Category: General

Self Promotion is so annoying!

The internet is great and all, but sadly, too many people can go load up WordPress, start a blog, and call himself a writer, or fire up their iMac, record their inane ramblings, and call herself a musician.

There’s no gatekeepers to distribution anymore, and while that can be a good thing, it has horrible unintended consequences, in that the masses that are consuming this drivel are idiots who don’t know how to pronounce “vice versa“. People are idiots, and “success” is defined as anything that appeals to those idiots. The folly of self-promotion is the idea that we need to appeal to mentality of those idiots.

States’ Rights and Cannibas

It looks like California is ready to pass a law allowing local governments the authority to decriminalize and even tax marijuana distribution. Of course, the federal government has already begun huffing and puffing about how the law will not impact them at all, and they will continue to make arrests in the state. Their threats don’t really have much force, since they currently make about 5% of marijuana arrests in California.

The bigger issue is whether this is going to be the crack in the dam, inspiring legalization campaigns around the country. My interest is going to be in how the recent 10th amendment folks are going to react. We’ve been hearing a lot about nullification and states rights regarding “Obamacare”, but are these folks really principled federalists, or just whiners? Are they going to apply their newfound love for constitutional principles to issues they might not agree with? After all, it’s the commerce clause in the constitution that the federal usurpers use to defend control over drug laws and health insurance.

So, I put this as a challenge to the “tenthers” out there. Are you going to be consistent, or are you going to show that your “principles” were mere whitewashed pragmatism?

Identifying a Problem Does Not Validate Your Solution

So, I made an odd discovery and a big purchase a few months ago. While on vacation in the Poconos, I was digging through a collection of books at an antique store in Tunkhannock, PA, and I found a first edition, first print of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. It wasn’t cheap, but I think it was worth more than the store was selling it for, so I bought it. If it doesn’t sell, I can at least use it for an expensive door stop.

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Northern Japan

It’s been an awesome trip so far. Since I was able to meet with the landlord in Goshogawara on Monday instead of Tuesday, we were able to wrap up the necessities a day earlier than I expected and had an extra day to travel around before we needed to be in Tokyo for our upgrade. We left Goshogawara on Tuesday morning and headed by train to Aomori, one of the most northern cities on Honshu. My guide book doesn’t have much to say about the city, calling it a “nondescript” location, and the city lived up to its reputation. It was a nice town, with restaurants and stores, but there wasn’t anything to set it apart from any other city in Japan.

People in Japan do head up north, but generally it’s a winter vacation destination with fantastic skiing and amazing hot spring baths (Onsen). They had a map in the tourist center showing at least fifty different onsen within a thirty mile radius of Aomori.

The one local delicacy we were able to enjoy was the local apples. Aomori apples are known throughout Japan and the rest of Asia as some of the best apples, and they truly were amazing. The countryside was covered with orchards, and each tree was meticulously maintained and pruned, with the fruit individually protected on the trees with coverings.

After spending the morning in Aomori, we decided to head across the water to Hokkaido via a ferry that travels between the two towns. There were a couple different types of ferries, but since we were paying out of our pockets, we decided to go with the cheapest, no-frills option. The cheapest ferries are used to let people going to Hokkaido bring their cars along with them, and the ticket salesman was a bit surprised when we told him we didn’t have a car. He sold us the tickets anyway for about $13 and a few minutes later we were walking through the belly of a well-worn ferry past people in their cars. We carried our bags up on deck, and relaxed in a small room while the rest of the cars were being loaded onto the boat. When the ship was ready, it backed out of the port and we spent the next four hours on the deck of the ferry leaving the Aomori harbor and heading to Hakodate (pronounced “Hah-ko-dah-tay”.

We arrived in Hakodate and took a taxi into town. Anwar and I both have guidebooks, and by their powers combined, we’ve managed to make out pretty well. They recommended a rather inexpensive hotel in Hakodate called the Hotel Route Inn, which, according to the book, had small rooms but an included onsen. After spending the last few days on our feet, and covered in salt spray from the ocean, a free onsen sounded really good.

We checked into the hotel, dropped our bags off in our room, and headed into town. Hakodate is no Tokyo, and the major means of transportation is an old trolly that runs through the town. The town is famous for Mount Hakodate, jutting and rising high out of the water. It’s a bit of tourist mecca, and when you look at the top of the mountain at night, you can see the flashes from the cameras shining like fireflies. We took the trolley to the base of the mountain and rode a cable car up the side of the mountain to the peak. The view was amazing, and it was one of the few sites that pictures really can’t capture. The area is one of the more populated areas of the northern island, and it was amazing to see the lights of civilization leading away from the shore to the base of the mountains, and then just stop, leaving nothing but the dark mountains beyond.

On the way back to the hotel, we attempted to hunt down some food. As I said, Hakodate is no Tokyo, and English speakers are hard to find. We found a seafood restaurant on the way back, and we were invited by one of the waitresses to come in for a set meal (set-toe). Besides the mountain, Hakodate is also famous for their large crabs, and we were served a small, but tasty meal of crab tempura and conch sashimi. Delicious, but we were still hungry. 7-11 heroically came through, and a few minutes later, we were in our room munching down convenience store sushi and cold soba.

By this time, my back and feet were hurting, and the onsen was calling to me. We grabbed our towels and washcloths and headed up to the 13th floor. We were greeted by a small but very pleasant hot spring bath that soothed all the aches in my body. The hot bath is, without any doubt, a part of Japanese culture that is superior to America. Our fear of public nudity limits us to quick, purely utilitarian showers at the YMCA, and precludes us from taking the time to relax and enjoy becoming clean. I’ll probably expand on this in a future post, but for now, I can’t encourage you enough to enjoy an onsen if you visit Japan. (BTW, my friend Billy says the baths in Korea are great as well.)

The next morning, we walked around the local fish market, saw some of the biggest crabs I’ve ever seen, still alive and moving their half-meter bodies around their tanks. Some of the vendors had little grills with crab legs toasting on them. For breakfast, I enjoyed a “Hakodate donbori”. Donbori is simply rice with different kinds of sushi on top. A Hakodate donbori had local crab leg meat (about five inches long), ikura (salmon roe), and uni (sea urchin) on top of rice and seaweed. Delicious!

After that, we hopped on a train and we’re currently heading south towards Nikko, with a quick stop off at Matsushima and Sendai. We need to check into our hotel tomorrow evening, but we have just enough time to enjoy these few sites.

Celebrating the Life of Eliot Hartman Mooney

Stolen from a post on Tara Barthel’s Blog, here is a true story that will cause you to appreciate every moment of your children’s lives.

The celebration of Eliot Mooney’s life was so beautiful. I am eternally thankful that his parents recorded his life so well, and that they had the heart to share this treasure with others.

Praise God for every day our children live and may this big-picture perspective encourage us to be Godly parents who love our children and consider it a joy to be allowed this honor to take care of them while they are here.

For more, check out Eliot’s parent’s blog.

Flowering Weeds and Gardening Verses

This morning, I dug up every last dandelion in the back yard – and left all the wild violets behind.

Does anyone else have a special place in their heart for flowering weeds? I once dug up many violets in the yard and lined the borders of my flowerbeds – that’s how much I love them :)

I always think of this verse when I look at my lawn, dotted with flowering weeds:

Luke 12:27-29 “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!

This verse inspired me to look up more gardening verses… so I’m passing them along! Amazing how many there are, as gardening is such a perfect metaphor for so many spiritual concepts.

List of all the plants in mentioned in the Bible

Darfur Crisis Mapped in Google Earth

I love when technology can take massive amounts of apparently meaningless information and compile and display that information in an intuitive, interactive display. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has teamed up with my favorite technology, Google Earth, to map out the ongoing crisis in Darfur.

The USHMM has compiled a list of information about the killings and displacements going on in the Sudan, but those numbers get lost when printed on paper. In order to make the information digestible to their audience, they teamed up with Google Earth to create a visual, multimedia presentation of their data in Google Earth, complete with geolocated photographs, videos, and icons.

You can see it yourself by downloading the Crisis in Darfur layers in Google Earth and learning more about what is going on in the Sudan.

I Might Be in Who’s Who in America

So, I got a letter the other day saying that I’m going to be included in the next edition of “Who’s Who in America“. I don’t know what that actually means, but I guess it’s cool. I filled out all the biography information and books I’ve authored, including the 34 part definitive series on the Peloponnesian Wars.

I’ll let you know if I actually make it in the book.

Acrid and Foul

I’m flipping through the latest copy of the Cigars International catalog this morning, and I found a surprisingly honest review for Fat Cat cigars.

Remember this brand from the boom? At that time with the severe shortages, cigar smokers would resort to just about any cigar available on the shelf. Even despite those circumstances, it’s still amazing anyone actually bought a cigar with a name like this. Worse yet, the cigar itself was marginal – acrid tasting with a foul aroma and unappealing wrappers. No surprise then that a closeout just came my way. I guess it beats a machine-made… if only barely.

BTW, the “boom” refers to the big cigar boom from about 1992 to 1997. I started smoking them in 1995, but stuck with them even after the “boom” was over, much to my wallet’s relief.

A New Stove

Christmas came early at our home today. Our last stove was dying, and my anger with it didn’t help it any. With Sarah’s busy schedule, the fact that our last stove didn’t have features like time bake and delay bake really was causing problems. I grew up in a home with time bake, and one of the favorite memories was when my dad would throw a ham into the over on Sunday morning, and we could sit in church knowing that it was going to be ready to serve when we got home. Mom would also do the same thing with a lasagna during the week, setting the time bake before running errands in the afternoon. Without the time bake, Sarah and I were tied to the stove while cooking, and it really was a pain.

We ordered our stove as an early Christmas present. One other major change is that the old stove was electric, and the new one is gas. We didn’t have gas growing up, but my in-laws do, and I really liked it when we lived out there a couple years ago. So, for very little money, we ran the gas back up to the stove area upstairs on Monday, and got the new stove hooked up today.