by a new navy blazer today. I wore my old one so long that a hole appeard in the elbow. I like good looking clothes, I just hate buying new clothes. I guess if I bought more than a couple of jackets I wouldn't have to buy new ones every couple of years.

I read an article about the tailor every president since Johnson has used. He said a man should only wear a suit once every two weeks. I remember reading when I was a kid (in the now defuct "M" magazine, the best mens magazine ever published) that the minimum a man's closet should contain is ...

1 dark brown suit
1 light brown window pane suit
1 gray flannel suit, with 2 trousers
1 navy suit
1 black suit
1 glen plaid suit (black or brown)
1 navy blazer
1 camel hair blazer
1 tweed jacket
2 kakhi trousers
1 tuxedo

If that is the goal, I have not reached it.

Hector and Melissa

According to the Church calendar, today is a "wine day". I just had 2 glasses of a La Crema Winery's 2003 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. I usually say "I don't like white wine." But this is good. I mean it. It is really really good. Melissa says it has hints of citrus. I disagree. I don't taste it. She also mentions bit of hazelnut and caramel. I totally agree with that. When I first tasted it I thought "oooooh. This is like butterscotch and pears" but haveing read Melissa's comment I agreee: Caramel it is.
Hector and Melissa have done a very good job. (Also, they are graduates of UC Davis. I don't think I've mentioned it but, Athanasia and I are thinking about moving to Davis in the Summer of 2006 so I can pursue a history degree there.) Well, you know what you have to do. Happy drinking.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I've added a new blog to the things I read every day

She is a musicologist living back east. But it was this post, having nothing to do with music, that made me a fan.

It moves. O, Baby! It moves!

You might have heard about this already, especially if you follow aerospace developments. If you havent seen it, well, let me just say this: It is probably the best thing to ever come out of the United States Air Force Academy. I've seen a lot of fast movers but this has more moves in more directions than I thought possible. Here it is. Thanks to my friend Mateo Grande for making sure I was in the loop for this.

Help Wanted

My wife manages about a dosen small rental properties. One of them needs a residential manager. She has not found an acceptable candidate. Let me describe the job, and, maybe, you'll know someone who might be a good match.

I'm writing this from memory so I might be off on a few details. It is a 16 unit complex in Campell, CA. There is a swimming pool. The apartments are nice, I've seen them. It is a part time job. This is a small complex and probably won't require more than 5 hours work per week. Compensation: the person who lives there will get a $900 apartment for less than $500 per month.

If you know anyone who can spare 5 or 6 hours per week, and is friendly (being nice to people is the most important part of the job) please have them leave a message for me in the comments. Oh, one more thing. If the person who gets the job is not already CCRM qualified the company will send him (or her) to school and pay the cost of taking the exam.

Monday, April 11, 2005

PT Cruiser

We bought a new car today. The 1994 Acura Integra with almost 180,000 miles just isn't reliable anymore. The clutch is starting to go, it has a bad oil leak (about 1 quart a month), it needs new shocks and brakes. The air compressor needs to be replaced. When I thought about how much money it was going to take to make this car relaiable again, I began to shudder. So, I called my friend Jeff who in addition to being a newly-commissioned pastor is also a banker. He knows lots of car dealers. Some of them owe him favors. So, we got a great discount on a PT Cruiser. And through Costco we are getting a totally unbelievable deal on insurance. I'm not wild about owing more money, but its that or lose transportation. Oh, the prision that are suburbs - forcing us to drive when God gave us feet. Nevertheless, I am thankful for our new car. We'll have it blessed on Wednesday.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


My friend Jeff was "commissioned" at his church today. (The best I can tell, commissioning is the low-calorie version of ordination.) We left our house at nine-thirty to get there by eleven. I had looked up the church the night before so I would know how to get there. So we got there. And we got there half an hour early. So Athanasia and I and the little boy and I kicked around a soccer ball for a little while in the parking lot. But we saw a lot of people going in and we heard singing so we figured it was starting.

As we were walking in we saw a sign that said the service starts at 10:30. "Hmmmm", I thought to myself, "Jeff said the service started at 11. That's strange." So all three of us walked down the center aisle to the front pew (Protestant churches have benches called pews, the one in the front is usually the last to fill up.) and sat down.

The guy behind us leaned forward and asked it the little boy would like to go to sunday school. We thanked him but said no thanks. Then I asked, "is this Bay Hills Evangelical Free Church?" That was met by an odd look on the man's face. "No, this is Bay Hills Community Church". Athanasia asked, "Is Jeff Miller being ordained today?" "No, I don't think so"
I looked at my wife and said, "Uh oh! We're in the wrong church!"

So we stood up and walked right up the center aisle, past 3oo people, and out the door. Wow! That was embarrassing.

Now before I write anything else, I want to make a couple of comments on the service we were in, even though it was for less than 5 minutes.
1) Pastors, please, please, please, don't wear Hawaiian shirts on the platform. It does not make you look cool, hip, real, relaxed, or with-it. It makes you look like someone who read a book about church growth. So, please be a grown up and wear a tie. Or follow your spiritual ancestor, Martin Luther's example and wear an academic robe. But please, knock off the Hawaiian shirts. If you are not sipping a pina colada and wearing sandles you should not be wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
2) 3 guitars is 2 guitars too many.
3) The band and the back up singers should not be so loud that the congregation's voice can not be heard.
4) Please, kill the PowerPoint projector. I know this will be hard for you; all the cool Protestant churches use PowerPoint now. But trust me, it's hokey. A church service is not supposed to be like a shareholders meeting or like a briefing for an Army general. The church has survived a few thousand years without PowerPoint. I'm pretty sure the Levites weren't using to project Psalms on the Temple wall. And I know for a fact that when Jesus preached he didn't use it. All he did was talk to people and tell them stories about grain, and sheep, and stuff like that. You should do that too. More talking, less PowerPointing.
5) The woman drummer was cool, though. Don't see enough chicks banging the hi-hats.

Now back to the story.

We jumped in the car, grabbed a cell phone, called 411 and got the address of the correct BayHills church. Zoomed up the freeway, woops! all of a sudden the freeway (I-880 north) dissapeard. It forked into I-80 and I-580. At the last possible moment, not really knowing which was the right one to take, I took the wrong one and very quickly found my self driving in the absolutely wrong direction. In fact, we were driving across the Bay Bridge. ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!

After a quick turn around on Yerba Buena Island, we zoomed back to the East Bay, sped onto I-580 and drove north to Hercules. We got lost on Appian Way (The numbers reverse their order. I hate it when that happens.) but we eventually made it to the right BayHills church.

We heard the last 10 minutes of a sermon about money. Or maybe it was about investing. Yeah, that was it. It was about how to have financial security. Hmmmmm. I'm sitting there thinking, "yeah, on the terrible Day of the LORD, I want to make sure to tell Jesus all about how I got a 12 % annual return on my savings. That will really impress him. Surely, he didn't really mean it when he said the worm and rust would eat up my stock certificates. And that James, such a radical, I know he must have been wrong." Now to be fair, I did only hear the last 10 minutes of the sermon, and the preacher was right when he talked about debt and how it keeps a person from doing with their money what God wants them to do with it. Nevertheless, when I think of great saints who lived in poverty, such as St. Xenia, St. Paul, St. Anthony, St. Mary of Egypt, and even our God, Jesus himself who said "foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn't have a place to put his head" - whenthink of them I have trouble getting excited about a sermon that seems to be more about the blessings of compound interest than about feeding the hungry. But again, I don't want to sound too harsh. The pastor was right about not wasting money and about not going into debt. After all, if you are wasting money or paying off debt, you can't do the good things with your money that God wants you to do with it.

Oh, the commissioning itself was pretty standard. The pastor called Jeff up to the front, he explained the Biblical authority for laying hands on Jeff, then he and several other people laid hands on Jeff and prayed for him. (They have three services each Sunday so they actually did this three times.)

An interesting personal story: It was seeing deacons ordained at PBCC that really drove home to me that I was no longer a Protestant. I had just finished reading the works of the second century bishop St. Iraneus of Lyons (in present day France). And as I was watcing the ordination I remembered something St. Iranaeus said about some heretics of his day: "Who laid hands on them?" (okay, yes, that is a very rough translation.) And then I thought, "I wonder who laid hands on these guys ordaining the deacons?"

One cool thing happened today. As we were doing all of this driving, the little boy was sitting in the back seat reading the new book his mother bought him. And just as I said to my wife (We were on the Bay bridge at the time), "God is doing this to us because he does not want us visiting any heretic churches!! "(I was near to angry.) I heard my little boy singing the Trisagion Hymn. It made me very happy. I'd like to say that was enough church for me, but for the Orthodox, as long as there is the possibility of more there is never enough. To quote Bishop Benjamin of Berkeley, "If one 'Lord, have mercy' is good, why not three? I three why not 12. If 12 why not 40? If 40, why not 144... FOUR TIMES!!!" I guess what I am saying, is that yes, I'm happy for my friend Jeff. He has worked hard for this. But I wish I had been at Holy Trinity today. But even that would not have satisfied. Someday, in Heaven, it will all be all Liturgy all the time. But instead of men carrying the incense to the altar there will be angels doing that job. Instead of Bishop Tikhon (Many Years!) presiding over the liturgy, Christ our High Priest and the Lamb will be presiding. Instead of mystery there will be revelation. All the doors will be open. We will see face to face. Every day, every second will be Pascha.

Fr. Victor

Well, if you click on the title of this post you will learn how he is doing. From my own limited observation, he seems steadier on his feet. In public his spirits seem good. I think he was pleased with the Lenten Retreat we just had.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Lenten Retreat - The first session

Tonight was the first session of my parish's lenten retreat. Archpriest Paul Tarazi is teaching on the book of Psalms. What follow are some of the things I learned, my thoughts, and some observations.

- Kings are kings because God makes them kings ("Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." 2:6, not because they are the sons of kings. This is reflected even on british coins with their "Dei Gratia Regina" (or "D G REG F D" on modern Bristish coinage: The letters standing for the Latin words Dei Gratia Regina Fidei Defensor, which means 'By the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith'). Every King receives his authority directly from God, not from his physical father. ("I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou [art] my Son; this day have I begotten thee." Ps. 2:7)

- In semitic languages the word for city is feminine. The Gate is viewed as the vagina. the word for invading a city is the same word for rape. He said something about battering rams and acted like he was holding a telephone pole. At this all of the teenagers blushed. My mind flashed to an image of the Kanamara Matsuri (aka Japanese Penis Festival), with a bunch of drunken Salarymen carying giant wooden penises through the streets. Anyway, a kings major job is to keep his city from being invaded.

- Even in the Psalms that talk about how great the king is, his greatness is always predicated on his ability to rule justly. If he doesn't rule justly, he loses God's favor (non gratia), then he loses his throne.

- He talked alot about water, how water is a symbol of God's enemy. At creation, God subdued water, God parted the Red Sea, God divided the waters of the Jordan. Why is this important? Because, with the exception of Denver, all major cites are located next to water. Water kills people, but God says to the water "this far but no closer". He does not destroy the water, yet He controls the water. I wonder why Fr. Paul didn't mention the sea of Glass in the Apocalypse? If there were ever a scene of God controling the water and being King that is it.

-The King, who represents God (hopefully) does not do battle against the water, but against other enemies, enemies he is able to withstand - the "nations" or "heathen" of Psalm 2:6

- Something about the Hebrew word for "victory" and "salvation" being the same word, e.g. yeshua, that is Jesus. Hmmm. What does this say about works vs. grace? What does it say about being saved from sin and getting the victory over habitual sin?

- He talked a lot about Psalm 45. A major thing he noted was that even when the king is getting married he is still the king. He is never not the king. His bride is his subject, she is never not his subject. He gets married in war-fighting clothes. (here he mentioned the King of Jordan who at all of his weddings was married in a military uniform.) He also took verse 16 and tied it back into 2:7, saying that the king has no ancestors because his authority comes directly from God, he is always coronated - Elizabeth might die today but Charles doesn't become king until the Archbishop of Caterbury annoints him. He didn't go into it but I think that the 5th verse and the 16th verse might be talking about the same thing, based on Psalm 127:4 -5. And who are Gods arrows but His children? Hasn't He sent us out to speak with His enemies? By that I mean tell them the Good News?

Oh! I almost forgot - on the way home from San Francisco I turned on the radio to a crazy little college station and heard a vibrato and reverb laden raggae version of the Jackson Five's "I'll Be There". Nothing to strange about that but all of a suden, at the line that says "Reach o-o-o-o-o-u-u-u-u-t" there was a punctuation of a whacked out mariachi horn section that has to be heard to be believed. And the horns just kept on going and going in a Ring of Fire, Tijuana Brass, Cake kind of spine-tingling way. It was like Bob Marly's stepson crossed with the 3 of the Jackson Five crossed with a Catholic Mass in east L.A. But better.

Well, to bed to bed. But first I have to read a bunch of Psalms in preparation for tomorow mornings session.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I'm a baseball fan.

I'm a baseball fan. I used to pretty much hate all sports. But two things happened. I began reading the Wall Street Journal. I think I read it every day from 1992-1995, and I've read it regularly though not as often, since then. Why is reading a business newspaper important to my transformation into a basball fan? Because it contains the best sports writing of any publication in America. (It also has the best Christmas Eve editorial page of any newspaper ever. Among the always superb essays is the traditional In Hoc Anno Domini. And you can't go wrong spending your book-buying dollar by their book reviews, either.)

George Will writes for the Washington Post. But sometimes his work winds up in the Wall Street Journal. Usually he doesn't write about sports. Most often he writes about politics. But read this. And this. And this! That is great writing! And all of the sports writing in the Wall Street Journal is as good as that. So, thanks to good writing, I began to see sports as something more than a waste of time and money. I wasn't a fan, but the foundation of fan-hood had been laid.

What really made me a fan was following the Giants 2001 season. I had married a woman with season tickets and we went to every other home game together. Here are 9 things I learned:
1) Garlic fries are fabulous
2) The game of Baseball is not about one game. It is about the whole season.
3) There are no bad seats in what should be called Giants Ballpark.
4) It is fun to yell stuff at players and embarrass your wife.
5) Benny Santiago doesn't get a hit in the first 2 innings? Hey, there's always the 3rd.
6) Singing Take me Out to the Ball Game with thousands of other people during the 7th Inning Stretch is fun. (There is not enough public singing in America. I blame the record industry and radio for that.)
7) Its fun to get all judgemental on Barry Bonds, who after hitting the ball likes to watch and see if it is going to be a home run before he starts running to 1st.
8) Sometimes, the people in the stands around you are as entertaining as the players on the field. Like one time when a guy infront of me pulled out an electric razor and gave himself the most vigerous shave I have ever seen.
9) It takes about one inning to walk around the ballpark. And its a nice walk, too. Especially, out by right field where you can look at all of the boats in McCovey Cove.

Baseball season is well underway. Try to make it to a few games. Eat some garlic fries. Get a tan. Drink a cold beer. Watch grown men running around in funny clothes. Its better than almost anything else you could be doing.

Much relief! Much happiness!

I finally got in touch with one of my older children. Here is the news...

Devon the 15 year old: He is doing fine. Reading at college level. Wants to come visit this summer.

Billy the 16 year old: Working at a ranch, driving tractors, fixing fences, taking care of animals. Graduating from school early. (He was in reform school in his sophomore year and was so afraid of the other kids that all he did was school work. He managed to complete two years worth of work that year.)

I found out that they moved because they are buying a bigger house in the same neighborhood. Right now they are living in a rental waiting for the house to be finished.

Very importantly, he was able to give me his mom's cell phone number. I am much relieved.

Thank you, all who were praying.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


My mother, who has never seen this blog, says that because her sisters do read this blog I should put up more pictures of the big boy. Here are pictures my wife took on his 3rd birthday.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Time Change

I don't like the time change. I wish Congress would abolish it. Yes, I missed church this morning.

Last night just before the start of the vigil for the Adoration of the Cross, I talked to Ian. Now we have one godparent of each sex for the new baby. I talked to Anna on the Sunday of of St. Gregory Palamas. So, that is taken care of. But there are still many things to get firmed up.

Such as....

The 8th Day prayers and the namingof the child: Issue - Athanasia might not feel like driving to the cathedral in San Francisco. And Fr. Victor might still be sick, too. But if we do the prayers down here, the godparents will have to drive down, and one of them lives north of San Francisco in Marin County. Oh, what names are we considering? We are leaning toward these: Holy Martyr Zoe if a girl. But we'll use the Slavic pronunciation, Zoya. St. Basil of Moscow the Fool for Christ, if a boy.

And this...

The birth will be in San Jose. But our priests are in San Francisco. Will one of them be able to come down and say the prayer from the Book of Needs? All of these worries - I need to make an appoint ment to talk with Fr. Victor.

Friday, April 01, 2005

This day

Frustrating Thing: Spending 2 hours in heavy Friday afternoon traffic to get to church. Spending 1/2 hour looking for parking, but not finding it. Driving home without getting to go to church.

Fun Things: Got to go shopping for the property. Had to buy some plants. My gardener wanted me to pay him $65 for planting flowers in a little bit of dirt by the mail boxes. And not just any old flowers, either. He wanted to put flowers there that totally die during the winter and don't come back next spring. So I just went to the nursury and found some beutiful rosemary bushes (2 for $25.99) and some grape vines (Muscat of Alexandria and Cabernet). The rosemary is going in by the mail boxes. The grapes are going to replace some ugly rosebushes (I don't have enough money in the budget to pay the gardener to husband them as they need to be husbanded. And I don't have the knowledge.) by one of the driveways. Grapes are easy. Just tie them to a stake, prune them once a year, and all is good. Unfortunately, they will only get sun for 1/2 the day so they won't be producing useable fruit.

Thankful Things: Athanasia and the big boy drove to the San Jouaquin Valley town of Madera today. They were visiting her grandmother. I couldn't go. I had a move-in I had to be here for. I also had two contractors scheduled for today but they were no-shows. (It's Friday, you know.) Anyway, my wife and son got there and back safely. I am thankful for that. It is a long drive. But on the way there, they stopped at Casa de Fruta, a well known cultural institution in the hills between the Santa Clara Valley (aka Silicon Valley, aka Valley of Heart's Delight) and the San Jouquin Valley. The little boy fed the goats.

RANT: (Before you read this, click on the Valley of Heart's Delight link, above.) A few weeks ago, at the boy's birthday party (held early because of Lent), I said something about how I think all developed land should either be high density cities (such as San Francisco, Manhattan) or farm land, and that I think tracts of single family houses are poor stewardship of the land and contribute to the erosion of society. One young woman at the party said, "You don't like houses?"
"Just single-family detatched houses."
"A lot of reasons, but one is that they require huge amounts of roads and parking lots, and once you pave earth and destroy the topsoil you can never grow anything on it again."
Then she said something to me that showed me how bad the situation is. She said, "But what about back yards?"
I couldn't believe it. I had just talked about the destruction of productive land and she was thinking about back yards. I should have mentioned that suburbs make people fat.
My personal problem is that I am a classical liberal in the tradition of John Locke, and think that in general, people should be free to do what they want with what they own. But it just makes me sick to see beautiful orchards and vinyards destroyed.

Amusing Thing: As I was getting into the shower, the phne rang. I ran to get it. (It was the work phone.) But I didn't get there in time. Whoever called hung up. A second time, as I was getting into the shower the phone rang. I ran to answer it. Again, the caller hung up before I could answer it. So, as I was walking back to the bathroom, I saw the face off an old chinese lady (one of my tenants) looking in the side window. And she saw A LOT more of me than my face. I belive the expression is: The Full Monty. I thought she was going to die. I know I nearly did. As it turns out, she is the one who had called twice and hung up. She is very impatient so came looking for me. I hope that teaches her to let the phone ring more than 3 times before she hangs up.

More worries

The sheriff called me. No good news. They have moved. I called the school they attend but it is spring break and there was no one there who could help me. The woman who answerd the phone said that the younger of the two is still enrolled. I asked about his attendance but she didn't know anything. So, now I am just waiting for Monday.

If any of my family is reading this: I just got an email from my sister saying that Aunt Nettie called her to say that our cousin Jaime (Aunt Joey's youngest daugter) had surgery today for bone cancer in her ribcage and is facing both chemo and radiation.