Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Humblest apologies for this addendum to what I thought was my temporary farewell post last night. I always forget something, however, and last night I forgot to give you the address of my Flickr photos. You have all seen my spring flower photos and most likely never want to see them again, but, just in case you are a glutton for punishment, they are all posted collectively here on Flickr. If you click, you can either view the slideshow (top right in the box) or click the first thumbnail and keep advancing bit hitting NEXT (to the right of the main photo).

We did go on our final bike ride (for the time being) today and managed to pedal our furthest distance yet — 82 klicks (51 miles) this time. It was a great day. After another decent sleep, I felt quite strong today, even pedalling into the wind.

We had lunch at our usual (as of late) spot — Clifflane. The lake was remarkably blue today. That's why this area is nicknamed Bluewater Land. The photos have not been enhanced. This is the way that it looked today and how it frequently appears.

Since we were there just a few days ago, the phlox have emerged in full splendour. They're everywhere we pedal: in ditches, along the trail, and here along the lake bank at Clifflane (first photo).

The next photo is also from Clifflane, but I don't think that I've posted this view of the point previously. It depicts the water colour as well.

Just over a week ago, I went to the doctor after suffering from a three-week headache. The sinus X-rays are in, and I have an infection. In addition to the headache, perhaps the infection, at least partly, explains some of my recent lack of energy. I will pick up the script tomorrow.

Here's the question. The doctor doubts that I need to take the medicine (the headache is in remission), but he is giving me the script because I am going away for three weeks and might need it. Do you think that I should just go ahead and start taking it, or should I wait for a few more days to see how I'm faring?

Finally, I am proud to say that my eldest, Butterfly, has come up with a very neat idea: sending each other postcards. Read about it here, and then check Dale's entry. He is so keen that he has posted his address. I am reluctant to do that, but you can all grab my email address from the sidebar and write to let me know if you want me to send you a postcard from Ottawa. I will try to send all Americans postcards of Mounties unless otherwise instructed. It goes without saying that you'll need to give me your mailing address in order for this to happen. I have just recently said in a blog that you can tell a lot about people through their written words; so, if you feel trust for me coming on, drop me a line with your address, and I will send you a postcard. Then, you'll have my address, and you can send me one from your corner of the world. How's that for a plan?

Phew! I think I'm done, but I thought that last night, and look at the length of this post.

Be well.


Not Sharp, but in the Drawer

After some trial and error and a curse or two, I managed to burn (as in copy/pirate) my first DVD tonight. As far as bootlegs go, it's pretty innocuous, just a little documentary that I borrowed from the library that I want to share with someone, but it has to go back before I can do that.

The first problem I encountered was that there wasn't enough space on my C drive to hold the temporary files from the copied DVD: the files that the program later burns onto the new DVD. I have lots of space on my hard drive, but I have partitioned the drive. I keep the programs on one, smallish partition (drive C) and the files on a bigger partition (drive E). After a little perplexity, I figured out how to tell the copy program where to store its temporary files.

Mission accomplished: the DVD burned perfectly.

Mission not accomplished: I had no self-sticking CD labels on hand. For personal data CDs, I don't mind writing on the CD — it doesn't have to look good in that event, just be functional. However, people will see this, so I wanted to make a half decent looking label. And I did.

BUT ... with no proper labels on which to print, I opted to print on plain paper and to glue the paper onto the DVD. That was not the best idea that I've ever had. In fact, it was a pretty lousy idea. Actually, I have done this before and made it work, but I only had liquid glue available tonight. Got it everywhere folks, including the back side of the DVD (not the original one, thank heaven for small mercies), the side that the laser has to read through. This is what caused me to revert to strong language, and this is what caused me to trash my newly and proudly burned DVD. Sigh.

Then, do you think it would copy the DVD again? Not after three tries and one reboot. Finally, I popped the DVD out, wiggled it about, reinserted it, and it copied fine. It must have been a fraction of a millimetre off centre or whatever.

I even have a label ready to print. I said ready. I will purchase some proper labels tomorrow. This clueless shall hitherto remain glueless. After all, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I am a knife, and I am in the drawer, and I do learn &mdash eventually!

Thanks so much for the various thoughtful and helpful suggestions regarding my sleep problems. The past two nights have gone reasonably well: no heat attacks and at least a semi-restful sleep. As I sit and type this at almost midnight, however, I am anything but cool and anything but sleepy and rather dreading what may in store for me tonight. I suppose that three decent sleeps would be too much to ask for: especially for a dull knife who becomes unglued when he pirates documentaries. Who in the world pirates documentaries anyway? On second thought, a documentary on toenails would probably beat the heck out of some of the movies that I have seen recently, so why not?

In other news, expect this blog to be pretty quiet for the next week or longer (please stop that raucous cheering). We're heading to Ottawa to visit Butterfly and The Boy. Joining us there will be email friends from New Hampshire. Lady and I emailed regularly for a number of years before Cuppa and I drove to NH to visit with her and Mr Lady several summers past.

Our rendezvous went swimmingly well. You can meet nice people on the internet, and you can get along well with them in person. You can tell a lot about people through their words, and your instincts can be pretty darn reliable. This will be our third get-together, the second on Canadian soil, and the first in Ottawa. There's a lot to see and do in the capital, so unless the weather throws a conniption, we should have a fine time. Actually, I suppose that we will enjoy ourselves even if the weather doesn't prove overly cooperative.

So, tomorrow is set aside for our last bicycle outing here. On Wednesday we pack and get ready to travel on Thursday. On Friday and the weekend, we do Ottawa, and then we settle in for a longish visit with Butterfly and The Boy. That pretty well explains why I might me petty scarce in Blogdumb for a while.

We'll be taking our bikes and hope to find some nice trails once Lady and Mr Lady head back stateside next Monday.

I don't know when I'll be back at the keyboard. It might be sooner than I think, even if it's just to post a few photos. It's hard to predict.

Meanwhile, I'd like to go to bed now, and I'd like to sleep well while I'm there if you don't mind too very much. Thank you


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Carrying On

For those who can abide the suspense no longer, I present myself here and now to put your minds at ease by informing you that I went to sleep without pills last night, and I did not suffer from night heat and/or night sweats. Contrary to recent experiences, however, my first few hours were not fitful but relatively peaceful. The second half of the night was more restless, however. Counting the initial going-to-bed, I only made four bed-switches last night. Actually, I seldom make more, but there is often more wakefulness involved than there was last night.

I was a little less cranky today but still not on top of my game. However, we still managed to enjoy a 50k ride. I took the photo of the yellow field (below) today after having noticed it for several days but being reluctant to interrupt my incredible Lance-esque pedalling rhythm. I speculate that this is a canola field although it seems awfully early in the season.

The top photo was taken on a recent trip within the past few days, but I forget exactly when. If I were Swamp or Rurality, I would tell you the name of those roadside wildflowers (or escaped cultivars) at the top, but, alas, I am a urban twit and not a rural wit.


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Oh Bafooey

I have a problem. In point of fact, I, no doubt, have many problems, but the problem which is my recurring bête noire (almost literally) is sleep. It has been so for some time now.

Recently, when I have summoned to courage to trundle off to bedland at a reasonable hour, I have frequently been forced to endure a most vexing first few hours. I toss and turn, steam and boil, frequently change my soaked shirt, wander from bed to bed in vain search for the magic combination. For the most part, this vexation occurs in the hours before two a.m. That's one reason that I am not entirely loathe to endure my own solitary company until the wee hours while my better half slumbers, for, frequently, I find that if I force myself to remain awake until two o'clock or so, the demons of restless and sweltering heat torment me not.

I don't know what's behind all of this, and it doesn't seem to concern my doctor. I forgive the poor man because when I approached him with this complaint not long ago, he was much more concerned about trying to find to cause of my three-week headache. I mean that could have been a serious indicator of some sort. Who knows what caused my rather prolonged mal de tête, but it seems to be dissipating without benefit of medical interference?

For the most part, I cope well with my nightly forays into night sweats and the like. I don't terribly mind staying up and putting at the puter or whatever else springs to mind. On most mornings I have the luxury of lying in long enough that I am able to get sufficient sleep to remain blithe and sprightly. Oh, I never sleep until noon; in fact, I'm often up by 8:00, but I sometimes fall prey to the temptation of grabbing an extra hour, or possibly two.

But I can't always do that. Sometimes I have to be on the ball in the morning. This is most problematic for someone who suffers the above symptoms and who is also not in any way, shape, or form inclined to be a morning person. There are larks and owls, and I am an owl who prefers to eat larks rather than chirp with them. But I do find that if I can muster more than six hours of sleep and get up by eight in the morning, that I can occasionally be semi-convivial by about ten o'clock, which coincidentally, happens to be a most appropriate time to head out on the bikes when we've planned a major excursion.

But here's my dirty little secret. I take sleeping pills! Not often, not every night, sometimes not for weeks at a time, but I take them when I feel the need to blend myself into a more normal (for the rest of the world) schedule. They aren't particularly strong, addictive pills — in the flurazepam/dalmane family. I can take one or two for a day or two or even longer without experiencing too many miserable side-effects.

However, in my recent desperation to get on a normal cycle, last night I took two pills and that was the third night in a row that I had done that. Today, I paid the price, and so did Cuppa, I'm afraid. I was down, and I was dreary. I was enervated, and I was moody. I was not having fun, and I was not being fun. Usually, a bike ride shakes that sort of mood, but it didn't today. However, by late afternoon, my usual bonhomie seemed to be struggling to reassert itself. About bloody time, mate!

Sometimes, I'm even not sure whether it's the pills. Perhaps, it is just coincidence. Whatever the cause, I don't like myself when I get like that, and I can assure you that Cuppa doesn't exactly revel in these moods either. To her credit, however, she never wavers, never rises to the bait, lets my misery run its course with little admonition because she knows that this too shall pass.

I'll tell you one thing though. You won't find me ingesting a sleeping pill tonight. If I miss a few hours sleep, even for a few days in a row, I can usually manage well enough. I just don't look forward to those blazingly hellish hours that so often lurk in the late nights and early mornings. So, I am torn. Do I turn in now, at just after 11:00 p.m., or do I force myself to stay up until the fiendish hours have passed? I'm rather tired, so I guess I'll try the first option tonight. Who knows whose blog I might be checking three hours from now, however?


Friday, May 27, 2005

Heather's Bouquet

In addition to the photo on Cuppa's blog, these photos are dedicated to Heather for whom dandelions have special meaning. I took these photos on our Wednesday trek.



Thursday, May 26, 2005

My Summer Job

Although I am retired, I hold down several different jobs, depending on the season. Sometimes, it's learning: generally to do with either internet development and/or photography. In this season, cycling is becoming a rather full-time job. We were out for the best part of six hours today, covering 71 kilometres (44 miles), enjoying lunch at Windcliff (see yesterday's photo), and coffee (also by the lake) in the grove.

Unlike yesterday's chill and the trifling 60k that we rode then, today's longer ride occurred in splendidly glorious weather: shorts and no jackets. It was absolutely wonderful. We pedalled for over 30k on the road that you see to the left, that and almost identical other roads. What a fabulous treat!

At times I even found myself praying, or something that must pass for it in my experience. It went something like this: "Thank you God that I can still pump my legs, for I know that I will soon be able to pump them no more. Thank you God for letting me feel the warm breezes on my face, for I know that I shall not feel them much longer. Thanks you God for letting me see the green trees, ploughed fields, and blue sky, for I know that I shall not see them much longer."

Tis enough that I pumped, felt, and saw today. My cup is full. If you don't believe me, look to your right, my friend, at one of the many flowering trees that we cycled by. And look on Cuppa's blog for lilacs which adorned the pathways and fragranced the air. How does life get better? Would a million dollars make it better? How about living in a castle? I think not. Today's treasures were beyond price, and, behold, I dwelt in the castle of the almighty today.

If I can break out of my euphoric hyperbole for a moment, let me tell you about my brush with the wall. We were just over 35k out, had been riding for several hours, and had just turned around to ride into the wind. Cuppa asked me if I was feeling alright because we hadn't ridden so slowly for a long time. Macho me replied in the affirmative, but as I contemplated this later after lunch, I realized that I had not been fine. In point of fact, after several hours of exertion, I was running on empty and hitting the wall. I needed to refuel my body. After I did so, my speed picked up, even though we had put even more miles behind us by that time.

There is another reality that I am having to face now that we are extending our distance. That's the reality of living with an arthritic hip. After several hours of pedalling, I found that I had to begin getting off the bike fairly regularly to stretch my hip. Then, I would be good for about another ten kilometers or so. Small price to pay for such joy, however.

Tomorrow must be a day off. I have appointments, and our bodies need to rest regardless. I trust that we'll get out on one or two more excursions before we leave for Butterfly's next week, where I hope that pleasurable adventures await, for I am told that there are good trails thataway. I must attend diligently to my summer job after all.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Picnic Panorama

We got out for another ride today after several days of inactivity. After going a little further still, we stopped at our usual (as of late) spot for a picnic lunch. Today, I decided to try a panorama. The above is a total of nine photos stitched together. I can see too many stitch borders for my liking, but it I enjoyed the process if not the result. While I don't think the result is that bad, the anal-perfectionist side of me wants to do better. The real version of this stitch is about 30" wide by 5" high. That's the problem with panoramas, and then when you reduce it to screen and blog width, it all looks rather miniscule, and one wonders why one bothers.

Although it was a cool, breezy day, we bettered our previous best by 10k and managed to do 60k in all. We tried a new route along country, but paved, roads and enjoyed ourselves a lot. The trouble with continually extending our mileage is that it eats more and more time. I resemble a chirpy morning person not in the least, but I managed to hit the road by ten o'clock today, and I am toying with an even earlier start tomorrow.

This cycling addiction, along with the spring need for attention to gardens, and our recent round of decorating has taken the keen edge off blogging it seems. I feel as though my posts have been much less than meaningful lately, but something has to give. And even though it often becomes a quick scan, I am still reading your posts &mdash not commenting as I should but reading nonetheless.



Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Due Praise

Ya gotta give credit where credit is due in this life. We all tend to be quick to judge when products and service do not live up to our expectations, but we tend to be much less prompt about extending praise when it is due. In this case, I want to praise a computer manufacturer — Toshiba to be exact.

More often than not, I have owned what we used to call clones. I guess that terminology comes from the days when IBM ruled the PC world. There came a time when corner computer stores could make pretty darn adequate computers, and I soon discovered that I would just as soon have a corner store clone than a brand name. At least for a desktop computer.

In fact, the only brand name desktop computer that I have ever owned (in the PC/Wintel world — my earliest computers, back in the dark ages, were Ataris) was a Compaq. A few times when I inquired about upgrading components for the Compaq, I was told that it could be problematic because of proprietary (i.e. non-standard) ways of doing things. And when I did run into problems once or twice, I found their phone support to be helpful but expensive. If there was any way to charge you for the call, they would: rather exorbitantly I might add.

The corner store clones seemed to meet my needs very well. Problems, when they infrequently occurred were easily solved by hauling the machine to the handy dandy corner computer store.

Of course, that changed when I switched to laptop computers (or notebooks if you prefer). I figure that laptops are pretty specialized little gizmoic contraptions, and I want a reputable name behind such a beastie with which has so much stuff crammed into so little space. My first laptop was an IBM, which in my humble opinion, was a crappy computer backed by a crappy company. Once it broke, it was pretty darn difficult to track down support.

Not so with Toshiba. As I understand it, they offer free phone support for as long as you own the computer. If not, they certainly continue to offer it long after the warranty has expired. I have been on the phone with them at length a number of times, and they have always been patient, cooperative, and helpful.

I also like their machines a lot. I have had my hands on a few makes of laptops, and I'm quite happy with the look and feel of the Toshiba product. Yes, the writing capability of the CD drive went haywire when I don't think it should have, but, for now at least, I will put that down to a fluke.

When it was time to pass this laptop onto Cuppa because her IBM was in its death throes, I was loathe to part with my Toshiba but also pleased to update to a newer one. There was no question in my mind that it would be a Toshiba. Let there be no doubt that I was attracted to the machine itself, for I am confidant in the brand, but I was ultimately drawn by their excellent phone support. I think they're onto a good thing here: offering solid after-sales service and support; standing behind their products; not attempting to gouge every last nickel out of their patrons.

Way to go Toshiba: good marketing both on the manufacturing front and on the support side!


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Rurality and Su Doku

A few days ago, Rurality posted a blog about Su Doku, a puzzle-logic game that is published in the [London] Times. For those like me, who do not relate well to crossword puzzles but wish to keep your brains sharp, here's the drill.

To help describe the drill, I have borrowed their easy-rated May 16 puzzle. If they throw a hairy conniption over this, I will take it down. But I though that I needed an example to best explain the game.

You begin with a 9x9 grid with some of the squares pre-filled with digits 1 through 9. The object of the game is to have each row, each column, and each little square contain each digit exactly once. Below, I have finished the first row, column, and square with red digits, so you can see how it works.

The Times publishes an easy puzzle each Monday, and they become more progressively difficult until they publish their fiendish version on Friday. I don't plan to get too caught up in this phenomenon and could probably never hope to conquer the fiendish version, but the easy version is, in fact, fairly easy but exercises my deteriorating mind nonetheless.

I am sure that many of you would enjoy Rurality. She posts a lot of great photos, including a great snake series not long ago.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Some Thises and Thatses

These are low-to-the-ground phlox, commonly called ground phlox and properly referred to as phlox sublata (I think). Phlox is one of the few families whose Latin name is also commonly used. I like the taller summer phlox as well, but I really like the dense ground covering that phlox sublata makes in the spring. It's a very hardy plant that maintains its territory against all others and that gradually encroaches on most. This encroachment is incremental, so one can keep one's eye on it.

In other news, Butterfly has posted her musical survey. What a gal!

We went for another 50k ride today (Saturday). That makes it two days in a row and 230k for the week. Despite the weatherperson's promises, it was still rather breezy. And you can't blame it all on lake effects because it was windy long before we got near the lake.

After quite a bit a riding this week, I was sluggish for a while but managed pretty well in the end. Once again,we had a picnic lunch at Clifflane, which is quickly becoming a favourite spot. Then, we stopped at Tim's in The Grove and had our coffee by the lake too.

Below is a photo from Clifflane. The sky is a bit hazy, but doesn't the water look splendid? You can also see that there is quite a steep drop down to the lake and beach in this section of the shoreline.

I think that we need to take a day off the saddles tomorrow, but I would still like to drive the car out there and quickly check a few possible routes that would take too much time to check on the bikes. Now that we're up to 50k, I like to find a way to push the mileage up another 10k. Although I'd probably never really do it, I would like to get fit enough to travel with a group tour should the opportunity ever arise.

Finally, here's the way we were on our anniversary We are looking at our Great Lake, and the camera is perched on a railing, taking a timed-photo of the old folks.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Real Spring and Music Tags

Perhaps real spring has finally sprung! I don't mean the spring season as begun by the spring equinox. I mean a little more than that, as fine as it is. What I am anticipating are those genuine spring days with balmy but not-torrid temperatures and gentle breezes.

Two out of the past three days have been balmy enough that we pedalled in our shorts — what I mean is that we pedalled about in our shorts. My shorts are not really so big that I can pedal around inside of them although, at my age, there is a rather grand possibility that I might piddle in them. How would that sound: two out of the past three days have been balmy enough that we piddled in our shorts?

Sorry about that. We pedalled about the county in our shorts. The wind was still rather strong, however, so we're not all of the way there yet — not all of the way to real spring. Nevertheless, I think that we have turned the corner and that we will now have more balmy days than chilly days.

I certainly hope so because I want to enjoy some real spring before summer gets here. That isn't very far away now. Not far at all.

Thanks to Wash Lady and -epm for picking up the baton and responding to the tag so quickly. They have both posted very interesting blogs about their musical tastes. I knew that they would. Check them out: Life's Laundry and Deertown Times .

Opps Cuppa just posted too. Can't forget Cuppa. Uh uh, nevah!


Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Baton

I have been tagged by Christi who will probably be very disappointed by my rather vague answers. I'm just a vague kind of a guy. I don't have to work at it; it comes naturally.

01. Total volume of music files on my computer?

None. There may have been some on my old computer, but I think I wiped them off when I cleaned house. I have made MP3 CDs in the past, and I have copied regular music CDs, but I seldom listen from my computer, so there's not much sense on wasting storage space. I also had a NetMD (mini disc) player with quite a few discs, but I passed it along to Lady Bug because I figured she would get more use out of it.

02. The last CD I bought was?

The last CD we bought was just a few days ago: Theresa Sokyrka's, These Old Charms. For those south of the border, Theresa was runner-up in last year's Canadian Idol. She did her own thing in the competition and let the chips fall where they may. I would say that this is a jazz album, towards the bluesy side. It's quite good.

03. Song playing right now.

Sorry, there's dead air right now. If there was music playing, it would most likely be something by either Theresa Sykorka (see above) or Sarah Brightman. Yesterday, I found myself playing a Barra McNeil song in my head (if that counts) while riding my bike: a hauntingly pretty song, called Every Time, or at least that's the main, repeated word. They are an obscure East Coast group. I have never even owned one of their CDs but borrowed them from the library and complied a mini disc of my favourites. I like East Coast music: The Barra McNeils, The Rankins, Great Big Sea, The Cottars, and Rawlins Cross come to mind.

04. Five songs I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me (in no particular order).

I'm a little weird and usually relate to a whole artist rather than a particular song although I do like Every Time as mentioned above. I also like some of the rowdy Great Big Sea songs such as Patty Murphy and The Old Black Rum, but I don't suppose that I could call them meaningful — just fun. Theresa Sykorski is new, so I don't know her particular songs yet. As for Sarah Brightman, I am mesmerized by her voice; it gives me chills. Again, I can't call up her individual songs by name, except for Question of Honour, although I frequently find myself humming or whistling one song or another. I am a hummer and a whistler. I think it used to mortify my daughters when they brought friends over and I would suddenly belt out some tune or other in my basso profundo, but poor quality, voice.

05. Which 5 people are you passing this baton to, and why.

I wasn't planning to do this, but if they happen to read this post and are game, I would like to hear from Butterfly, Lady Bug, Cuppa, Wash Lady, and -epm. I think that might be an interesting and diverse group.

Since this comes as we enter the final week of American Idol, I might as well add my two cents.

I thought that this year's top 24 and on was pretty strong. Having said that, I don't know that the winner will be as strong as in some of the other years. No one has particularly grabbed me although Bo has been very good in the last few weeks. I thought that he stole the show this week, but that Carrie stayed close enough that it should come down to the final week. We probably have the right two finalists, but I think that a few people got booted off to early (i.e. Anwar) and that a few hung on too long (i.e. Scotty).

Once American Idol is over, Canadian Idol will commence. It will be interesting to compare the two. Last year, I thought that Canada's top ten were better than their American counterparts, and that surprised me quite a bit, but, as I said, the American top 12 (and even 24) were quite good this year. The Canadian qualifiers generally seem to be more eclectic, like Theresa, who is basically a jazz singer. American Idol contestants seem to all be closer to mainstream pop with some leanings to country or rock. Sometimes eclectic is good, but sometimes I don't prefer some of the styles that get through to the Canadian top ten.

Something funny: I just proofread and found that I had left the last letter off Christi. I can imagine the double-take of some if I had not caught that, and to see a link there too: "I have been tagged by Christ who will probably be very disappointed by my rather vague answers." No doubt, he is rather disappointed with me, The Doubter.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fundamental Prevarication

Not too long ago, I posted some thoughts after reading one of John Shelby Spong's book. That led to another blog or two.

This evening I had cause to look up his latest book at Amazon. It was interesting to read the reviews. There tended to be a big split with either very high ratings or very low. The high ratings seemed to come from people who had read the book. The low ratings came from evangelicals/fundamentalists who seemed to have not read it. In fact, I'm pretty darn sure that most had not read the book although one reviewer seemed proud to have browsed through it at the bookstore that afternoon.

We are all entitled to our opinions, and these folk are entitled to their opinions, even if they haven't read the book. They know what Bishop Spong believes or doesn't believe (at least in part); they know that he and his thoughts are anathema to them. Fair enough. I understand that.

What I don't understand is how they justify choosing this forum — an Amazon book review. Aren't they dissembling just a tad? When you post a book review, doesn't that imply that you have read the book? Is this not bearing false witness? Of course it is; the questions are merely rhetorical.

These folk are most likely well-intentioned. By posting a negative review, they can bring down the average rating and cause people to think twice about buying it, reading it, and being seduced to the dark side. I know that I was initially inclined to pass over this book when I first saw the rating. Then, I looked deeper and actually read the reviews, and the game (ie driving down the average rating) became apparent to me. Well-intentioned or not, this is deception; this is de facto lying.

There are so many means of expression these days that good folk need not resort to unethical deception. I mean, they could always ... get a blog.




Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Thirty-Six Years Later

A Kiss to Build a Dream On

Thirty-six years ago tonight at about 12:30 am, everybody was in bed except for Ron and me. We were up talking about and laughing over our next day's speeches. After a while, my mother got up to scold us: "This is a wedding you know, not a circus!"

Tonight, thirty-six years later, I am up again, this time alone while Cuppa sleeps. She stayed up rather late tonight, however. In fact, we had been in bed but decided to do something racy. Are you ready for this? We got up and made toast at almost midnight. We even had jam on our toast. That's living on the edge for us!

It was over toast that we got the bright idea of blogging some old photos. So, here I am, posting photos of the way we were. Very young; very happy. (Expect to see another on Cuppa's blog.)

The next day or later that same day, way back then, Cuppa and I tied the knot. Ron and I gave our reception speeches and managed to inject some humour without turning the wedding into a circus. In the strange way of time, thirty-six years goes by pretty quickly, and in the strange way of time, it also seems as though Cuppa and I have been together for an eternity.

Compared to current norms, we married young. I was still at university, with more than a year to go, and had a year of Teacher's College left to complete after that. It was stupid of us, I suppose, but it worked. Even though nobody, including us, knows anything when they are twenty-one, we did love each other. We were committed, and we had integrity. We had enough character to make it work, and it has worked — with very few upsets and very few disagreements.

After our out-of-character extravaganza at The Falls for our thirty-fifth anniversary last year, we will return to doing what what we have normally done: have a nice day doing more or less regular things and have a pizza for supper. Last year we had chateaubriand; this year, we'll settle for pizza; it's a tradition that we'll happily resume.

While it is great to do it up every now and then, like last year, Cuppa and I find much pleasure in sharing a simple meal or a cup of coffee at Tim's or fries under the bridge. You really need to be able to do that: enjoy the simple moments and pleasures because they are the stuff of life. While it's wonderful to have significant highlights, such as a memorable vacation, to mark your days, it is crucial that we find some pleasure and delight in the simple and ordinary things: like toast at (almost) midnight.

I would do it all again Cuppa. Love ya, old girl.

Beginning the Dream


Sunday, May 15, 2005

British Mysteries ...

... Particuarly on Television

Many years ago now, I was introduced to Dick Francis, a British author who, for a long time, churned out a novel every year. Francis, a former jockey, developed each plot, at least in part, around the British horse racing scene. One didn't have to be a fan of the races to enjoy his novels.

I believe them to be the first British mysteries that I read. Since then, I have read quite a few British mystery authors: Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes, PD James, Peter Robinson, Deborah Crombie, Ruth Rendell, Anne Perry, Ann Granger, and Reginald Hill. Strangely enough, two of the authors, George and Grimes, are American, and Robinson was British born but lives in Canada. They set their mysteries in Britain (at least George has said something like this I believe) because the backdrop for a mystery set in Britain is richer and much more intriguing.

In reading Bill Bryson lately, particularly Notes from a Small Island, he extols the wonders of British telly compared to American television. From what I have seen, I must concur, for at some point along the way, we saw our first television version of the British mystery genre. I believe that it was Cracker, starring Robbie Coltrane. What fantastic television! Vastly superior to anything North American in my opinion — or almost anything. Since then, we have loved Morse, Frost, Prime Suspect, Wexford, Dalziel and Pascoe, Silent Witness, Dalgliesh, and Inspector Lynley. We have just this past week discovered a new (for us) series, called Judge John Deed, played by the same actor who portrays Dalgliesh in the newer episodes.

As I have watched the latest renditions of Silent Witness, Inspector Lynley, and Judge John Deed, I have, once again, been tremendously impressed by the quality of the programming. The plot, pace, and acting are universally superior. In fact, I find the typical episode to be better done than the average gazillion dollar, North America, movie blockbuster. The Brits don't dumb it down at all. They assume their audience to be intelligent and not desperate to witness an improbable stunt every thirty seconds in order to maintain focus.

While A&E once carried many of these British mysteries, we now generally see them on BBC Canada. I don't know if there is a BBC America or not. If there is, and if you want to see some quality television for a change, give these British shows a try.



Bergenia, commonly known as Pigsqueak, grows in about the same conditions as Hostas. They are evergreen, however, and flower in spring. In this particular cultivar, the leaves turn to a sort of bronze, especially later in the year. You can see touches of the leaf colour in this photo amongst the predominant green. Although not as splendiferous, they're hardier than Hostas, and I'm quite glad that I have them.

The common name, Pigsqueak came about as a result of the squeaking noise that the leaves make when you rub them between your fingers.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Here's Looking at You

Cuppa painted two birdhouses several years ago. They are for decoration and kept only about four feet off the ground, but the birds come by and check them out periodically anyway. As she was drinking her coffee this morning, Cuppa noticed activity, and of course I ran for my camera. It made for a pleasant, little diversion on a gray, overcast morning after a night of heavy rains. Check Brown Betty Brew for a photo of the other birdhouse.


Friday, May 13, 2005

A Guilty Labeller

In response to Mel's Discombobulated and Wondering, JudyH wrote about labels: "Labels lie. Examining the contents is still the best way to know what's in there." All of these posts are most worthwhile and thought-provoking.

I am discovering myself to be a labeller (in Canada and elsewhere and a labeler in America): quick to judge and pigeonhole people. Lately, I have jumped to conclusions about a commenter, and I begin to see that I do that type of thing rather frequently. JudyH is absolutely correct: we need to examine the contents.

But it's hard to do that with every bit of information or nuance of opinion that one comes across. There are too many boxes for us to take the time to open each one and examine them all in detail. Humans label because it is useful to us; it's the way we think. We categorize and label every form of life of which we are aware, be it bug, bird, mammal, reptile and what have you. We divide and categorize knowledge into subjects and disciplines because it is easier for us to digest that way and easier to find it again when we need it. It's how our brains work, how we must deal with the vast quantity of knowledge that is available.

At one stage, when I was teaching, there was an English Across the Curriculum doctrine floating around. Didn't come close to even working. I can teach English in a course designated for that, or at least make a fair attempt. However, when I made little attempts to pass some along some point of grammar or punctuation in geography class, I was met with blank looks and cavernous yawns. "Hey Teach, do you know what class this is? My brain isn't ready to absorb from the bounty of your knowledge of the language. Let's colour a map or sumpin."

What I am getting at, is that labels serve a purpose, and people can't help but use them. We can, however, make every effort to apply them less quickly and less stringently. We can be disposed to opening the boxes and examining the contents when we have cause to do so. I think we can be willing to re-assign labels. I also think that we can make more labels with more shades of colour, and we can stick them on less tightly so that they can be removed and changed when warranted.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

Our Backyard

Although the daffodils are all but done, and though the tulips will soon begin to fade, the garden looks pretty great right now. The purplish ground phlox make such a great showing when they come out en masse. The white candytuft toward the back are also out, but these plants aren't as hardy as the phlox. Of the eight candytufts that I started with several years ago, only two remain. All of those phlox, however, started out as just three tiny plants. Aside from being hardy, the phlox are evergreen. They provide foliage all the year round although you can't much see it in winter. To the bottom left are several of the many, many forget-me-nots that grow wherever the winds take the seeds. My father planted a few for us about ten years ago or more, and they just keep on gloriously re-seeding themselves and growing in greater abundance every year.

I would say that a Canadian garden can look pretty darn good on May 12th. Wouldn't you?


Tulips for Iona

These photos are especially for Iona who is very good about predicting my predictability.

In my defense, let me point out that these are shots of candytuft. The tulips just happen to be there. Yeah sure.


What a pity! Today, we were planning to climb back on the bikes to reinvigorate our stultifying minds and atrophying bodies, but it seems as though the howling winds will thwart us. And after this windy treat, we are promised two days of rain. There exist some who might make much of this, for, apparently, there are some who actually believe that the divine might alter the weather — just for them: for their convenience, or for reward, or to teach them special lessons.

How to fathom such thinking? For the divine to reorder one person's weather, He or She would be required to rearrange the whole planet's circulatory system. Because it all works together doncha know? Perhaps that would result in floods in Romania or drought in Ethiopia, and I'm sure no one really wants to be held responsible for that!

Me? I just think it's too windy for biking and that I must find something else to suffice. There is, for example, someone in this house who sees this a fine opportunity for me to mow the lawn — bless her neat-freaky, little heart.

Okay, sigh, I'm getting to it.

Please God, maybe just this once, you could make the wind stop ... just this once.

Back to our regularly scheduled photo. My last tulip shot, I suppose.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Liberals, Conservatives, and Moderates

I am a bit of a question mark person — still figuring things out, straddling the fence, not holding strong and hard political ideologies. At heart, I think I am what in Canada used to be called a Progressive Conservative. In my way of thinking, conservatives are careful people who look before they leap and who are fiscally responsible. Progressives have a modicum of social conscience; they have some commitment to fairness and opportunity and don't wish to leave the less advantaged too far in the dust. So, I have always thought it a pretty good thing to be a progressive conservative.

A number of years ago, our provincial Progressive Conservative party was hijacked by the neo cons. The neo cons borrowed money to pay for tax cuts. They made sure that the common person experienced a little, and I do mean a little, tax relief — at first. In other words, they bought the masses cheaply, with their own money, in order to offer much more generous portions for the well-heeled. They did a lot of other brash, non-cautious things, which don't bear elucidation here and now.

This is the new conservatism: a type a radicalism which is neither progressive nor conservative in my opinion. This is what I cannot be. I cannot, for example, be supportive of leaders who claim to be Conservative or Christian or Christian Conservatives but who are itching to wage war, itching so badly that they cannot wait for consensus or fact-finding, itching so badly that they construct false justification for their actions.

I say that, however, to illustrate, at least in part, why I cannot identify with what I see to be a new, mean-spirited, self-righteous conservatism that has divided that great country to the south and now threatens its northern neighbour. I resent the new conservatism, which I believe is neither genuine nor conservative. I resent it for it tends to force me into the liberal camp, where I don't necessarily fit with total comfort.

So it is that I was somewhat surprised to read Mel's blog today. I was surprised to find that she feels judged and condemned by liberals. This is her experience, and it must, therefore, be true. It is not my experience, however. For the past few years, it is my experience that it is the new conservatives who are the strident ideologues. It is they who have, by and large, co-opted the mass media. To me, they are the ones who are smug with trite answers and self-righteous pomposity.

Now, that's just me and my interpretation. That's how I see it as a former and, I believe, genuine conservative who has been pushed to the other side. Do liberals fight back? Of course! But it is my rather pedestrian opinion that they do fight back, that they do not carry the offensive.

That's just my take on a difficult and divisive topic. Part of the difficulty is that I write from a Canadian perspective, and within that context, an Ontario perspective. I write as one who has been governed by a provincial neo con regime. It was regime that thrived on division rather than consensus. It honoured doctors but relegated nurses. It supported cops but vilified and trod upon teachers. It toadied to the rich but kicked the poor. I write from that particular context, and, therefore, find Mel's personal perceptions to be foreign to me.

So, here's what I am beginning to think.

I am beginning to speculate that, like me, there are a lot of moderates who have been pushed into one camp or the other. Do you think it possible that Moderate Mel is reacting to liberals on one extreme fringe and that Moderate Anvilcloud is reacting to conservatives on the other extreme fringe? Do you think that Moderate Mel and Moderate Anvilcloud may, in point of fact, have more in common with each other than they might have with the extremists in each of their own camps?

That's what I have to offer to the discussion. What about you?


Brain Fog

Is this one of those days or what? My brain is all fogged up ... or fogged in. (See? I don't even know which it is.) I began to comment on two different blogs and couldn't even spit the words out. I couldn't make a simple comment about -epm's photo stitch without blathering like a demented idiot, and you should have seen me staring vacantly at the comment box on Loner's blog about purgatory.

As I near my first blogiversary, I continue to wonder whether I will continue or desist or, perhaps, begin a new and anonymous blog. No doubt I should postpone my decision until a day when my brain is working a little better. But this is not a new thought. It has been rattling around for a few months now.

The odd thing is that even as I say this, I think of topics to write about (sorry grammarians, but one can't really say 'about which to write'). Perhaps I would like to respond to Mel's most current blog. Or, after recent posts, do I need to say more about my spiritual journey ... or stasis ... or whatever it is?

Ah, when in doubt, post a photo.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Unexpected Treats

A few weeks ago, I inundated you with daffodil photos, and before that came the crocuses. Now that we are into tulip season, I'll bet you know what to expect.

These tulips were freebies from a local nursery one fall. I tossed them in the ground late that year, not expecting much, and they have turned out well — much better than bulbs that I had previously bought.

Sometimes, the best laid plans go awry; sometimes, life unexpectedly and joyfully surprises you.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Trying to be Artistic

I played with the colour and lighting with this photo before experimenting with some filters.


My Keys

Sorry, but I can't remember on whose post I found The Keys to Your Heart Quiz. FWIW, I pass it along to you.

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to good manners and elegance.

In love, you feel the most alive when your lover is creative and never lets you feel bored.

You'd like to your lover to think you are loyal and faithful... that you'll never change.

You would be forced to break up with someone who was emotional, moody, and difficult to please.

Your ideal relationship is lasting. You want a relationship that looks to the future... one you can grow with.

Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.

You think of marriage as something precious. You'll treasure marriage and treat it as sacred.


For Cuppa on Mother's Day

In my life's garden, there is a flower that blooms brighter than the rest.

Happy Mother's Day Cuppa!


Saturday, May 07, 2005

My Sheltered Lfe

I guess I haven't lived a very culturally enriched life. When Cuppa received a Sarah Brightman CD for Christmas I was captivated and electrified by the magnificent voice that poured out of the cheap, little player at the cottage. This evening we watched her La Luna DVD. What an incredible show and performance; it certainly impacted my emotions. Where have I been all of my life?


A Milestone

The view from our lone picnic table at a little spot between mansions.

Today, we went a little further on our bicycles than we have ever gone before. Fifty kilometres (31 miles) is not monumental in the grand scheme of things. In fact, it's pathetically ordinary for many. But it's a milestone for us, and we're pretty darned pleased with ourselves. I suppose it's really a kilometrestone and not a milestone, but that simply doesn't resonate.

I may not be able to get out of bed in the morning, but the endorphins are giving me a happy glow right now.


The Wheel Turns

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. "(Psalm 103: 15, 16)

Thursday, the grass stood up (very tall) and demanded to be cut. It should have been done a few days earlier at the very least. But weather and other exigencies combined to thwart us.

Friday, the lawn and deck furniture (how pretentious that sounds) also decided that it was time to come out of winter storage. "Out of this damp shed," said the table and chairs. "Let's have some sun. We'll put up with the rain and cold spells as we must, but our time has come."

The wheel of time continues to turn. My lovely daffodils are still that — lovely — but the edge of the shade is upon them. The tulips have come into their glory and the daffodils have begun to diminish.

The wheel always turns. It can't be stopped, and it never runs in reverse. Let us be tinged with some sadness for the fading daffodils, but let us not spend too much time mourning, for it is time to rejoice over the glory of the tulips and of all of the garden glories waiting to be born anew.

Rejoice while we have breath, for it may be that is all that we shall ever have.


Friday, May 06, 2005

An Open Letter

Jodster of You Need to be Saved made a comment to my blog of a few days past, in which he invited me to respond by email. I did, but lost it due to my own stupidity. Then, I decided that since it began here, I would post an open email to him in this blog space.

Thank you for contributing your comment to my post, Reading John Shelby Spong. It is fine to disagree with each other, just as long as we don't become disagreeable in the process. In good spirit, I have decided to respond to your offer to communicate further with you. While it would not advance either of our interests to become embroiled in an endless debate, there may be some use in dialoging a bit more. I'm unconvinced, but we shall see.

I write neither as a theologian nor as a historian. I trust that no one will quibble overly much with any minor errors of fact that I might make.

What I most wish to respond to is the very first part of your comment where you find it interesting that so many people want to change the meaning of the scriptures. Of course, that makes me wonder if you really read the article on which you are commenting. As I understand it, the whole point of Spong's work is to try to find the meaning of scripture and not to change it at all. The meaning of scripture cannot be changed, but it is possible that we don 't know all of meaning yet — because we may have been looking through the wrong prism.

We do know that the gospels were written by Jews. We do know, that in the beginning, Jewish believers of Jesus worshipped with other Jews in the same synagogues. In synagogue, The Torah would be read completely in one liturgical year. Spong believes that the gospels were written in the same vein — to be read alongside those very same scriptures. The Easter reading, for example, would coincide with Passover readings.

Each gospel writer found his way of harmonizing the gospel account, as he envisioned it, with what was being read from The Torah on a given Sabbath. They wrote in a midrashic style, so that Jews who would hear the gospel might see Jesus for who He is: one in whom God was present, just as he was present in The Torah.

Another way of putting it is that the gospel writers did not, originally at least, set out to supply a factualized, chronological account of the life of Christ. Their purpose, as Jews, was to reveal Him to other Jews in ways that were relevant to them. If Spong is correct (and he may or may not be — I'm really just blogging about something that I have read and that makes much sense to me), Christendom may have been not interpreting scripture nearly as fully or correctly as possible since Jews and Christians parted company towards the end of the first century. When that happened, Gentiles began to filter Jewish writings through Gentile mentality.

Which brings me to a sensitive and troubling area of your writing. In both your comment to me and in your own blog, you make rather broad statements about Jews. These seem to me to be the kinds of statements that have been made for millennia and have caused Christians to inflict unspeakable hardships on Jews. I think you verge on anti-semitism — unintentionally, I trust.

Since I do not believe this [near anti-semitism] to be your main meaning or intention, I urge you to take great care in how you generalize about a whole ethnic group. Please remember that they gave us both Jesus and the scriptures — all of the scriptures with the possible exception of Luke who was most likely a former Gentile who had already proselytized into Judaism.

You do understand that the early Jewish Christians worshipped in the synagogues with other Jews? They tolerated and were tolerated. It seems that it was largely after the Romans crushed Jerusalem in 70 AD that the two groups moved more firmly and irrevocably apart. Jews decided that they needed to focus on maintaining their core beliefs. Christians moved more and more into the Roman realm, which may be the reason why Pontius Pilate got off so lightly in the gospels and why the Jews were rather excoriated.

I understand your point of view very well, for I was once a young evangelical who studied The Word and accepted it as literal truth. I had sublime assurance that my beliefs were completely true and that others' were highly suspect. Supposed revisionists, like Spong, would infuriate me to no end, and I feared for their souls.

Eventually, I came to realize that God cannot be confined to my little box of narrowly-formed dogma. My evangelical theology was far too small and limiting. My trite beliefs needed to be reexamined and redefined. If God is God, then he can withstand my honest doubts, my vacillations, my search, my own wandering in the wilderness.

I know that your youthful dogma is not about to be steered off its straight and narrow course by the likes of my feeble natterings. I write with a tiny glimmer of hope that you might be slightly more open minded about the sincerity of the faith of others — if not now, then maybe someday — perhaps.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Your Inspiring Comments

You people are amazing! I am terribly impressed by all of the wise comments made to Reading John Shelby Spong and to some extent to its follow-up, Excerpt. Many of you are much younger than I but have clearly already thought of these issues although this is new ground to this old geezer. And although this is a controversial subject, I appreciate the avoidance of antagonistic and inflammatory comments. It's great to hear everybody chirping in (or up) with cheerful voice and light spirit. Sometimes, one wonders about the wisdom of blogging certain topics, but I'm glad that I posted this.

I did a little Internet searching the other night, and it wasn't difficult to find the orthodox sites, which excoriate Spong for the obvious — all of the shibboleths of the faith that he doesn't believe: at least in the factual and historical sense. It's true; he doesn't match the required catechismic checklist very well. Indeed, this venerable and scholarly bishop would fail the entrance exam to scores of evangelical colleges. Sad that!

Sad that Christendom must persist in squabbling over the minutiae of belief list items rather than rejoice in the common faith that elevates and that bonds (or should bond) spirits together. With such a Big God, why are so many Christians so puny and narrow-minded?

I cannot tell whether Spong has arrived at the ultimate truth in unravelling the gospels. I can tell you that what he says makes a lot of sense to me. I will try to understand that Jews writing to Jews about profound truths could only attempt to do so by relating and linking Jesus with all sorts of Jewish scripture and scriptural characters. I will try to understand that they were much more interested in communicating ideas than in describing history.

I am trying to track down some works by other authors: Harpur and Borg. I'd like to see what ingredients they have to add to the mix. Maybe I'll figure out what I truly believe some day. Once I was so sure. I knew the bible, knew God, knew His will, knew His plan. But I didn't. And then I knew nothing for sure. Maybe now, I can approach the threshold of knowing something, a few crumbs, once again.

But mainly, I just want to thank everyone for those wonderfully positive and impressive comments. You're great!

Since You Asked About
Who Wrote What When ...

The gospels were not written until at least thirty years, and perhaps longer, after Jesus' life. That's the first gospel, Mark. The last gospel, John, was probably not written until very close to the end of the first century. Paul wrote his epistles before the gospels existed. I Corinthians 15 seems to be the very first written record that exists about the resurrection. It's rather hard not to interpret this passage in the traditional way because we know how the rest of the story is told, and we infer things.

Do note, however, that he seems to equate all other appearances of Christ as being like his own (and also note how many appearances are not part of the body of knowledge yet). Even if his own sighting happened exactly as Luke records it in Acts, Paul does not claim to have seen Jesus in bodily form. In fact, the others with him on the road to Damascus that day saw no one at all, thus suggesting that Paul's encounter was more of a vision than anything. Do you think that the very early church might not have been besotted with the notion of a physical resurrection that later developed, but that they believed in a genuine, spirit resurrection nonetheless?

Well, I find it all very interesting fascinating.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

An Excerpt ...

... from the final paragraph of Liberating the Gospels (by John Shelby Spong)

... my journey must be inside the traditions of the world where I was raised. For this reason the Christian scriptures are part of that God consciousness for me, and a lifetime of roaming within them has not exhausted their profundity for me. Because I have been faithful to the study of this rich resource, I have discovered in this holy book realities that I never dreamed existed. And it keeps expanding. Finally, I discovered the wonder of what was surely their original Jewish perspective. So by entering that Jewish world, truth seemed to open and widen and deepen for me until I cold swim endlessly in the sea of God where all barriers and all literalisms disappear.


Reading John Shelby Spong

Note: This entry is a little long and a little different. I hope that you will bear with me and wade through it and, perhaps, offer your comments.

A number of years ago, when the Internet first began to infiltrate the common household, I became a devotee of emailing. I had penpals in Japan, Singapore, Australia, England, The USA, and Canada. This was in addition to any email that I wrote to people whom I already knew. I still keep in touch with one of those penpals, a woman from New Hampshire. Cuppa and I have visited with her and her husband more than once.

In that list, I didn't mention my penpal from Israel. Actually, he was never that, for we corresponded for only a relatively short period of time. He was an Hasidic Jew. That may not be the proper categorization or nomenclature, but it's the closest that I can come to representing him to you.

I remember asking him, that as an Orthodox Jew, at what point he took the Bible literally. Was it from the very beginning (the Creation Story), or after the flood, or at some other point? I never got a satisfactory answer because he didn't have one. The question was meaningless to him. He never even spared a thought for what scriptures might be literally true and what might be figurative or mythical (for want of a better word). I'm not sure that the meaning of this totally registered with me until just recently.

You see, we two approached faith, religion, spirituality, the scriptures with totally different mindsets. My evangelically formatted Westernized brain thought in terms of the quantifiable. We Westerners want to observe, measure, and weigh. We yearn to distinguish fact from fiction, literal truth from that which is not literal. I'm not sure whether most of us can embrace the concept that something that is not literal can be true. Perhaps that is why silly wars over the teaching of evolution are still being waged; for some good folk, if the Creation Story is not literally true, then it reveals no truth at all. This is how I perceive many to believe. Perhaps I am wrong. It would not be the first time and will not be the last time.

For this Hasidic Jew, however, all that mattered was the intent of the scriptures, what truth about God could be gleaned from each and every passage. Whether Noah really built an ark or not, the lessons of the flood would be the same for this man. As I understand it, to him, the intent of scripture was to reveal the nature and ways of the divine and not to record history.

Recently, I have come across the writings of John Spong, an Episcopalian bishop, who believes that the key to understanding the gospels is to read them, to the extent that we can, with Jewish eyes. He contends that they were never written to be factual and linearly unfolding chronologies of the life of Jesus. Rather, they were written by Jews, with Jewish scripture in mind, to reveal the nature of Jesus to (primarily, at first at least) Jewish readers. According to Spong, the gospel writers frequently revealed Jesus through the lens of allusions to the Hebrew scriptures.

I cannot begin to recapitulate or précis his works in this space. Truthfully, I am not up to the task. I understand much of what he says but in a vague and general way. I would do a disservice to try to elucidate his scholarship any further at this juncture.

Having been raised as an evangelical, I understand that mindset very well. I understand that some readers of this blog must despair of my soul for reading heresy that concludes that much of the gospel narrative is not literally true, that it was never intended to be understood that way. When Christians and Jews went their separate ways back in the first century, Spong holds that we lost the Jewish way of interpreting scripture. We got hung up on understanding the gospels as historical record rather than as teachings about who Jesus was.

Did any of you read Real Live Preacher's retelling of the Christmas Story? (Don't go, he takes it down after Christmas.) In his version, he speculates on how it could have been, what people could have said to Joseph, how they might have found a place to give birth, how the shepherds could have entered the picture. RLP wasn't telling a falsehood; he was narrating how it could have been. He was trying to make the story real to us by adding human touches. We all knew this when we read it, and we appreciated him for it.

Isn't it possible that the gospels were written in a similar vein? Isn't it possible that they were written to elucidate the meaning of the life of Jesus to those who had a firm grasp of the scriptures and how they had learned to interpret scripture in the past?

I find John Spong to be a man of incredible faith. While disbelieving the literalness of much of the gospel account, he believes very strongly that God was in Jesus and raised him into heaven. The life of Jesus changed the world because something powerful was at work in Him and through Him. Isn't that what Christians have always believed?

When I am presented with this alternative way to view scripture, I find myself responding positively and hopefully. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is where I can hang my theological hat. Like my former Jewish penpal, I find that the literalness of scripture becomes meaningless to me. Does it matter whether there was a man named Jonah who spent three days in the belly of a great fish? Does it matter whether God created the universe through the utterance of words in 4004 BC? Would it not be an even greater miracle if He created the Big Bang fifteen billion years ago, knowing what would evolve (and I don't particularly use that word in the Darwinian sense)?

I don't know if this is making any sense whatsoever, but if exposing your mind to alternative views of the faith scares you not, I recommend that you try reading John Shelby Spong. Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes is the tome that I am referring to most directly.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Flashback to Winter

I have been stuck in other modes and neglecting my photo album again. In fact, I am about two months behind. So, back to the January at Riverwood archives I went. What I pleasant trip! I really like this photo that Cuppa took from the ice-covered Crowe River as the sun was westering late one afternoon around mid-January.