Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I often forget that during the fast, like St. John the Baptist and Forerunner, we can eat invertebrates. In fact, because of my forgetfulness, I hadn't enjoyed them at all this Lent. But Athanasia remembered. Tonight she made a such a wonderful meal: Steamed asparagus with a little salt, sliced avocado, boiled shrimp. It was the best thing I've tasted all Lent.

Monday, March 30, 2009


We just had one. Nothing too scary. Nothing fell over but the house did shake and I had difficulty walking. Basil didn't even notice. It was over before I could get him under the table.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

One reason why God hates divorce: Saturday Soundtrack

Basil and I were walking Anselm to school on Thursday, and because we hand lingered at the bagel store I was worried we were going to be late. I was marching quick time past all the shops on Lincoln Avenue, almost dragging Basil behind me. Finally, he had enough and said. "Daddy, don't walk so fast!" Immediately, this song, came into my head. I don't think I had heard it in 30 years but there it was, tucked into my brain.

Oh, the song is by Wayne Newton. It was his biggest hit ever, reaching #4 on the charts in 1972.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In the Public Sector No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Four women decided to volunteer their time to make the world a better place by assisting travelers. Alas, the government says, Nyet!

Did this happen in the Soviet Union under Brezhnev? No. It is happening right here in the U.S.A.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Wish He Was An American.

Is this the reason we have been ill all winter?

Sophia had this on her blog. I copied it to here.

When our good and all-gracious Lord and Master sees people too lazy in their exercises, He lays their flesh low with sickness, an asceticism with less toil; and sometimes it also cleanses the soul from evil thoughts or passions.

St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), Step26: On Discernment of Thoughts, Passions and Virtue
This, certainly, applies to me, but not, I think, to my children. Unless, maybe the whole family suffers because of me.

How it fits together.

Today (from sundown on the 24th to sundown on the 25) is the Feast of the Annunciation. We tried going to the Vigil tonight but Basil was in rare form. I had to take him outside just after the reading of the 6 Psalms. Evening services with this boy are tough.

I think I might have mentioned this before, but one of the things I really like about Orthodoxy is that it answers questions that bugged me when I was a Protestant. The date of Christmas is one of those questions. I remember when I was a boy hearing theories about Jesus really being born in the Spring and not on December 25. For a couple of reasons this bothered me. (I won't go into them now.) But in Orthodoxy I had the question about the birth of Jesus answered, but not directly. (though I could have had it answered directly if I'd read more of St. John Chrysostom's works.) I had the question answered by way of the Annunciation.

Nine months before Jesus was born (Dec. 25), he was concieved: The Annunciation (Mar. 25). The Annunciation happened about 6 months after the the concepetion of John the Baptist.
So when was John the Baptist conceived? Ahhh. What an obscure question? The New Testament tells us very little about that, but enough to figure it out. St. Luke records that St. John's father was a priest of the the course of Abijah. (The priests of Israel were divied into 24 courses and served at different times of the year. See Chronicles 24.) The course of Abijah served at two different times: One of them was on the Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).

When is Yom Kippur? It is always in mid-September/early October. That is the starting point. From the Day of Atonement all else is computed. So, St. John the Baptist was conceived in St. Elizabeth late September (the 23rd). Six months later (March 25) the Virgin conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Three months after that in late June, St. John was born. Six months later, December 25 Jesus was born.

I love how it all fits together.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Old Airlines: Saturday Soundtrack

On Thursday Basil Wenceslas and I went for a walk. It was warm enough for him to walk in a little stream and build a dam out of rocks. We saw some deer, bees buzzing around a hollow tree, some ground squirrels. At one point he got very excited and made me look up to see a contrail from a jet-liner. He loves them. As I was looking at it I thought, "I wish I was flying somewhere." I remembered some of the old Airlines: Eastern, Braniff, TWA, Western, and, of course, PanAm, and the era when flying was special, something glamorous. Of course, it isn't like that now. Thinking about tiny seats, security, long waits on the runways cured me of my desire to fly anywhere.

Sammy Cahn wrote a song about flying during that more elegant era. Billy May (Yes, the guy who wrote the theme for the Odd Couple T.V. show.) wrote this arrangement for Frank Sinatra. (Just so you know, that "In llamaland there's a one man band and he'll toot his flute for you" line, man, that's just just silly.)

A Look Into the Russian Mind

Leah mentioned this video on Facebook. Then I saw a link to it on her blog. About 15 minutes into it, I realized that one of two things was likely true: This video about the Byzantine Empire was either consciously made to lend support to President Putin and his policies, or the support President Putin enjoys is due to so many people in Russia holding the ideas espoused in this video. Perhaps both are true.

In the video one will find support for:
...Putin's persecution of the "oligarchs".
...Bizarre paronioa whch says the West is out to get Russia.
...Suspicion of private enterprise.
...Putin's selection of his successor.
...The idea that the state is more important than the individual.
...State monopoly of key industries.
...Putin's imperial desire for all Orthodox Christian and/or Slavic lands.
...Putin's re-centalization of the Russian government.
...Russia's birth-rate increase initiative.
...A defense of Russia using population importation as a means of pacification after conquest.
...Support of Putin's takeover of the vodka industry.

And that is just the start. Throughout the video if you think "Russia" every time you hear "Byzantium" you will see how at least some Russians think. At several point in the video we hear that the west has a deep hatred for "Byzantium and it's heirs" that the West itself does not understand, that it is "genetic". At the end of the video we hear Orthodox Christians worshiping. But they are not Greeks singing in Greek as did the Byzantines. No. We see Russians singing in Slavonic. The meaning is clear.

My opinion: I don't like it when Americans use God for their political agenda. I don't like it when Russians do it either. I hope most Russians don't fall this kind of propaganda.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fascism in America

Watch the whole thing. Most of it is okay. Some of it I even think is good. But there is one thing chilling: The pledge to be President Obama's servant. It is disgusting. That free people would throw the crown of sovereignty to the feet of a mere politician is an insult to the blood and sweat our ancestors shed for us. Now I see how all those nice Germans marched 6 million Jews into the ovens. Desolation awaits us.

MySpace Celebrity and Katalyst present The Presidential Pledge

Bailing out failing companies

I think GM is going to fail and it doesn't matter to me how low their stock price goes, I'm not going to buy it. It doesn't matter what rate they give on their bonds, I'm not going to loan them money.

There are plenty of companies in similar straits. I wouldn't dream of buying their stock, or loaning them money because they are going to go out of business. They SHOULD go out of business because there is no demand for what they sell.

But Congress and the President think those failing companies should be kept on life support. And what is life support? It is money. My money. The money I don't want to spend on their shares or bonds is being taken from me by force (all taxes are collected by force) and used to buy an interest in failing firms or loan them money.

Is this freedom? Is this what it means to be an American?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Winter is over. Spring is here!!! We got this seasons first Two Small Farms food today. Our kitchen is full of strawberries, spring garlic, parsnips, carrots, fennel, parsley, chard, beets, and cabbage. I love it all. But here is my problem: The carrot greens.

If I cook them with the other greens will the carrot greens overwhelm the others? I've never done anything with carrot greens. In the past I've always thrown them away. But with these carrots there is as much weight in greens as there is in root. It seems too wasteful to toss the greens out. I have the same situation with the fennel. In the past I've cooked the bulbs and tossed the greens. But I want to try to use them this year. So...

Any suggestions on how to prepare carrot greens and fennel greens?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Can you say "quid pro quo", boys and girls?

Today I read this...

As ABC News' Capitol Hill Correspondent Jonathan Karl reported, in February, the Senate unanimously approved an amendment restricting bonuses over $100,000 at any company receiving federal bailout funds, but during the closed-door House and Senate negotiations the provision was stripped out and replaced with a measure by Dodd exempting bonuses agreed to prior to the passage of the stimulus bill on February 11, 2009. (Read the whole thing here.)

A few minutes later I read a list of AIG's political donations...

Top Recipients
Senate Dodd, Chris $103,100
Senate Obama, Barack $101,332
(Read the whole list here)

I've never donated money to an out of state senate campaign, but I have $100 for the first person to announce they are running against Chris Dodd.

I Rise Today

A prayer of of our father among the Saints, Patrick, Bishop of Armagh.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension
Through the strength of his decent for the Judgement of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim
In obedience to the Angels,
In the service of the Archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of Holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendor of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s host to secure me
against snares of devils
against temptations of vices
against inclinations of nature
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.

A summon today all these powers between me and these evils
Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning,
against drowning, against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Thrones,
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.

Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of Christ
May thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vigil of the Feast of St. Patrick

Okay, okay. There isn't really a Vigil for the Feast of St. Patrick (or Patricius, as he was known). But there should be. And if there was it would be tonight. Regardless, we did discuss the life of St. Patrick at supper tonight. Anselm Samuel asked at one point, "How do leprechauns fit in?" (What do they teach in schools?) He was a little disappointed when I told him the leprechauns and banshees were some of the fake gods worshiped by the Irish before they became Christians. So I went on to explain the character of the Irish prior to their enlightenment: How they lived for bloodshed, and went naked into battle transformed, by that demonic power called warp spasm, but how Christ preached by Columba, Patrick and Brigid gentled them and turned them into a people of learning, monasticism, and humility. From death and nihilism to life and hope!

Anselm Samuel read the Troparion during evening prayers.

Holy Bishop Patrick,
Faithful shepherd of Christ's royal flock,
You filled Ireland with the radiance of the Gospel:
The mighty strength of the Trinity!
Now that you stand before the Savior,
Pray that He may preserve us in faith and love!

I hope you all have a happy St. Patrick's Day.

Why do I live in California?

I heard about Braddock, PA on the radio today. I looked at the website. I checked out the concentration of Orthodox Parishes and found 9 within about 10 miles of the town. Then I did a real estate search and found houses so inexpensive that I thought I was looking at typos. But they weren't typos. I was astounded. I even found one 3 bedroom house with "new mechanicals" (Whatever that means. I'm guessing heater and water heater?) that has a price so low I could actually write a check for it and own it ourtright. So, I'm looking at this and thinking "Why do I live in California?"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Son #2

Happy Happy Joy Joy! After hearing troubling news from him a couple of months ago I have just heard happy news. Son #2 has a job, a girlfriend, and is going to church. He has also become a musician since I last saw him. I am very happy and relieved.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Who Do You Love: Saturday Soundtrack

Though they are probably better known for their song Bad to the Bone, released in the 1980s, the first time I remember hearing George Thorogood and the Destroyers was was when I was an 11 or 12 year old boy living on the northern edge of Ukiah. I was hanging out with a girl who's favorite activity was "hanging out with Jack". (She was only a year older than me. Tells you what kind of town it was.) We were walking somewhere - to a swimming hole on the other side of a vineyard, I think - and she had a cassette player with her. She turned it on and I heard this remake of Bo Diddley's classic. One thing I like about George Thorogood is that he is proof the State of Delaware can produce more than a lying slithering assassin. (I love New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254. I wonder how much longer that case and the 1st Amendment will be law in this country. Probably not long.)

For my newer readers not familiar with the rules of the Saturday Soundtrack, a song must have been released prior to the cinematic release Saturday Night Fever to be included in the Saturday Soundtrack. (There are other rules, too.) This song, Who Do You Love, beat the wire by a few months, though I didn't hear it until a couple of years after John Travolta made Angel Flight pants all the rage on the west coast. (I think they had been popular on the east coast for a couple of years.)

An interesting thing about this song title is that the next time I encountered it was in Manhattan when I was 17. I was in the Hard Rock Cafe where I saw in a corner of the room a shrine unlike any I had ever seen before. (of course, at that age and having been raised a Pentecostal I hadn't seen many.) There was a statue of the Mary holding Jesus, a picture of Jesus on the Cross, a Star of David, a big dollar sign, a statue of Confucius, an "Om", a statue of Ganesh, a horse shoe, a statue of Buddha, and a hologram of Jim Morrison, who some people hold was an incarnation of Dionysus. Over all of that was a sign that asked, Who Do You Love? (It has been changed a little since I was there more than 20 years ago, but you can see a picture of it here.) It was weird. Anyway, here is the song.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Don Cossacks Sing

Some time ago I mentioned those holy Orthodox warriors known as the Host of Don Cossacks. But I only recently found out that they sing as well as they fight.
Here they are singing the Our Father in Slavonic.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Three Years Ago Today

Three years ago today, Archpriest Victor fell asleep in the Lord.

With the spirits of the righteous made perfect give rest to the soul of Thy servant, O Saviour; and preserve it in that life of blessedness which is with Thee, O Thou who lovest mankind. In the place of Thy rest, O Lord, where all Thy Saints repose, give rest also to the soul of Thy servant; for Thou only lovest mankind. (From the Trisagion for the Departed)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Light at the end of the Tunnel

Ladies and Gentlemen, Baltic Dry Index is up. Assuming the governments of the various important economic powers do not screw things up (I know, that is asking a lot of them.), this recession will be over within 18 months. Now is the time to buy. I recommend the following:

Dry Ships, Inc.
(DRYS) They have shipping down to a science.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. (WFMI) They are at historic lows and poised for a huge rebound.

Vaalco Petroleum (EGY) As the oil prices spiked they plowed their increased profits in to more equipment and increased exploration. When oil prices fell they were already in a good position. Now that economic activity is increasing and oil prices begin to rise again they will only see good numbers.

Linear Technology Corp. (LLTC) This fabulously run analog circuit company sells to almost every hi tech company that makes consumer goods, and no one customer makes up more than 10% of their sales. If you own a DVD player, a computer, a car, a telephone, a microwave, or a printer it is likely you have several of Linear's parts in your stuff. As the recession comes to a close they are ready to meet pent up demand.

California real estate. I know, it is capital intensive, but we are not going to see prices this low ever again (this assumes, no plagues, wars, raptures, or major earthquakes.)

As always, I recommend silver coins as a hedge against the certain future (in the long run)economic collapse. As a patriot I recommend the American coins but you will pay a hefty premium above the New York spot price if you buy them. The Austrian "philharmoniker" 1,5 Euro is the same purity and weight but will cost you less.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

What Our Fathers Built

I think anyone who's read this blog for a while knows how I feel about the architecture and design since the end of WWII. Pretty much it stinks.

Consider the Army Chapel. In the 1940s, during WWII the Army built "temporary" chapels made of hand fitted pine, cedar, and poplar. They are are beautiful little buildings, and are, many of them, still in service. And there is the the main post office of San Jose, built in the 1930s. It is beautiful. And consider train stations built in the past: Union Station in Washington D.C., Grand Central Terminal in New York, Penn Station in Newark (home of one of the most gorgeous men's lavatory I've ever seen: all granite, marble, and brass.) It used to be that even factories were works of art. Ghirardilli Square was a chocolate factory before it was turned into condominiums and an outdoor mall. Old factories are so beautiful and well made that they are being re-fitted as residential buildings all over America. But new buldings? Will anyone want them in 30 years? I've seen recently bulit train stains, post offices, and factories, I think the answer is probably "no".

Today, according to the a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, we have a 20% chance of slipping into another depression. Which means labor should be cheep enough to build like our fathers built. But will we do it? Will we build for our progeny? I don't think so.

The President's economic relief strategy seems to be focusing on income guarantees such as prolonging unemployment benefits, instead of building beautiful and useful things.

The L.A. times presents a video of some of the beautiful things that were built in the depression. I wish our current leaders had the foresight our fathers had.

The Story Behind the Hymn

I used to have a book that told the stories behind many Protestant Hymns (The story of "It is Well With My Soul" is heart breaking.) The book was given to me by my mother and I loved it very much. Here is the story of an Orthodox hymn.

Many centuries ago, in that part of Asia called Anatolia, a child was sucked up into a tornado. Several minutes later he was set down in a field not far from where he was lifted up. The people of the area ran to him and found him unharmed. They asked what it was like, what he had heard. (Isn't it interesting that they expected him to have heard something?) He said, "I heard angles singing "Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal!" When the people heard the words they fell on they faces and replied "Have mercy on us!" It wasn't long after that the words of the angels and the response of the people were incorporated into the services of the Orthodox Church. The hymn is called the Trisagion, or the Thrice Holy Hymn.

My Favorite Lenten Hymn

Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
Lord, I have called to Thee, hear me! Attend to the voice of my prayer when I call to Thee!
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, a. secure around my lips!
Incline not my heart to words of evil, to invent excuses for my sins.
Let my prayer arise in Thy sight as incense, and let the lifting up of my hands Be an evening sacrifice.

In the Orthodox Church in America the hymn usually sounds like this.

When the Carpatho-Russians pray it it sounds like this:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Prop 8, Great Canon, Illness, Dream Job, and Hail

Anselm Samuel and I went to San Francisco tonight for the chanting of tonight's portion of the Great Canon. A trip that takes 1.5 hours on Sunday morning took 2.5 hours tonight. What caused the delay? The police had cordoned off the area around the Supreme Court building. (FYI: California has a divided Capital. The Governor and the Legisture and most of the Cabinet work in Sacramento. The Supreme Court and the Attorney General work in San Francisco.) Why the police presence? Why three helicopters cirling the area? Why all the closed roads? Because tomorrow the Supreme Court decides whether we are a democracy or an oligarchy. Of course, they can only make that decision if we let them. "...does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" Does it? We will find out soon. I have my pen ready to sign the recall petition of any Justice who votes to overturn Prop. 8. Americans, especially Californians, should not abide tyrants.

In other news, probably of more import, the Great Canon is really amazing. I was out of breath not very long into it (Orthodox readers will know why.) and had trouble hearing all the words from my labored breathing, but I was really moved by the multiple entreaties to our mother among the Saints, Mary of Egypt. I am so tremendously humbled to have someone like her praying for me. I won't be able to make it to Church tomorrow night for the chanting of the fourth part of the Canon, but I am looking forward to the 5th week of Lent when we will chant the entire Canon in one service.

Anselm Samuel and Basil Wenceslas are still sick with coughs. We have taken them both to the doctor several times since November when they first got sick. The prayers for sick people have been said, candles have been offered, and much holy water splashed and consumed. They have taken many pills and syrups. Now they have inhalers. They eat well. They get plenty of exercise. We even have hired a house cleaner to come in and give the place a very thorough cleaning. I can't think of what else we can do to get them well. I am beginning to think that maybe there is a mold or something like that under the carpets. I mention this now because tonight we had to leave the service early when Anselm had a coughing fit and had to lay down from the post-spasm exhaustion.

I think everyone knows I don't really like my job. Really there are only two good things about it: I am learning a lot about stuff I never knew about (For example, this week I learned how to change a pop-up assembly in a bathroom sink.), and I get to spend a lot of time with my kids. But I always feel like I am wasting my education and past professional experience. Also, the job pays very little. Today, Athanasia emailed me a job announcement that just floored me. She called it "The perfect job for Matt" and she was right. It would utilize my advertising experience, my theological education, my sales ability, my bon ami approach to customer service, knowledge of music, choral experience, love of liturgics and academics, and even my Army training. And it is only part time and pays great big gobs of filthy lucre. I can hardly believe it is a real job. I just finished writing my resume and cover letter.

Dear reader, if you are a praying person, and even if you are not, please, intercede with the Lord God that I get this job.

Finally, we had a hail storm today. It was exciting. Anselm Samuel and Basil Wenceslas got a big kick out of it. Anselm said the bouncing ice looked like popcorn popping. It did.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Lenten Schedule

We missed Forgiveness Vespers last night. Two trips to SF from San Jose in one day would mean 6 hours in the car. That's too much for me, so I am sure it is cruel for little boys. But we are going to try to make it to the service tonight for the Great Canon. Tuesday I have a Cub Scout commitment. Wednesday night is the Pre-sanctified Liturgy of St. Gregory. We are planning on attending that. I think I'm going to have to send a letter to the school letting them know Anselm Samuel will be missing much school in the coming 47 days.