Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vacation in Mendocino County

Home.  We are home from a week in a tent near the mouth of Russian Gulch. The boys had a great time.

Anselm took the opportunity to learn how to use a topographic map and a compass.  He completed the requirements for the Cub Scout Map and Compass Pin.  One of the things I did for him was set up a simple land navigation course.  He had to shoot azimuths and walk from point to point until he found his destination.  It was fun for all of us.  Basil went with him and his mother was waiting at the destination point.

Basil kept a diary each day, thus completing the requirements for the Cub Scout Reading and Writing Belt Loop.  He hates writing, so this activity was not much fun for anyone.

We did a in addition to the usual things we do up there, this year we did a couple of different things.  Because it was rainy one day we went to see a movie in Fort Bragg, about 6 miles up the coast from where we were camped.  We also ate at the North Coast Brewing Company Tap Room and Grill.  They have really good food. We also had a 4-beer sampler (you can get a 12 beer sampler) or their 4 darkest beers.  We liked the lightest.  Thy have amazing french fries.  Guess what they do?  They bread them before they fry them!

Oh, talking about the tap room reminds me:  On the way to the coast we stopped in Booneville at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company where Athanasia and I each had a pint and sat in a swing under a mighty oak tree.  When I finished my pint I played frisbee golf with the boys.  WOW! What a hard game.  All the "holes" were par 3 but I didn't make it to any of the baskets in less than 4.  Most were 6 or 7.

On Wednesday, Athanasia stayed in the camp and knit Christmas presents while I took the boys to Portuguese Beach, which I've always known as Driftwood Beach.  But what do I know.  The guide books say it is Portuguese Beach so that is what it must be.

On Thursday Athanasia took the boys to the beach near our campsite while I went into Medocino to mail some postcards and walk around.  I didn't walk around a lot, but I did buy some books for the boys, and I finished "The Loved One" by Evelyn Waugh.  It was funny, but the book was also mean-spirited.  I don't think I'll read anymore Waugh.  I have a feeling that he was a witty man, but probably cruel, too.  While I was in town I saw Mic Fleetwood walking with his arm around a woman.

We drove home the long way, meaning we drove north.  When Hwy 1 gets passes Rockport it turns away from the coast, which the engineers who built Hwy one thought was too difficult to build a highway on.  It must be amazingly rugged for if you see some of the other places they built bridges and tunnels you will understand that those men let little stand in their way.  Now, the area north of Rockport but south of Humboldt County is called the Lost Coast by most people, but the government calls it the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

  There are a few roads that lead into it, but they are the kinds of roads with big warning signs.  High clearance 4x4 vehicles only.  And don't even think about going in there in wet weather. And did I mention the bears?  People die in there.  Obviously, in our heavy laden PT Cruiser we did not tempt God.  We stayed on Hwy 1 till it joined Hwy 101 in Legget.

In Legget we drove through a 2,400 year old redwood tree.  Really.  Here is the picture.

People have been driving thorough this tree since 1922 but it is still living and full of green.  It is possible to buy potted cuttings of the tree but we contented ourselves with the picture.  It really was a lot of fun.  We mailed some more post cards there and then turned south for San Jose and home.

You know, its kind of funny, but this trip made me feel patriotic.  I felt like I was ding something Americans do.  I'm sure europeans go camping, but do they do it like American's do?  Do they have vast state and national parks?  How can they?  Their countries are so little.  And they don't have the wilderness or frontier heritage American's have.  I'm not running people down in the Old World, its just that they have so many people on such little territory.  I mean, Mendocino County is so big they have at least two county fairs: The The County Fair and Apple Show in Booneville (where they also have the Wool and Fiber Festival), and the Redwood Empire Fair in Ukiah, the county seat.  As a boy I had a lot of fun at the Redwood Empire Fair.  I saw a demolition derby there when I was 11.  As we drove by late Friday night they were having go cart races on the 1/4 mile dirt track.   I bet they have fairs in Hopland and Willits, too.

Oh, speaking of Willits, we stopped there to eat at a place called "The Lumberjack".  HUGE portions of really good food.  Also, they had big screen teevees in the two dining rooms on which they showed timbersports competitions.  That was a lot of fun.  And a little scary.  I was sure someone was going to lose a leg.  They were doing things with chainsaws the manuals very clearly instruct one to never do.  At least the college student competitors wore steel armor on the legs and feet.  The pros, however, wore no protective equipment.

We got home early this morning and didn't do much.  I got a hair cut (I have a job interview the day after tomorrow) and then Athanasia and I went to see the movie Midnight in Paris.

Basil lost another tooth.  It is under his pillow.  I guess I ought to go see if the tooth fairy has stopped by and then go to bed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

They Lie and People Believe Them

Have you heard about how George W. Bush squandered the Clinton budget surplus?  I heard it again today and am shocked people still believe this fabrication.  Starting with FY 1993, the last G.H.W. Bush budget here are all the totals for the National Debt and the yearly Budget Deficit.  If any year had been in surplus the National Debt for that year would have been smaller the the National Debt at the end of the previous year.  But that was never the case.  Here are the facts:

National DebtDeficit
FY199309/30/1993$4.411488 trillion
FY199409/30/1994$4.692749 trillion$281.26 billion
FY199509/29/1995$4.973982 trillion$281.23 billion
FY199609/30/1996$5.224810 trillion$250.83 billion
FY199709/30/1997$5.413146 trillion$188.34 billion
FY199809/30/1998$5.526193 trillion$113.05 billion
FY199909/30/1999$5.656270 trillion$130.08 billion
FY200009/29/2000$5.674178 trillion$17.91 billion
FY200109/28/2001$5.807463 trillion$133.29 billion

So you see?  Even in his best budget year Wm. J. Clinton, working with the brilliant lights in the U.S. Congress, still added $17.91 billion to the U.S.'s National Debt.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Looking for work and other things

I've been out of work since February or March.    I was a contractor at a company called BarNone, but got very sick and eventually lost my hearing, which meant I couldn't work.  I went out on medical leave. Which because I was a contractor was unpaid.  After a few weeks of horrible drug therapy and Holy Unction Imy sense of hearing was restored during Bright Week.  But just a few days before, during Holy Week the whole department I worked in had been let go.  So no work for me.  And because I was, legally, a self employed contractor, I do not get unemployment insurance payments.  Financially, we are hard against it.  Savings is gone.  Our little real estate investment has been sold. Athanasia is working but that isn't enough to pay expenses.  If I don't get work by the middle of August I think we will have to seek bankruptcy protection.  Although, our debts are mainly Federal Student Loans, which can not be discharged by bankruptcy, so bankruptcy might not do anything for us.

I've applied for many many jobs but most of them I don't hear from.  Some have told me I am over qualified.  I have had three interviews in the last couple of weeks that seem somewhat promising:

1) An ad agency is looking for a Sr. Account Executive.  I made it past the phone interview, and then met with them in person.  I think I answered all the questions right, but I don't think we are going to be a good cultural fit.  I was the only man in the office, the only one over 35, the only one not wearing jeans.  I met with them last Thursday but haven't heard anything since then.

2) Today I had a great interview with a company that installs and repairs hydraulic lifts, tire balacing machines, oil replacing machines, etc. at mechanics shops.  The interview was like a cross between a Car Talk puzzler and Martin Gardner's old columns in Scientifc American.  He asked me questions about hydraulic theory, pressure couplings and O-rings, diaphram pumps, and ball-valves.  It was more fun than I've had in a long time.  It was fun to show off knowledge I've had for decades but have never used.  More than any of the three jobs I'm writing about here, this is the one I want.

3) The other job I've interviewed for, and I have been through three interviews (including an informal bar-b-q with the District committee) with them so far, is with the Santa Clara County Council of the Boys Scouts of America.  It is a volunteer owned and run organization, but they have a few paid full-time staff who do special things that volunteers typically don't have the time or skills to do.  It doesn't pay much, and the hours are long, and the work is behind the scenes and thankless, but I'd love to do it.  Unfortunately, I am not sure they'd love to have me.  It seems that after the last interview things kind of haven't gone anywhere.  They said they wouldn't be making a decision until mid August, so maybe I am seeing rejection where there isn't any.  Must stay positive.

Last day of Twilight Camp
Speaking of Cub Scouts, I have had many Cub Scout Activities the last few weeks.  Let's see....  

1.Basil went to Twilight Camp and I was his Den Leader for that (something I couldn't have done if I'd had a job).  It was amazing fun.  I wrote about it previously so I won't go into any detail. But it was fun, and Athanasia and I made some friends among adult leaders of other Packs.  But wait! There's more Scout Stuff!

The Four of Us at Friend's Court of Honor
2. A friend of mine, the son of friends of mine was made an Eagle Scout and we attended his Court of Honor during the week Basil was at Twilight camp.

2. We attended Scout Night at a San Jose Giants baseball game, where we camped on the outfield, watched Sand Lot on the Jumbotron.

3. We went on a hike with our Pack in the Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  We taught the boys, mostly 5 year old Tiger Cubs, how to identify poison oak, wild strawberries, black berries, fennel, and camomile.  For most of them it was their first hike and earned them the first of the S.F. Bay Trail Trekker series of patches for their uniforms.  Basil Wenceslas was the only bot to get hurt.  I'm not sure how it happened but he fell and got a nasty puncture wound in the palm of his left hand.  Thankfully, Atanasia was there.  She's Red Cross trained and caries the First Aid kit.  He was bound up like a mummy in less time that it takes me to tell you about it.  

4. We attended, together with many hundreds of other Cub Scouts from various Packs, Scout Night at a San Jose Earthquakes soccer game.  Anselm Samuel was chosen to carry the flag onto the field at the beginning of the game.  I lead the the remaining Cub Scouts from our Pack in the "cheer tunnel" which was two files of Cub Scouts who welcomed the players onto the field.  It was fun, but in spite of the game played on the field, which ended with a score of 0-0.  When we got to our seats in the stands after opening ceremonies the boys had cotton candy, and there was a section of the stands where a gorup of perhas three score young men jumped up and down and sang bood curdling fight songs and banged on drums for the whole game.  I have no idea why, since their singing/yelling/jumping/drumming seemed completely unrealated to anything taking place on the field of contest.  Nevertheless, as an object of anthropological interest they were fascinating.  In short,  I think soccer is a horrible waste of magnificent athletic ability.  Someone, please, give those poor men a better game to play.  Perhaps, beach volleyball or motorcycle racing.

Well, I might not file for bankruptcy.  There is another optoion but I am loathe to go that route.  I could borrow more money from the United States and complete the M.A. degree I started. Thate will put all of my existing student loans into differment and give me more time to find work.  That might be better.  I thnk that is what I will do.  But I sure hate borrowing more money to pay for a degree, I have become convinced, will not help me make money.  Oh, man.  What a pit I am in.  But I'm not feeling blue.  There is food to eat and the rent is paid.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Basic Elements of Victorious Christian Life

On Saturday a clerk in a store in that sells Orthodox stuff and I were chatting and he said, "Hey come with me out to my truck for a minute I have something I want to give you."  I went with him and what he gave me was a piece of paper with some instruction from Fr. Thomas Hopko inscribed thereupon.

The Basic Elements of Victorious Christian Life
55 Maxims by V.Rev. Fr. Thomas Hopko

1. Be always with Christ.
2. Pray as you can, not as you want.
3. Have a keepable rule of prayer that you do by discipline.
4. Say the Lord's Prayer several times a day.
5. Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied with other things.
6. Make some prostrations when you pray.
7. Eat good foods in moderation.
8. Keep the Church's fasting rules.
9. Spend some time insilence every day.
10. Do acts of mercy in secret.
11. Go to liturgical services regularly.
12. Go to confession and communion regularly.
13. Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings.  Cut them off at the start.
14. Reveal all your thoughts and feelings regularly to a trusted person.
15. Read the Scriptures regularly.
16. Read good books a little bit at a time.
17. Cultivate communion with the saints.
18. Be an ordinary person.
19. Be polite with everyone.
20. Maintain cleanliness and order in your home.
21. Have a healthy wholesome hobby.
22. Exercize regulary.
23. Live a day and a part of a day at a time.
24. Be totally honest, first of all with yourself.
25. Be faithfull in little things.
26. Do your work, and then forget it.
27. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
28. Face reality.
29. Be grateful in all things.
30. Be cheerful.
31. Be simple, hidden, quiet, and small.
32. Never bring attention to yourself.
33. Listen when people talk to you.
34. Be awake and attentive.
35. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
36. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, and directly.
37. Flee imagination, analysis, figuring things out.
38. Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance.
39. Don't complain, mumble, murmer, or whine.
40. Don't compare yourself with anyone.
41. Don't seek or expect praise or pity from anyone.
42. Don't judge anyone for anything.
43. Don't try to convince anyone of anything.
44. Don't defend or justify yourself.
45. Be defined or bound by God alone.
46. Accept criticizm gratefully but test it critically.
47. Give advice to others only when asked or obligated to do so.
48. Do nothing for others that they can and should do for themselves.
49. Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice.
50. Be merciful with yourself and with others.
51. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
52. Focus exclusively on God and light, not on sin and darkness.
53. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults and sins peacefully, serenely, because you know that God's mercy is greater than your wretchedness.
54. When you fall, get up immediately, and start over.
55. Get help when you need it, without fear and without shame.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


A Protestant friend of mine, who also had very little expereince of the Orthodox Church once asked me if I get tired of doing the same thing in Church all the time.  It was kind of funny to me then, and still is now.  I explained to him how our services are like a series of interlocking wheels of various diamaters so that every service is actually different from every other service, and that the same service won't repeat for several centuries.