Friday, December 17, 2010


Tonight I read this story to Anselm.  He didn't understand it.  Someday, I hope, he shall.

A Christmas Present for a Lady
Myra Kelly

    It was the week before Christmas, and the First Reader Class, in a lower East Side school, had, almost to a man, decided on the gifts to be lavished on "Teacher." She was quite unprepared for any such observance on the part of her small adherents, for her first study of the roll book had shown her that its numerous Jacobs, Isidores, and Rachels belonged to a class to which Christmas Day was much as other days. And so she went serenely on her way, all unconscious of the swift and strict relation between her manner and her chances. She was, for instance, the only person in the room who did not know that her criticism of Isidore Belchatosky's hands and face cost her a tall "three for ten cents" candlestick and a plump box of candy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Christmas Tree

This afternoon, after a mostly unrewarding day trying to talk to car dealers, we drove up into the Santa Cruz Range, and into the cloud cover that has blanketed our valley all day.  We were racing the sun, trying to get up "The Hill" before sunset.  We barely made it, and were very excited.  We drove through fog and rain, through dense forest, on winding single lane roads.  We sang Christmas carolson the way.  I was feeling grouchy, though.  It was difficult for me, even on this happy occasion, to be pleasant.  I could blame lack of sleep, a slight feever, sore lungs, and worry about work, but  none of those were the real problem.  The real problem was "the passions".  Only later, when we got home, and I began to be thankful, and to pray for my family did my grouchiness go away.  I still have a headache, a slight fever, and sore lungs but those don't have to make me a grouch.  Jesus was full of love, as ever he was, when the nails were pushing through his feet and hands.

When we got to the farm there was no one there.  But that was okay. They operate on the honor system.  Near the trees were some saw and a box in which to put money.  Athanasia picked out a white fir, I felled it, and tied it to the roof.  Anselm and Basil asked for a small tree for their bedroom.  We gave our assent and brought home the two trees, together with many scrap boughs with which to deck the halls.  The boys were soaked from running around in the dripping trees.  I was damp from the fog.  Driving down "The Hill" after dark with foggy windows from all the water in our clothes was not exaclty relaxing.

At one point we caught a glimpse of Silicon Valley through two peaks.  It isn't something we see at night very often.  The lights were beautiful.  Basil, at first, didn't believe me when I said that we lived down there.

When we got home we trimmed the tree and decorated it.  Isn't it interesting that I remember where we got every ornament?  The the largest single source was my parents.  I carried them out of their last home when my mother died.  Then there are the ornaments Athanasia and I bought after we were married.  And the ornamnets Athanasia and the boys made.  And finally, a few that were given to us as gifts.

We had mulled cider after the tree was put up.  And Athanasia and the boys worked on some Christmas presents they are making.  Then, I read to them.  Since my wife has, lately, been knitting mittens,  I read "The Mitten Tree".  And I read tonight's portion of "The Advent Story Book".  And at last I read to them a story from "The Animals' Merry Christmas".  They are all asleep in bed now.  I shall join them.  Good night.  Blessed Advent.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Make and Age

Last year I made this fruit cake.  It was an amazing experience.  The alcohol vapors kept exploding, blowing the oven door open and rattling the windows.  I over cooked it but it was super good.  It is adapted from a recipe that was adapted from the Joy of Cooking.


-4 cups all-purpose flour

-2 tablespoons cinnamon
-1 tablespoon nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon ground clove
-1 teaspoon mace
-1 1/2 teaspoon salt
-7 pounds dried fruit (I used 1lb mission figs, 2lbs dates, 1lb raisns, 1lb currants, 1lb appricots, and 1lb cranberries)
-1 pound brown sugar
-1 pound butter plus one half stick
-15 eggs
-1/2 cup red wine
-a 750ml bottle of Evan Williams bourbon

This recipe makes about TWELVE POUNDS OF FRUIT CAKE!!!  I baked it in disposable aluminum loaf pans: a small one that holds about 1 pound, and a large one (almost full bread loaf size) that holds about 2 pounds.  


-Pastry brush or paper towel for buttering pans
Electric mixer
-Loaf pans
-Mixing bowls
-Big paper bag
-Scissors (they are really good for cutting up the fruit quickly)


-Preheat oven to 300F
-Put one cup of flower in the paper bag
-Cut up the fruit, remove pits, and put the fruit in the paper bag
-Close the bag and shake until the fruit is coverd with flower (You'll be sorry later if you skip this step.)
-Put one pound of butter on the stove (use low heat) to melt.
-While butter is slowly melting, sift remaining flower and all the spices into LARGE mixing bowl
-Mix brown sugar into the melted butter
-Mix the flour/spices, eggs, and wine into the LARGE mixing bowl and mix with the electric mixer until completely smooth
- Dump the fruit from the bag into the LARGE mixing bowl annd mix mix mix
- melt the 1/2 stick of butter and use it to grease the loaf pans
- Plan on baking for two hours.  Every 10 to 15 mintues you haveto splash the loaves with bourbon. DO NOT LET THE TOPS OF THE CAKES DRY OUT!!!

When you take them out of the oven pour more bourbon on the cakes.  When they are cool enough to dump out of the pans wrap in plastic foodwrap andaluminu, foil.  Every day for a week add more bourbon.  Not a lot, just enough to keep the loaves very moist butnot soggy. If you run out of bourbon GO BUY MORE!!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Date Which Shall Live in Infamy

If you were wondering why the flags were at half staff today, this is why.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


We were up so late last night that we didn't get the boys up for church today. It would have been waaay too difficult managing them in the service.  So, Athanasia stayed home with the boys and I went to the Divine Liturgy.   I delivered Christmas wreaths to people at church who ordred them.  (Hopefully, tomorrow we'll deliver the last of the wreaths.)

After the Liturgy the parish had a fund-raising lunch for Our Lady of Kazan Skete in Santa Rosa. I was surprised by the amount of money raised.  It was such a huge amount that a couple of women started dancing in the hall.  Much happiness for Mother Susanna and the sisters at the skete.

During the dinner Matushka sat next to me and we talked about many things.  I had heard she makes excellent mincemeat so I asked her for the recipe.  She explained that there isn't enough time between now and Nativity to age the mincemeat so SHE GAVE ME A QUART JAR OF MICEMEAT she made a few months ago!  There is an inch of beef tallow at the top of the jar. I've never had real meat-containing mincemeat before. I can hardly wait to taste it.

After I got home from church we concentrated on cleaning the house in anticipation of Nativity.  Also, Anselm worked on part of his Cub Scout stuff.  He had to plan, shop for, and cook a meal.  He made sushi, shrimp cocktail, fillets of cod, asparagus, and baked french fries.  (Can you tell it's a fish day?) I was very impressed.  He had no help other than his mother keeping him on schedule.

After the table was cleared we chanted the Vigil  for the Feast of St. Nicholas.  It was just a readers service since we aren't priests but it was good.  Anselm Samuel read the Trisagion prayers, Athanasia read the Bible readings, Basil Wenceslas was responsible for all the instances of Glory to..., Both now and ever..., and Lord have mercy.  I read the rest.  Then we played music on our recorders and sang some songs, followed by my reading to them this night's installment of "The Advent Story Book".  Then the boys put their shoes by the front door, spread out their sleeping bags to wait for St. Nicholas, and I put "A Christmas Story" on the computer for them to watch.  They made it to the end of the movie but have been asleep for about 1/2 an hour.

Well, I have to wake up in 5 hours and catch a train.  I better put candy in those shoes and go to bed. Good night.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Advent, work, and other things

We have been so busy.   Yesterday and today we delivered Christmas wreaths Anslem sold for his Cub Scout Pack.  He sold more, by far, than anyone else in the Pack, and that is really great for him and the Pack.  But the downside is having a house full of boxes of Christmas wreaths and delivering them all over the place. Oh, there is also a nice feeling when we drive up and down the streets of our neighborhood and see the wreaths on front doors.

Anselm has been busy with school in addition to Cub Scouts.  He made a diorama and wrote a report about oceanic life.  He did a good job.  It interesting to me how things change.  When I was in the third grade my big report was on WWII in general, and the Battle of Britain in particular.  I'll never forget what the Queen said when asked if her children would be evacuated during the blitz: "The children won't leave without me, I won't leave without the King, and the King will never leave."  Such bravery.  They whipped the Nazis in 6 years.  We haven't defeated the Taliban in 9.  Something is dreadfully wrong.

We drove to SF tonight.  Had to deliver some Christmas wreaths and we got to have dinner with my God daughters' family.  That was much fun.  The kids made ginger bread houses.  They are so cute.  The one Anselm and Basil made even has Hansel, Gretel, and the witch.

I've fallen behind in my Advent reading.  I only just finished Mark.  I need to catch up.  Hmmmm.  I havn't noticed these fasts making me any better or stronger or spiritual, just more aware of the fact that I really need improvement.  I guess that's something.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

 Then Judah, his son, who is called Macabee, arose in his stead...and gladly they fought Israel's war.
~ 1 Macabees 3:1-2

Hayo, haya, melech rasha, melech rasha.
Charbo chada, umlutasha, umlutasha
Mihu? Antiochus, Antiochus.

Let us remember reign of terror, reign of terror
King who murdered pain forever, pain forever
Who then? Antiochus, Antiochus
Antiochus, Antiochus

The blood he spilled, Jerusalem, Jerusalem
So many killed, gone all of them, gone all of them
Who then? Antiochus, Antiochus

Our hearts he broke, he burned the Torah, burned the Torah
Ash and smoke, the crushed menorah, crushed menorah
Who then? Antiochus, Antiochus

Arise our hero, Judah save us, Judah save us
Prize so dear, the vict'ry gave us, freedom gave us
Who then? Macabeus, Macabeus

Oh sing our songs and praise the Torah, praise the Torah
Right the wrongs and light menorah, light menorah
When then? Chanukah, Chanukah

~Traditional Jewish song with new words by Peter Yarrow and Robert DeCormier

Friday, November 26, 2010


I was looking for a copy of the Akathist for the Nativity of Jesus when I cam across this surprising writing by Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev):   

     "All that has been said so far about the theological authority of liturgical texts relates to those found in the daily, weekly and annual cycle of services in the Service Book, the Book of Hours, the Octoechos, the Lenten Triodion, the Pentecostarion and the Menaia. Unfortunately, however, the contents of these books are not always accessible to the average Orthodox believer for several reasons. First of all, the majority of these services are not celebrated in churches that do not have daily services, and even in those that do, they are abbreviated (the Synaxarion, for example, is left out almost everywhere). Secondly, liturgical texts are read and sung in Church Slavonic, which not everyone can understand. Thirdly, many hymns are sung in church only once or a few times during the year, and are difficult to understand when heard, even if one knows Church Slavonic. Fourthly, Orthodox liturgical texts are essentially works of Byzantine liturgical poetry translated into Slavonic many centuries ago, and are therefore quite difficult to understand without a knowledge of the original language or the rules of Byzantine poetics. Even if all liturgical texts were to be translated into Russian they would hardly become immediately understandable to everybody.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Might as well say "Be ye perfect for your Father in Heaven is perfect."

"An Orthodox person is austere in his life, a monk in his household furnishings, in his labor, in his clothing, chaste in his senses and his thoughts. This is because he desires the Lord, loves his neighbor, has an open heart and an open mind to those of all religions and all ideologies though he holds strongly to his own belief. He denies himself. Here someone might hasten to ask, “Are these virtues not found in every Christian, even with every good person?” We answer: in Orthodoxy this spirit predominates. It is the inclination above all other inclination. The love of God dominates over the love of the world. The Orthodox person does not allow a worldly institution or even the law or the system to get a hold over him, to rule over him, to have exclusive power over him. A powerful inclination streams grace into his heart, ignites a fire in his heart." - Metropolitan Ephrem Kyriakos of Tripoli 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The last few days: Illness, advent, Bible

Well, I've been sick for 7 days.  Friday will be the eighth, if the Lord tarries.  The physician has me taking many powerful drugs.  I think I am getting better then I think I am getting worse.  I have been sleeping much.  Worringly, I have missed a week of work.  I am a contractor so I don't get sick days.  This is really going to hurt financially.  Oh well.  Not much can be done about it.  I'm a sales man who can't say 5 words without having a coughing fit.  And oh, my ribs are so sore, and today I was dizzy.  The M.D. said that though I don't have pneumonia, my O2 level is low.  I guess that is why I am so tired.

I've tried to do Advent stuff with my boys but have been to sick.  We didn't even have the traditional crab dinner to mark the coincidence of the opening of the Northern California Crab Season with the first day of Advent.  However, we did get the boys' letters to St. Nicholas into the mail, and we've been talking about where to give our alms.

On the sixteenth, St. Matthew's Day, my wife gave me an Icon of St. Matthew and a CD of sermons on child rearing by Bishop Irenaius of Ekateringburg & Sibirsk.  I'll load the sermons onto the iPod and listen to them on the train to and from work next week. (See, I have faith I will be healed.)

I've been enjoying the Advent Challenge, but I get so excited I keep reading ahead.  Usually, I read the Bible according to lectionary (I didn't know our lectionary dates from the 400s, and perhaps, if St. Gregory is to be believed, the 100s, reaching its present form in the 600s, did you? Pretty neat!) and then read the homilies for the passages as given in The Bible and Holy Fathers for Orthodox.  I had almost forgotten how pleasureable it is to just sit down and read page after page after page of the Gospel.

There is another pleasure associated with this reading I'm doing.  I am reading from my mother's last Bible.  She had only owned it a few few years, but it was already filling up with her hand written notes when she fell asleep.  I came across this one when I was reading about Jesus rescuing the Gergessene demoniacs: "When Satan reminds us of our past, we should remind him of his future."  It is a beautiful thing to hear my mothers voice again.

I'm going to have to thank the priest who challenged me to rad the whole NT during Advent.  It is really wonderful.  Even though I am sick as a dog this is really turning out to be a good Advent.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Something I'm Trying This Advent. I'm on the 40 Day Schedule.

Feast of St. Matthew

‎"With zeal, you followed Christ the Master, who in His goodness, appeared on earth to mankind. Summoning you from the custom house, He revealed you as a chosen apostle: the proclaimer of the the Gospel to the whole world! Therefore, divinely eloquent Matthew, we honor your precious memory! Entreat merciful God that He may grant our souls remission of transgressions."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Special Forces Sergeant

On this Veterans Day the boys and I stopped in at the bagle store to get breakfast.  I don't know why he was there - there are no Army forts near where we live, and the Special Forces are deployed around the world right now - but a Staff Seargeat of the Special Forces was getting a bagle too.  I was trying to tell the boys about the Special Forces but couldn't remember everything I used to know.
I called to him, "Sergeant, could you come here for a moment?"
"Yes, sir?"
"I was just trying to explain to my sons about how men like you specialize in one of four areas but I could only remember medicine and communications."
"Oh they are medics, commo, engineering (That's my specialty.) and weapons, plus the officers.  They have to know all of it."
"And you train and lead indigenous forces where we are fighting, right?"
"Oh, yeah. That's our bread and butter.  We help oppressed people fight for their own freedom."
Then he said to my sons, "I guess in about 18 or 20 years you'll be joining me out there."
Anselm and Basil were stunned by the idea.  I said, "I hope in 20 years you are retired with a fishing pole in your hand!"
The soldier lauged and said, "Yeah, well maybe they'll take my place."  We all laughed at that.  The story of self-mastery and heroism told by decorations and badges on his chest, the scars on his hands and face, made it clear that replacing him will be no easy feat.
"Say thank you to the Sergeant, Boys.  He protects you."
They both said "Thanks."
And the Sergeant said, "You're more than welcome.  I'll never let you down.  Have a good day, Sir."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Cooking and Canning

I am off to the market to buy the ingredients I for the things I am making tomorrow.

I am, if God wills, going to make "Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good" from a recipe I heard I NPR.  I shall also be canning jalapeƱos and pickled cauliflour.  I als have a whole lot of beets.  But I'm not going to can them. Instead I'll make them into a warm beet and feta salad.  Also, I plan on making the mustard (see below) I've been talking about. Have to go buy the ingredients for that, too.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday Soundtrack: Kiki Dee

Though I like some of the songs he has written, I've never been a big Elton John fan.  But I've been a Kiki Dee fan ever since I heard her sing with John.  In this video David Cassidy says the record came out in 1976 but other sources say 1974.  I don't know.  I just know I've always loved this song, which was recently brought into contact with a whole new audience via the teevee show Glee:


But as excellent as that song is, she recorded others.  I've Got the Music in Me, my all time fave KiKi Dee song, was recorded by The Kiki Dee Band in 1974. It was written by the keyboard player.

Snakes of the Dormition

Some time ago I posted a video of the miracle of the Dormition Snakes on the island of Keffalonia.  A reader asked if the snakes made their appearance according to the New Calendar or the Old Calendar.  I didn't know the answer then but I do now.  According to the author of the Mystagogy blog, the snakes switched to the New Calendar along with the Church of Greece. 
"The first significant moment took place in 1924. Whereas previously all Orthodox Christians followed the Julian Calendar, a synod was held in Constantinople to update the calendar to the more accurate Revised Julian Calendar. This caused tremendous confusion and protests amongst the pious faithful throughout Greece, many of whom considered this a disguised ecumenical innovation rather than a mere scientific progression. The residents of Kefallonia were not exempt from this confusion. Because they could not make up their minds, they decided to leave the issue to the guidance of the All-Holy Virgin through her tiny Snakes. Since the snakes come out yearly during the specific days of August 6th to the 15th then disappear, they wanted to see if the snakes this particular year would come out during the normal Old Calendar reckoning or according to the New Calendar, a thirteen day difference. To everyone’s amazement the snakes appeared according to the New Calendar reckoning, confirming in their conscience the will of God. For this reason the entire island follows the New Calendar."  
Read the whole blog entry here.  It is long but worth your time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I never thought Americans would be so quick to give governments so much power as we have.  I never thought we'd have a Department of Homeland Security.  We let them x-ray us at airports, monitor cell phone conversations, put tracking devices on cars, photograph us at all times we are outside our houses, even take pictures of our back yards from space to see if we are growing drugs or evading taxes.  We have secret courts and secret police.  They demand from private companies the ability to spy on people who use their products. 

Benjamin Franklin didn't think trading liberty for security was a very good trade. I think he was right. Liberty demands resistance.  And the 1st Amendment, at least for now, lets you buy encryption protection.  I think all freedom loving people should investigate Cryptohippie.  Whether or not you need it, and honestly, I don't think most people do, just having it is a major act of non-submission.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Yesterday we continued on with our tradtion filled lives.  Each of the last four years we've gone to Farmer Bob's on the San Mateo County coast to buy pumpkins.   We went again after Divine Liturgy yesterday. (Priest was sick so it was a reader service.)  It was raining, a huge storm having rolled in off the north Pacific, but we still had fun.  On the way there and back we read The Best Halloween Ever by the same woman who wrote the Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a story I've loved for years.

I was so happy to find a book that both Anselm Samuel (8) and Basil Wenceslas (5) would enjoy.  It has been difficult recently because Basil still likes picture books but Anselm likes Harry Potter and the Benedict Society, books for which which Basil has no patience.  I'll have to look around for more books like this.  Anyway, we haven't carved the pumpkins yet.  We'll do that on the morning of Hallowe'en, I think.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A long walk

The boys and I got up this morning and went for a walk.  Our first destination was the bagel shop.  I had a sesame seed bagel with plain cream cheese and a large coffee.  Anselm had a garlic with plain cream cheese and an Odwalla banana strawberry smoothie.  Basil had a plain bagel with plain cream cheese and a chocolate milk.

Next on our agenda was the Farmers Market.  The boys each bought baloons.  It is so neat, the amountof fun they get from baloons.  I bought a beautiful cauliflour and a tub of garlic chive houmous.  From there we walked to the library where we got some fun books for Hallowe'en.  The one I can't wait to read to the boys is The Best Hallowe'en ever. It's by the same woman who wrote The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  I also got some CDs of Christmas music for a project I am working on.

After that we walked to the 5 & 10 and bought latex gloves for the pickle peppering project, which I am about to begin any moment.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mustard and Peppers

I'm pickling peppers tomorrow.  Athanasia brough home some jars and 2 gallons of vinegar.  It should be fun.  And this time, I'll make sure to wear gloves.  When I did this last year the burning sensation didn't go away for several days.

My goddaughters' father (I don't know how to spell it it, but the relational word in Russian is kum.  He is my kum.  His wife is my kuma.  I am told that the relationship is considered closer than first cousin but more distant than sibling.  The practicality of it is that my sons are not allowed to marry their daughters in the Orthodox Church) gave me this very interesting Roman mustard recipie.  I can't wait to taste it.

The Romans are the first to be credited with making mustard in the way we know it today. Earlier civilizations, notably China and Egypt, used mustard seeds whole as spices.
This recipe is adapted from Apicius, and it is about 2,000 years old.
The result is a heady mustard — I used black mustard seeds, which are stronger than normal American mustard — balanced by the richness of the nuts. It’s almost like a peanut butter-mustard mix, with a little vinegar tossed in. It is excellent with roasted or cold meats.
Makes about 2 cups
  • 1 cup black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, chopped
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2-3 teaspoons salt

  1. Grind the whole mustard seeds for a few seconds in a spice or coffee grinder, or by hand with a mortar and pestle. You want them mostly whole. Add the chopped nuts and grind into a paste.
  2. Move everything to a bowl and add the salt and cold water. Mix well and let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Pour in the vinegar and stir well. When the vinegar is incorporated, pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge. Wait at least 24 hours before using. Mustard made this way will last several months in the fridge.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Love Autumn

Tonight, for desert I had steamed pumpkin with maple syrup (Grade B. Its better than Grade A, strangely).   There is a little chill in the air but it's not too cold.  I think I'll go for a walk before I go to bed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What Has Been the Impact of the Ancient Greeks on Modern People

 It might seem so basic to modern people as to be hardly worth noting, but all of science, philosophy, economics, and politics hinges on one thing written by Aristotle in his book Metaphysics – and this is in spite of Aristotle being wrong in so many of his statements about the physical world and even being held up as an enemy of reason during the Renaissance.  In essence, he said, a thing is none other than itself. Or, as moderns like to say it, A = A.  The corollary to this is that A≠ non-A.  Without this idea there would be no computers, for how could we be certain that 0 is always 0?  Imagine the chaos in the computer industry if 0 ≠1 was not absolutely and always true!  Or what if malaria was hypothermia?  How could physicians treat either of those conditions? Or what if a bridge was both strong enough and not strong enough? It is this fundamental law of knowledge that not only tells us mercury must be present in unrefined cinnabar if refined cinnabar yields mercury, but it tells us that good ≠ evil, that truth ≠ falsehood, and that freedom ≠ slavery, and that regardless of what some Hindus, modern pagans, and free thinkers wish, all is not one.

A man who lived quite a bit earlier than Aristotle, who also to this day influences the whole world was Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570-c. 495 BC).  His influence on Euclid (c. 300 B.C.) was profound, as he invented the abstract mathematical thinking upon which geometry depends, and, in the discovery of what is now called the Pythagorean theorem, laid the foundation for modern mathematics.  The skyscrapers and space voyages of the 20th and 21st centuries would, simply, not happen without the ability to think of numbers apart from matter, such as coins, or land, or jars of wine.  But Pythagoras' contributions to the world are not only mathematical, though they all grow out of mathematics. 

When Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (A.D. 1646 – 1716) wrote, “When God calculates and thinks things through, the world is made” he was expressing a Pythagorean idea. When a mathematician won the Templeton Prize in 2008 for offering inductive evidence for the existence of God based on math, he really won the prize for advancing once facet of Pythagorean thought: That the Divine mind is expressed in numbers, which is really nothing besides the idea that if God if is real God must be rational, and if the world is rational it is because God is rational. 

But, probably, the idea Pythagoras had that has given people the most pleasure is that of music being rational and mathematical, that the most beautiful musical notes and harmonies are those defined by simple ratios, such as 1:2 and 3:4.  Without that idea Bach's St. Matthews Passion would not be, could not be.  For Bach worked out the mathematics of the music before an orchestra ever played it. The same is true of Pacabel's Canon in D, and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah which walks the listener through the mathematical structure of a common chord progression as he sings "it goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift".  Even the comedic Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain demonstrates the mathematical basis of beautiful music in its round of Bart Howard's Fly Me To The Moon, Pacabel's Canon in D, Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, and the Eagle's Hotel California.  In short, there is no modern man without the ancient Greeks.  

Friday, October 15, 2010


I have a new job.  I sell leads to car dealers.  Really, it is a species of advertising, so it isn't very different than what I did between 1997 and 2005.  Two days a week I take a train to Oakland.  The rest of the time I work at home.  It is emotionally draining - like a cross between playing a part on stage and rushing Turks at Galipoli -  but it is nice to be back in the trenches.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


UPDATE (10/26/10):  Since I wrote this post they've lowered rents to $1,500.  That is well below what I was charging and they have not filled their vacancies, which are more numerous than when I was managing the place.  It is killing me.  I want to call up the new manager and offer to help her but I don't think she'd appreciate it.


When I was fired from my last position as an apartment manager I had one vacancy and rents were set at $1,600.  Given market conditions, I thought $1,500 to $1,550  was more realistic but I didn't have power to set the rents.  Anyway, as soon as I was gone rents were raised to $1,700, and new appliances and carpet were put in the unit.   It has been a few weeks since my departure and now they have three empty units. Last week they lowered their rent to $1,650.  Now they've lowered the rents down to $1,600.

I'm sure my former boss thought I was not doing a good job leasing the apartment in a timely manner.  And, honestly, even though the rent was too high, after it had been vacant a couple of weeks, I was beginning to think maybe it was my fault.  But that doesn't seem to have been the case.  Now, even though they've put new appliances and carpets in the vacant units they haven't been able to rent them.  I am not experiencing any happiness on account of them losing money.  (I hate to see capital lying fallow.) And I feel sorry for the new manager.  I'm sure she thought she was stepping into an easy job and is surprised to find three vacancies on her hands and the boss breathing down her neck. (He is a yeller.). However, I am feeling some relief that my firing seems to have been unwarranted.

In other news, I just talked to my new boss. (You might have heard of him.  His name is Jeff and used to blog with me about 6 ot 7 years ago.)  He is looking forward to me starting next Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Vigils and Liturgies

The house blessing was today.  Fr. Basil had the boys carry crosses through the house during the procession.  Afterward we had pumpkin and pecan pie, made by Athanasia last night, and had a nice talk with Fr. Basil.

One of the things that came up was the possibility of changing the time of the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus.  It seems that there are some people who want to have the Divine Liturgy start right after the Vigil instead of starting after Sunrise, so that like at Pascha the Divine Liturgy would take place just after midnight.  I learned a couple of things during the conversation:

1. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem starts the Divine Liturgy right after the Vigil.
2. Holy Trinity Cathadral (my bishop's cathedral) didn't permanantly change the time to just after the Vigil.  Last year was just an trial balloon to see how it would go.
3. As expected, the people who oppose changing the time are those with children.  Kids hate midnight services.

I have no idea what my parish is going to do this year, but my family will do our best to be at all the services no matter the time.  I do wonder about the Patriarchate of Jerusalem's practice; did it develop before or after the Crusades?  Knowing that would go a long way toward settling my mind on the subject.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Beat Goes On

Things have been pretty busy around here and life has been full of changes.  Among the changes are Anselm Samuel being enrolled in Willow Glen Elementary School.  He is in the 3rd grade.  I am worried.  That is the grade I was in when I started to get into trouble.  His diagnostic tests show he is where he needs to be in reading and a year ahead of where he needs to be for math.  I am a little worried about him being ahead in math.  I don't want him to spend a year reviewing stuff he already knows.  I think I will have him do the ACE books I bought him instead of the math homework his school assigns.

So, why did we put Anselm Samuel in a public school?  Because I have to get a new job and that means no homeschooling.  And I have already been offered a job.  I start in a week and one day.  I'll be working for BarNone, a marketing company that puts car dealers who finance sub-prime borrowers in contact with people who want to buy cars but are having trouble getting financing.

Athanasia and I are both taking the semester off from grad school, which is kind of funny since we both made the Dean's List and have been invited to join The Golden Key based on our work of the previous year.  Dean's List is nice, but we don't see a reason for joing The Golden Key.  It looks kind of like paying someone to pat your head and say "good job".  Actually, I'm going to delay restarting the history M.A. program and work on getting a California 5-12 teachers license first.  I'm trying to start work in that program in November if I can get all the papers filed in time.  Then, after I get the 5-12 teacheing license, I'll go back and finish the ancient history degree.  At least, that is the plan.

Today was the first day of the Parish Festival.  It was much fun.  Pickled herring on rye was the best part of the vodka tasting.  I thought maybe if I tasted several "quality" vodkas I'd be able to develop an appreciation for the stuff.  I tried.  Honest.  But, well, unless I've already been drinking for a while, I just don't like the taste of vodka.  You know when vodka is good?  I'll tell you.  Vodka is good when you've just spent an hour or two drinking several bottles of chmpagne and eating several jars of caviar with your wife and your God-daughters' parents.  Once everyone has had their own bottle of champagne, and maybe a little more, then I like vodka.  That's just the way I roll.

I'm thinking about buying one of these beautiful leather slings for my shotgun.  My gun doesn't have hardware for the typical sling, and I am reluctant to pay a gunsmith to put the hardware on the gun.
I've never used a sling like this, called a "slip-sling", and am wondering how easily it might unwantedly slip off either end of the gun while in use. The company that makes them has a great name: The Cowboy and Shooters Supply.  Given what I know about The Cowboy Way, I suspect they have a fair return policy, and if the sling doesn't work I'll be able to give it back to them for a refund.

Well, it is late. Must  go to bed as Divine Liturgy starts in just 10 hours.

Friday, October 01, 2010

What comes next

As far as I can tell, everyone dies the same way.  Rich, poor, old, peaceful, violent, young, weak, female, powerful, male, alone or surrounded by friends, death is all the same. Regardless of supposed differences, one moment we are here, the next moment we are there. The only important way one death is different from another has to do with who greets us on the other side.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

First meal in new place

Last night we cooked for the first time in our new place.  On the walk home from picking Basil Wenceslas up after kindergarten we stopped at a locally famous Italian deli and bought some of their sausages.  Once home they were cooked in a pan, sliced into bite sized pieces, and added to a tomato sauce.  It was served over a plate vermiglioni.  Very yummy.

This same deli does amazing business on Christmas morning.  The line of people waiting to pick up ravioli is out the door and down the block.  It must be fun to have a ravioli breakfast Christmas tradition.  I guess that is one advantage to going to Communion just after midnight instead of later in the morning.  But it doesn't outweigh the disadvantage of trying to be in church at midnight with small children.  Given that reality, I think I can live without ravioli on Christmas morning.

In other Christmas related news, Anselm Samuel's Cub Scout Pack has begun its annual Christmas wreath fundraiser.  I know, its hard to believe they are selling wreaths in September, but the orders have to be in by the end of October for the wreaths to be made and delivered in the first week of December. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moved but not yet unpacked

Our move was accomplished.  Most of our stuff has been unpacked.  In the unpacking I found my Mother's recipe for chile verde.

2 or more cups boiling water
1 lb. round steak cubed
1 Tbl spon flour
2 Tbl  oil
1 sm. onion chopped
6-8 green chiles chopped
1 clove carlic chopped
1 t spoon salt
1/8 t spoon pepper
1 small can tomatoes

Sprinkle steak with flouer and brown steak and onions in oil.
Add chiles, garlic & water & seasonings (salt & pepper).
After simmering 1 hr. add tomatoes & more water, if needed.
Serve over steamed rice.
(You may want to double this.)"

The only time I cooked this - at a competition 10 or 11 years ago - I did double the recipe, except for the chiles.  I don't remember what kind of chiles my mother used.  I used jalapeƱos but thought they might be too hot for some of the people judging the competition.  Also,  I added 1/2 pound of quartered tomatillos when I added the chiles.   Instead of rice, I served with flour tortillas.

Now, I just wish I could find my Mother's recipes for pinapple fritters and twice-cooked ginger pork.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Congratulations to all Christians on this Bright and Glorious Day!

From the Website of the Orthodox Church in America

The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Changes

On Friday last my boss came by so we could talk about replacing the dryers (They have had a lot of repairs, recently.) and so I could show him the fence I think needs to be replaced.  As we were walking back to his car he said, "Matt, we're going to be making some changes here.  This is your termination letter." I was totally surprised.  When an apartment manager loses a job he also loses a place to live.  We have been packing and apartment hunting since Friday afternoon. 

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Lately, Athanasia and I have suffered disagreement over the homeschooling of our son Anselm Samuel.  She is someone who likes structured programs.  So she signed our son up for a California at-home charter school called K12.  It is an amazing program.  A computer, a scanner, a printer, and dozens of books arrived in the mail.  There are lesson plans, and websites, and a teacher who stays in touch.  It is exactly the kind of program my wife loves.

I am someone who does not like structured programs.  I especially dislike a teacher who stays in touch. I always think I am right.  I don't like being told what I have to teach my children because I already know what I want them to know.  I have signed Anselm Samuel up for a program of workbook-based courses in math, English, social studies, and science from a company called ACE.  My mother used ACE for my high school education.  My plan was to use ACE workbooks, but really only insist he do the math and English, and augment that with art, science, and dance classes offered through various organizations in the city, Church, and the Cub Scouts.  This plan is very worrisome to my wife.  She thinks our son won't learn anything. She has no confidence in the ACE work books.  She is very very upset about it.

I am very much not worried about our son's education.  He's bright and curious and will, I think, learn the things he wants to know.  Really, I don't even believe in what people call elementary education, except for reading and writing.   But my wife sees his education as something existential. Her entire life is oriented to her children.  It is why she is so up-set with my semi-laissez-faire attitude. 

I am beginning to think this is because she is a mother.  My own mother was like this.  I was a year ahead in my schooling but my mother would get very upset if she saw me doing something other than school work during the day.  I remember one time she saw me reading a non-school related book and she yelled at me, shaking a wooden spoon at me, "You are not going to be 25 years old and still in high school!"  I graduated from high school 2 months after turning 17.

What I am certain of is Athanasia and I can not both be responsible for homeschooling. I am also certain that my wife will not leave me alone and let me do it the way I want to do it.  So, I am looking for a different job, one that pays as much as my wife earns at Stanford.  This will let her quit Stanford in order to manage the apartments and also be "The careful Mother Inftructing her children."

Looking for a new job won't be easy.  All I've done for the past few years is manage apartments.  I don't even have the clothes needed to get back into advertising.  And I think I am probably too old for it now.  Everyone in advertising is under 35.    I am not looking forward to this job search but I am looking forward to an absence of conflict.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Happy Feast Day!

Homily on the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God

by Saint Andrew, Archbishop of Crete

The present feastday is for us the beginning of feastdays. Serving as a boundary limit to the law and to foretypes, it at the same time serves as a doorway to grace and truth. "For Christ is the end of the law" (Rom 10:4), Who, having freed us from the writing, doth raise us to spirit. Here is the end (to the law): in that the Lawgiver, having made everything, hath changed the writing in spirit and doth head everything within Himself (Eph 1:10), hath taken the law under its dominion, and the law is become subjected to grace, such that the properties of the law not suffer reciprocal commingling, but only suchlike, that the servile and subservient (in the law) by Divine power be transmuted into the light and free (in grace), "so that we," sayeth the Apostle, "be not enslaved to the elements of the world" (Gal 4:3) and be not in a condition under the slaveish yoke of the writing of the law. Here is the summit of Christ's beneficence towards us! Here are the mysteries of revelation! Here is the theosis [divinisation] assumed upon humankind -- the fruition worked out by the God-man.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Down by the Riverside

About 12 or 13 years ago I saw three homeless guys at the Montgomery BART station singing this song.  They didn't have a tenor so I stepped up and sang those high notes.  Here is a version I just recently heard.  It becomes a rap and expands on the theme, ending with an excellent statement of the Theology of Baptism.  And this guy can rap almost as fast as the Bob Parent, the choir director at Holy Trinity Cathedral can chant the Trisagion Prayers.

This Is Why I Listen to Diana Krall

"Popular music has never been so unpopular. The top three songs in America right now are (3) Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," (2) Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," and (1) Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie." Have you heard any of them? If you haven't, it's not because you live in a cave. It's because allegedly popular music now plays in caves sealed off from the rest of us. Pop music caters to a niche market of especially superficial suburban teens, urban denizens, and club-goers stuck in extended adolescence. Everybody else is pretty much left out, which explains the market void."
Read the whole thing here.  Or, just listen to Diana Krall.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Beautiful Letter

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .

Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the first Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861.  

Icon on a Magazine Cover

Dear Tikkun,

I am an an Orthodox Christian.  I, somtimes, pray standing before an Icon of Ss. Perpetua and Felicitas.  I love them, together with the other Holy Martyrs who suffered together with them, Ss. Revocatus, Saturus, and Saturninus .  And when I first saw them on the cover of your magazine my first instinct was to Cross myself and kiss the cover.  Then I read the words printed on the cover.  I am sad you dessecrated their Holy Icon by using it to promote the evil of homosexual behavior.  It is hard for me to believe you would slander these two women like you did. Both Saints Perpetua and Felicitas were married women, the former a mother, the latter was 8 months pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth two days before whe was killed in the amphitheater.  The Icon you desecrated was not, as you implied by the words you printed on the cover, a depiction of a homosexual embrace.  Rather it shows that last act of the women, a liturgical act all Orthodox Christians are familiar with, the Kiss of Peace.  Yet, now, all who are uneducated who see the cover of your magazine will think these two were homosexuals.  Did they not sufer enough from the torturers and the wild animals that were set on them before their execution?  How dastardly of you.  But I am not writing to you to express outrage.  Instead, I am extending an invitation.  God forgives slanderers.  He even forgives those who cause others to fall by saying what is wrong is right. If you repent God will have mercy on you.


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Oh Holy Images

My youngest son made a Cross out of baloons.  He brought it to me for veneration.  I kissed it.  He said,"Now it's a Cross but when I take it apart it's just baloons!"  Hmmmm. I don't think he's been reading St. John Damascene.   

Friday, September 03, 2010

The President's Favorite Philosopher

Do you remember when Geo. W. Bush was asked who his favorite philosopher was and he answered, "Jesus Christ"? I thought that was a pretty dumb answer.  Jesus is the the only true object of philosophy.  He is the Logos, the Giest, the All-Soul, the One, the Prime Mover the philosophers only had a vague idea about.  He is the one who holds all power and authority in Heaven and on earth.  He is an imperious King who accepts no rivals, who is busy battering down even the gates of Hell in order to expand his dominion.  He does not share space with Plato, Aquinas, Hume, or Kant.  He is the only wisdom the wise pursue.  In short, Jesus is the -sophy one must philo-.  So, it was pure dumbth that Bush said Jesus was his favorite philosopher.  Sure, there was a political reason he said it, and it paid off.  Nevertheless it was wrong.

I much preferred what Obama said about his favorite philosopher.  In the New York Times he said,"Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr? I love him. He's one of my favorite philosophers".  Aside from the fact that this is the kind of thing you'd expect an undergrad liberal arts major to say, we can learn quite a bit about the President from Niebuhr.   Probably the most important thing is that symbol - not the Greek understanding of symbol, e.g. two to or more things being merged so that experiencing one is the same as experiencing all - is more important than reality.  For instance, Niebuhr denied the physical resurrection of Jesus, writing in 1938,"I have not the slightest interest in the empty tomb or physical resurrection." Yet claimed it as a an important symbol for people's moral action to make the world a better place.  The Resurrection of Jesus isn't for the salvation of individual men.  Rather, it is a symbol that gives people enough hope - and all he means by symbol in this context is mythical ideas that motivate people -  to take public action.

But what about evil?  What about the sin that corrupts every heart?  If Jesus does not heal us what is to be done?  How can I live if Jesus did not trample down death?  What hope do I have if, as Niebuhr says, "Evil is not to be traced back to the individual but to the collective behavior of humanity."    The "world" is certainly loved by God, but I and you are the individual "whosoever" in needs Jesus.  For someone who denies the resurrection of Jesus, as Niebuhr did, who claims there is no such thing as immortal individuals this idea that salvation is really political action on the part of groups of people is probably the best answer possible.  

But the Church teaches that we are immortal individuals.  We are, each one of us, made in the image and likeness of God, and that we do, each one of us, live for ever.  Job said that though he die he, not some collective intellect, not a group of people making political actions, but Job himself would see his redeemer.

But Niebuhr, lake the serpent in the Garden, was partly right. There is a collective element to evil.  We see this in the Icon of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)  The children ("and a little child shall lead them") in the icon are all distinct persons.  But the adults, the same people who later in the week would cry out, "crucify him" are merged into one mass.  Their hearts were not pure, even as they shouted "Hosanna", thus they are depicted as merely parts of a group.  The sinful can not relate to Jesus as individuals, only as a mob.   

Sin is like that.  It is all the same.  It is truly infinitely less than the variety God offers because it shuns His infinitude in favor or repetitive sin.  Sin is repetitive and boring and constraining.  Consider the man who can only see women as potential sex partners.  How many amazing people has he ignored because they were too old, or too young, or too skinny, or too fat.  Even those women he notices he regards very narrowly, the most important thing about them is that he can have sex with them.  Compared to that fact, all other aspects of their persons, no mater how wonderful, pale in the mind of the man who regards their sex as their most important feature.  How boring!  How repetitive!  How horrible!  This man has closed himself off from the revelation of Himself God has built into every individual human being. Individuals matter not to him.  They didn't matter to Niebuhr.  But when Orthodox Christians approach the chalice for Holy Communion we are called by our names: "The servant of God Matthew receives...."  Truly, we approach God as part of a community, but it is a community composed of individuals.

Niebuhr embraces the denial of individuals.  His belief in some sort of non-personal collective salvation went hand in hand with his recognition that coercive force has to be employed to fight evil within large groups of people.  That "social justice" requires the strong hand of government is not a problem because the individuals being coerced are not as important as the group.  Because individuals don't last, are not immortal, it is okay to force them to do whatever is necessary for the good of the group, which does last.  Or, as Rudyard Kippling wrote in his famous poem, plenty for all is achieved "by robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul".  In this we can see why Niebuhr would be Obama's favorite philosopher.  


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Why do they have problem with our national colors?

Do you remember the 1988 Democratic convention?  I do.  But the only part I remember, other than the fact that they let certain high ranking officials called "super delegates" vote, and that really mean speech by Anne Richards, is that when they built the podium they didn't make it red white an blue.  Instead, they chose muted shades of our national colors: Salmon, eggshell, and azure.

Now President Obama has changed the colors of the Presidential Seal on the oval office rug.  Though most presidents who've had the Seal on their rugs (Johnson was the first to put the Seal on the rug)  kept the colors the same as they always have been, Reagan was the first to change it.  In keeping with his vision of American greatness, and, perhaps related to the "Morning in America" theme he merged the seal with a blazing sun.  Pres. G.H.W. Bush went back to the traditional colors for the seal. Pres. Clinton kept the original colors. Pres. Geo.W. Bush kept the traditional seal but had rays of gold emanating from the seal, perhaps in remembering Pres. Reagan's rug.  But now, as is his right - it is his Seal, at least,  for a couple of more years -  President Obama has changed it to something the 1988 San Francisco Democrats would have loved.  New York Magazine calls it "a less optimistic rug".  I think they are right about that.  A lack of optimism might be part of the explanation, but I think there is more to it than that.  I think they dislike red white and blue, and other symbols of America because they dislike America. Our flag of red white and blue is the flag of the land where they live, but, I don't think, many of them would claim it is "the emblem of the land I love."

I really like my son Basil's Kindergarten teacher.  Each few days she teaches them a new song.  Basil comes home and says: "Daddy listen to my song my teacher taught me."  The songs so far have been "This Land is Your Land", "God Bless America", "Yankee Doodle", "My Country, 'tis of Thee", and "Your a Grand Old Flag".  Each time I've joined in the song with him and each time he was amazed that I already knew the words.  Yesterday, when he came home singing "Your a Grand Old Flag" I said, "Hey, I have something I want you to see".  And I played this video for him.  I wish president Obama and his followers would learn from it why the colors are red, white, and blue instead of salmon, eggshell, and azure.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I found this on the web site of St. Luke the Evangelist Orthodox Church.

The Ten Commandments of Congregational Singing

  1. You shall sing!
  2. You shall sing with your heart, with all your soul and with all your might!
  3. You shall sing fearlessly, ignoring the possible wondering glances of your neighbors. They would like to sing with you if they had the nerve, and they will sing with you if you continue!
  4. You shall sing joyfully, as it is written by the prophet Isaiah; "Sing, O heaven, be joyful, O earth and break forth into singing, O mountains!"
  5. You shall sing reverently, for music is prayer!
  6. You shall not be afraid to sing, for although an individual may pray in prose or even in wordless silence, a congregation must sing!
  7. You shall not resist new melodies, for it is written in the book of Psalms:" O sing unto the Lord a new song!"
  8. You shall not mumble the melody, but shall sing it out loud, even if with occasional mistakes.
  9. You shall not hesitate to sing together with the trained chanters. They want you to join them!
  10. You shall not forget the words of the Psalmist: I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live!

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's eleven a.m. and I'm stopping to have some breakfast. Nothing too fancy, just a cup of coffee and a can of tuna, but it tastes good and is filling.  So far, this morning I tried to repair a door lock and after failing for 20 minutes, decided to install a new one.  I picked up the grounds.  I showed the painter what needs to be done in a vacant unit.  Later, I'll change a toilet seat in one of the occupied units.  I don't know how people break toilet seats.  I'm 41 years old and have never broken one.  I didn't even know it was possible until I took this job.    

In other news, we are trying to buy an income generating property in Vallejo.  It is slow going.  There are several 3 & 4 unit buildings that fall within our price range.  It's pretty amazing; the price difference between Vallejo and Santa Clara County.  Here we can't afford anything.  There we are looking at big profitable buildings.  And it is only on the north side of the bay.  Of course, I've already been thinking about where on the properties to plant the grape vines.

I began studying for the CBEST last night.  I don't have a real goal to be a high school teacher, but I think I'd like to have the credential just so I can fall back on it, if necessary.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My mouth is still asking, "why?"

Just in case someone offers you a Fernt-Branca and gin on the rocks have your "no" ready.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Investment tip

If I had money and wanted to turn it into more money I think I'd buy GE shares. Its trading near its 52-week low, has a PE ratio of 14, and, this is the important part, sells stuff people have to buy even in a depression. Just consider this one tiny little part of their business: Traffic lights. Next time you are stopped at a red light take a moment to count all the light bulbs (probably LEDs now) at that intersection. But what else do they sell? More like what don't they sell. Jet engines, jet engine parts, medical devices, health insurance, money, appliances (large and small), power plants, measuring devices, aluminum smelters, gauges (They probably made the gauges in the dashboard of your car, or at least, own the patents.), and 10 thousand other products and services. And, this might be my favorite part, they pay dividends (currently at 0.48) year after year after year.

I'm still doing well in silver and analog chips and I don't want to sell just to reinvest the money somewhere else, but if I had extra money and a 10 year horizon, GE is where I'd put it.

In other news, I've discovered that buying real estate is like a part-time job. It takes a lot of time a work. The purchasing experience is not much like buying anything else.

Yes, I am a Republican

I have a lot of very liberal friends. One is even a democrat politician. I live surrounded by Democrats. The people I vote for almost never win. But I wouldn't change parties for anything. When I was fourteen two things happened that made me a Republican. I read The Law and I went to the NAE convention in Orlando, the one were President Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire". In one party I saw weakness and theft and slavery. In the other I saw men, and not very special men, except they were willing to say what was true, who were willing to stand up to evil.

And then there is the economic oppression we all suffer at the hands of the Democrats. I know people who are farmers who can't legally sell the food they grow because Democrats have made laws that prevent it. I mean, if someone wants to raise free range organic meat and slaughter it cleanly and humanely, why should the government be opposed? Because Democrats think its okay to use the government's power to tell people how to live and how to make a living.

I still see it the same way. I mean, the Democrats once nominated a man for President who wouldn't even avenge his own wife's rape and murder. Did they expect someone like that to take seriously his responsibility to so terrify the potential enemies of America they they wouldn't even think of attacking us? And now they have elected a man who bows his head to foreign nobles. What's up with that?!?! A man like that wouldn't even get to pour coffee at Republican County Committee meetings, let alone get to be President. Then there is that whole business about killing babies. Most, but not all Republicans think of it as murder, while most Democrats think of it as a sacrament. Weakness, slavery, and and death or strength, liberty, and life? For me its an easy choice.

I am so looking forward to the elections in November.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Soundtrack: Who is Daddy Claxton?

When I was a kid in Florida I used to play this song on my mom's old martin guitar. The Carter Family used to blast this song into the U.S. from across the Mexican border back before the big radio networks would play country music. I've heard that early version of the song, and it seems just a little bit too tame for a song about a steam locomotive burning up the tracks on a cross-country drive to deilver the body of Daddy Claxton to Dixie. I think this version reveals the true nature of that thrain: Wild, too fast, almost ready to jump the tracks. And who was Daddy Claxton? Maybe Roy Acuff knows, since he was the first to ad thatverse to the song, the earlist recordings of the song by the Carter Family do not know Daddy Claxton. Nevertheless, "may his name forever stand."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"We have concluded that when the principle of phyletism (i.e. ecclesiastical nationalism) is juxtaposed with the teaching of the Gospel and the constant practice of the Church, it is not only foreign to it, but also completely opposed, to it. We decree the following in the Holy Spirit: 1. We reject and condemn racial division, that is, racial differences, national quarrels and disagreements in the Church of Christ, as being contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed fathers, on which the holy Church is established and which adorn human society and lead it to Divine piety. 2. In accordance with the holy canons, we proclaim that those who accept such division according to races and who dare to base on it hitherto unheard-of racial assemblies are foreign to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are real schismatics." The Pan-Orthodox Synod of Constantinople, 1872

There is a parish of the Orthodox Church in America in the little town of Saratoga. English is the liturgical language with some parts repeated in Slavonic and/or Greek. It has been there since since 1951 but still meets in a remodeled house on land it owns. It offers many services per week but on Sundays and some major feasts it violates The 80% Rule. The parish needs a larger temple. It struggles financially.

There is also in Saratoga a more recently established parish of the Serbian Orthodox Church. It was established in 1961 but has few services per week. It has plans for a beautiful temple and meets in a temporary building on land it owns. I might be wrong about this, but it does not seem to be any closer to building the new temple than it was 10 years ago.

Suggestion: Merge these two parishes, build much larger building designed by this firm, sing the services in English with Serbian, Slavonic, and Greek. Sell the smaller property, and incorporate two 3-bedroom apartments in the design of the church for clergy and their families. The parish name could be "Orthodox Christian Church of Ss. Michael and Nicholas". They could have two altar feasts each year. And there is recent precedent out of England for a parish having two bishops, which would have to be the case until the Great and Holy Council unifies the jurisdictions in America.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks

The ancient Greeks were able to achieve remarkable things, no doubt. Philosophy, science, viniculture, art, politics, and architecture were advanced greatly by the Greeks. How? How were they able to do this when people in other civilizations were just struggling to get ahead? Well, the Greeks didn't spend a lot of time accumulating personal wealth. They were satisfied with a roof, one garment, and a diet consisting of wine, olives, a little grain and, and once in a very great while, meat and some cheese. Even the furnishings of their houses were plain. Sparta went so far as to mandate rough-hewed ceilings and door posts in order to make fancy furniture look out of place.

If I lived as simply as an ancient Greek, or as simply as an early Christian, or as simply as all Orthodox monks - ummm, except for the obligations of marriage, of course. Or as quite a few of my non-monastic brothers and sisters. What might I achieve then?

Monday, August 09, 2010

He Will Not Let You Fall

"But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age. There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up. He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile his soul. For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. Yet the people saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God's grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones." Wisdom 4:7-15

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Excerpt from the Synodikon

To those who study Hellenic sciences and do not take them as tools of instruction only but follow their futile theories, being so thoroughly convinced of their truth that they shamelessly introduce them and teach them to others, sometimes secretly and sometimes openly, anathema! anathema! anathema!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Soundtrack: All the best songs are about trains

The Orange Blossom Special, City of New Orleans, and Wabash Cannon Ball are just a few of the trains to have inspired great songs. Of all of them, the Orange Blossom Special is my favorite. I think about being on a train leaving New York in the wintertime and arriving in Miami. What a wonderful trip it must have been. Here is the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performing their unique version of the song. I lived in Florida long after the Orange Blossom Special was retired, but the song makes me miss the Sunshine State.