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.