Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Friends come to visit, mom gets thrown in jail?

That isn't quite what happened, but apparently there is a law against friends visiting friends houses too often without the parents getting a day care license and presumably paying for fees, inspections and insurance.

I was pondering the other day how every time someone does something stupid, a law is enacted to preclude this from happening again, although it has unintended consequences. There being an infinite number of stupid things people can do, the number of laws with unintended consequences is guaranteed to increase without limit. I won't try to make the libertarian deduction that all laws are bad and should be done away with, but it does seem to have reached the point where we are all criminals, but simply don't know the extent of our crimes!
Some Team In Training folk riding up the easy grade to Calaveras Reservoir.

There are hundreds of cyclist out on this road every weekend.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Meeting people on the way to Mission Peak.

I should have asked his name. This is the back way up so that aren't many people here. He is training for the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 which is two weeks from now. Imagine running two marathons continuously with very little flat terrain and you get the idea. Yesterday was over 100 degrees, and he was running from Pleasanton to Milpitas via Mission Peak, which is a marathon or more depending on where you start.

The Lord seemed to have a plan for putting me in his path, because the route over to Monument Peak and down to Milpitas was one I have done several times, but he didn't have any map other than the incomplete one he acquired on entering Sunol Park. Given the temperature, he wasn't likely to meet many people up there. I wasn't feeling much like running, but instead went off trail wandering here and there to explore the hidden portions of the mountain, finding myself on the wrong side of "No Trespassing" signs.

The picture below should give you a little idea what this does to my feet and legs. There are stickers all over the place in the fall. I still have about 30 minutes worth of picking to do to get them out of my shoes and socks before I start hand washing the socks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Don't get mad, get even ...

I should have worked harder on the focus, but admittedly my patience wasn't as it should have been. The yellow jacket was probably attracted to my sweaty shirt, and then got caught between the backpack and my shirt. Then there was a ZAP! as the little guy decided to let me know he wasn't happy about his predicament. There was no way to get him off, except to remove my pack, camera and shirt, but as you can see, he was still stuck on my shirt. Perhaps that little stinger just wouldn't come out.

I was still more or less in a forgiving mood, so I was hoping he would just fly away. In the end, I stepped on him and then shook my shirt out. Should I have reacted differently?
Caturday reflections.

My daughter enjoyed Marf's Caturday postings. For some reason, it inspired her to send this to me. Obviously this is a home-schooled cat, because his spelling is better.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friends from Surabaya ...

Tikno is also blogging about Surabaya, so this is a curious coincidence. A family joined a tour and we met them at the Hilton Hotel near San Francisco airport this evening. The best I can tell, they are long term friends of my relatives, because my nephews are quite close to their children from when they were hanging out together in Singapore.

It has been 25 years since I visited Indonesia. At the time my relatives put a stack of Chinese newspapers in my luggage, but this was illegal due to racial animosity between the Indonesians and Chinese. My relatives assured me that westerners wouldn't get their bags searched, but this was little comfort to me. The only thing giving me confidence was that I was fairly certain that they didn't want their son-in-law in jail in Indonesia. Anyway, I made it through without any problems. The Bible commands us to confess our sins, so here it is: I am a contraband smuggler.

Things have changed in Indonesia. The children of this family were attending Surabaya Taipei International School with classes mostly in Mandarin. Haven't heard of it? The senior class has 4 students, so presumably there isn't a large network of parents to discuss college issues. Needless to say, our main discussion was on universities. They are thinking to send the oldest to Taipei for college next year, but going to the US is a backup plan. All the ins and outs of TOEFLs, SATs and ACTs needed to be processed along with pros and cons of various schools. When to apply, where to apply and how to apply were also on the meeting agenda. These kids seemed reasonably able to handle both Mandarin and English, but they were thrown on a few words like "gaudy".

We finished things up by presenting them with a box of chocolates and some red envelopes for the kids. I came out pretty good on the deal too because they presented me with two boxes of cashews packed in Surabaya along with some Indonesian coffee. It was a nice evening to chat and make some new friends.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feeling a bit wobbly ...

There is still fluid in my lungs from the cold I picked up in late August, but I can't stand it and had to get back on the trails again. Today I finally made it back up Mission Peak. Theoretically we are having a heat wave, but I didn't notice too much. The computers were humming today in the work room, but I didn't feel a need for the air conditioner. Guess you can't trust the news.

The kids borrowed my camera for some school photography so I went up empty handed. A startled deer was the most interesting thing I could have photographed, but then there was a beautiful blue sky against the brown peaks. There was also my young friend who I met running. He has recently completed a master's degree in seminary, which means that I won't be seeing him much as he helps out in a church across the bay. The picture is one from long ago on the back side of Mission Peak during a different season. With all the steep terrain, there are some long stretches of flat single track. Hopefully I can get back into the running routine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Professors Cutting Class ...

My daughter is a graduate student at San Jose State University. Her classes today are canceled, however, due to the mandatory furloughs of state workers that are part of the effort to balance the state budget. Professors in the California state university system are all state employees, so they are affected by the recent rulings.

The professor tried to negotiate with the class so that they could continue anyway, but one of the students noted that the entire engineering building would be locked, precluding any hope of holding the class.

The Sacramento Bee has a three part series on the California budget mess here, here and here. They are obsessed with getting more taxes, but here is a quote from the second article that gives a hint at the real problem:

"California spends more per capita than the national average in every government program except highways and public welfare."

Sadly, the articles don't begin to explore why our per capita spending is higher.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

For the Meme-Sahib.

"'But thou art still the shameless beggar-brat of the parao,' she shrilled. 'I have not forgotten thee. Wash ye and eat. The father of my daughter's son is gone away awhile. So we poor women are dumb and useless.'" - Page 161, and roughly the 5th sentence.

This post is catching up on Ramana's meme. The original instructions were to grab the nearest book and then post the 5th sentence from page 161. With my typical awkward spirit, I decided to find the most appropriate book, move it closest to me, and then start following the instructions. The "beggar brat" referred to in the above being half Irish and half Indian, this choice is also to thank Gaelikaa for dropping by my blog, since she is Irish and lives in India with her husband and children. Gaelikaa is also one of Ramana's victims on his meme. I presume her children have a much better reputation than the above, but will need to check out her blog more to find out for sure.

Does anyone know what book the quote is from? As usual, the meme stops with me.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109AD): On Free Will.

"Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'" - John 8:34

The topic of free will vs predestination is one that seems to grow wearisome without ever reaching a conclusion. Augustine chose the path I like the most by asserting that God predestines things and grants creatures free will, even though this is seemingly precluded by reason. Augustine also asserts that will is something that both good and bad men have, along with angels, demons and animals.

Much of the discussion of free will is related to choices of sin vs. good, and the implications with respect to eternal judgment. Anselm throws a twist to all of this by asserting that God and angels have free will, but don't sin. Free will is all about freedom or liberty, and if we bring into the discussion the verse / quote from Jesus above, Anselm argues that we lose our free will when we sin, as did demons. Through God's regenerating grace, however, we can recover the free will which was intended for us but that we lost.

Anselm uses sight to explain this, but I will take a different analogy: rock climbing. With discipline and practice, we can gain the freedom to take different routes up a difficult rock face. If we fall off from a high point without any safety equipment, however, death awaits and we have no more freedom. In this way, we would only have freedom as long as we did good, but sin is like the fall off the rock face.

Whether Anselm's argument is good or not, it is still remarkable because it represents a viewpoint that is the polar opposite of today's. If you can't do something sinful, people immediately complain that they have no freedom and scream "tyranny", while those who abstain from various sinful practices are mocked for being enslaved. If we tried to publicly teach that freedom and free will would increase as vice was suppressed, it would be difficult to imagine the hysteria.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The government giveth and the government taketh away ...

There seemed to be hundreds of these signs along interstate 5 where ever there was a barren patch of farmland. Looking carefully at this picture, you can probably see some more brown patches in the distance. We were zipping along the freeway when the picture was taken, so it is a bit fuzzy.

Most conservatives will immediately blame the lone judge who ruled that the saving of the Delta Smelt was more important than several billion dollars worth of California economic activity. Certainly the 10's of thousands who will lose their livelihood as a result are something of concern. The reason that the US congress gets the blame is that they are the source of the Endangered Species Act which the judge invoked. 'Species' being an extremely fuzzy term, this Endangered Species Act can theoretically be used against anyone.

This isn't quite all there is to the story. The water comes from far away through government funded dams and aqueducts to reach the farms. Allocations were based on congressional acts of long ago, while the price of water was set then also. My conservative instincts tell me that no matter how long we have enjoyed a government supplied benefit, we are never entitled to it. I am curious why it is that the Endangered Species Act trumps all other congressional acts, but that would probably be too much effort to track down.

As for solutions, the judge's decision to simply release water into the Sacramento Delta solves exactly nothing. From the rumors I have heard, congress originally promised far more water deliveries in the American southwest than is possible given the rainfall totals. Recently the politicians have taken to declaring "droughts" when rainfall is essentially normal so that regulations can be increased. According to economic theory, the sensible solution is simply to raise the price of water until people cut back usage and there is a balance between supply and demand.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

UCLA Bookstore visit ...

This is a great place to analyze trends among the intellectuals. Browsing around, I found two interesting books on opposite sides of the same topic, but in different parts of the store. One is The Book of Contemplation - Islam and the Crusades by Usama In Munqidh written in the 12th century. The other is Chronicles of the Crusades by Joinville and Villehardouin written in the 13th century. Given all the agenda driven polemics spilled over this age, it would be nice to read some of the original writers. Per the scholarly standards of an earlier generation, I follow the ad fontes notion as much as practical to avoid being mislead by scholars who quote scholars who quote scholars who ... where no one really knows what the original source was. Hopefully these will give me some easy reading when I complete my struggle through Anselms works.

The UCLA book store no longer is selling posters, unless I simply missed them. No more prominently displayed Che Guevara poster, but there was a considerable amount of book shelf dedicated to books by or about him. Time was short, so I skipped the tech section and checked out history, religion and philosophy. Not much jumped out except for the shortage of material from ancient Mesopotamia and China. Now that I know much more about classical philosophy beyond Plato and Aristotle, the shortage here also stood out.

For religions, the Christian section was twice as long as the next, which was Islam followed by Buddhism and then Hinduism. Of course this is a bit misleading as the Christian section includes some anti-Christian polemics. Two copies of a Green Bible were on the shelf which I haven't seen before. My initial instincts is that this is for those who worship both God the Father and mother nature, but I should probably hold off on making such an accusation! There was a reduced Purpose Driven section compared to the last time I was here, implying a waning interest in Purpose Driven Studies. The single most popular author was C.S. Lewis and this was entirely his serious writings, rather than The Chronicles of Narnia or The Space Trilogy. As far as early Christian authors, it was Augustine with The City of God and Confessions. Later the same day, I was at a Barnes and Nobles in Burbank which featured a larger selection of just about everything, but added Aquinas to Augustine. Presumably the college kids have too much to read already and never get past Augustine. A number of Catholic related writings were also on the UCLA bookshelf.

Sadly, the meter was about to expire so I had to get moving without doing a full evaluation of the changes. Until next time ...
I shouldn't do this, but ...

... it was simply too tempting to let my creative juices go after checking out a post from Delirious. I will need to be even handed and pick on the Republicans later!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grace Community Church and violations of Star Fleet directives.

There is a story I heard of a group of young men renting an apartment here in LA. Originally the landlord said 'no', not wanting a large group of potentially noisy and disruptive tenants. But then he found out that they all went to Grace Community Church, so he warmed up and said 'yes', believing that these are likely disciplined and well behaved young men. For example, these young men are known to say things like, "Sunday begins on Saturday evening, so we go to bed early to make sure that we can be at church on time Sunday morning with a fresh mind to listen to the sermon". I don't know if the story about the landlord is true or not, and am a bit reluctant to even pass it on given that such discrimination is a violation of the US Constitution, the Bible, the Koran, the Enuma Elisha, as well as certain ancient codes from Middle Earth. Certainly it must leave The Force completely unsettled. It does leave me wondering if there should be any benefit to raising children in a God fearing, disciplined environment, and whether the children or the parents or others who interact with them have any right to enjoy those benefits ...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Back to Los Angeles ...

This is a picture of the pipes where the water is pumped upwards from the south end of the California Central Valley over the mountains to quench the thirst of Los Angeles. The place is called The Grape Vine and is also where interstate 5 crosses the mountains. This is one tiny piece of the California Aqueduct system that makes California such a wonderful place to live.

This is San Luis Reservoir which is a holding tank in the middle of the southern half of the California Aqueduct system, but it is 180 miles north of the pumping station in the first picture. The winds blow hard across these mountains, which is why so many windmills are perched along the ridge.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My New Baby.

Here it is. A new Falcon Northwest laptop. For you geeky types, this is running a Core I7 975 processor at 3.33GHz with 12Gbytes of RAM. My last Dell Precision laptop is still running fine, but the 2-Gigabyte memory limit of the 32-bit windows was getting more and more frustrating. The new machine runs Windows Vista 64-bit OS. So far, so good with Windows Vista. The graphics card is a NVidia GeForce GTX 280M with 1Gigabyte of RAM. The display is a 17-inch 1920x1200 resolution LCD. This is for my scientific simulations that are running most of the time, but I still like to be mobile. From past experience, these high end machines can have some problems, particularly with the graphics, so I bought an extra insurance policy and kept the disk setup simple. With our California local sales tax at 9.75%, I saved quite a bundle ordering this from a small Oregon based vendor. Sadly, I had to cut somewhere so I skipped the custom paint job.

This machine is a quad core, but it uses hyper-threading to show 8 cores. Unlike earlier hyper-threaded CPUs, there isn't an option to turn this feature on/off in the BIOS. The first generation hyper-threading slowed my simulations down, but hopefully this second generation is a better design. I am doing a lot of parallel / multi-thread development and this is a great platform for testing this kind of capability. The power supply is the size of a large brick with a 20Volt/3Amp output that makes the entire system feel like 20 pounds. Great for a workout. Thankfully this comes with a Falcon-Northwest backpack, but it is missing the slot for the hydration pack, so this isn't a good choice for trail runs. Ideally you would want to carry a few solar panels on the trail so this machine could be used in the back country.

As you can see from the picture, it also includes a Falcon-Northwest t-shirt and cap, along with what they call "Falcon Fuel". The Falcon Fuel coffee has this note: "A deliciously smooth high-caffeine blend created for Falcon Northwest". As I was setting it up, one of my first chores was to get Bach's Toccata and Fugue loaded on so that I could have a proper mad scientist setup. Oooo to get working on testing the multi-threaded parallel coding!
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109AD): On Truth. (and Justice)

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" - John 14:6

When I was a teenager, I pondered a bit regarding the Biblical teaching that 'truth' has a tangible reality in Jesus, yet at the same time, we talk about truth in terms of statements which are true, but do not in any way represent what is proper in a Christian sense. Thus, the statement "Laci Peterson was murdered by her husband" has a truth that just doesn't seem compatible with Jesus being truth. I have tried to reconcile this conflict by differentiating between factual accuracy on the one hand, and the abstract truth of Christianity separately. In this little work, Anselm is going over the same issue, but 900 years earlier. There are plenty of words expended and a few mind benders to get around, but I am not happy that he has really made much headway. In the end, Anselm concludes that 'truth' is like 'time', in that it is something always around, but not unique to any particular object. Even if I accept this, I am not sure what it means or if there is any practical application. Another part of Anselm's reasoning is that even the terrible things that happen around us are for God's greater, good plan. Thus, they play a role in 'truth' no matter how offensive they are if examined individually.

Before moving on, it should be noted that the teaching of Jesus being truth is something common to many of the new testament writers, although John seems to formalize things the most and Paul follows. Both of these writers are familiar with classical philosophy and so we must admit that they are quite deliberately associating truth from reason and philosophy with Jesus. This claim essentially guarantees conflict between Christianity and secularists. What philosopher would accept that he is incapable of coming to a true result apart from Jesus?

The issues that bug me now weren't dealt with by Anselm in this work. For example, the most effective deceit is constructed on statements which are factually correct. What is left out is the killer. A Ponzi Scheme advertisement will reference the careful and knowledgeable investors who have chosen the fund along with the regular payments being made. Countless assertions are true in some sense, but false and misleading in the grander scheme of things. Thus, factual accuracy simply must be disjoint from truth.


The text almost makes truth and justice synonymous. Anselm does provide an interesting example to chew on, while providing a glimpse into the values of his age:

"Teacher: One who feeds the poor out of vainglory wills what he ought to will. Is he on that account praised for willing to do what he ought? What do you make of him?

Student: Such rectitude ought not to be praised and therefore does not suffice for the justice we are seeking. But show me now what would suffice." - On Truth.12

Thus, we have an assertion that true justice can only be accomplished through true motives, and in this case the true motive being that justice is a good that should be pursued for its own sake. The idea that justice is a function of motive is quite new to me, although the example given is similar to examples Jesus gave us. Our society may consider motives in the case of injustice (was it a hate crime?), but we have no notion of motives with respect to justice. The only thing that matters is the end result ... the end of justice justify the means!

Where I have confusion is this: We consider it 'justice' that parents should be given responsibility and authority to raise their children. In one case, this results in a well fed, well educated, well cared for child. In another, this results in an impoverished and neglected child. When these two grow up, we set them side by side and see one much more wealthy than the other and we declare that there was an injustice, apparently perpetrated by the wealthy family, while completely disregarding how this state came about. We could achieve justice for the two children by taking them from their parents and raising them identically, but this would be an injustice to their parents. Can justice conflict with itself? I don't want to propose any answers here, but simply note that Anselm seems to be providing definitions and statement that might represent a starting framework for such a discussion, but he really doesn't get into the juicy bits.
Still coughing ... and pondering 9/11 ...

I have officially exceeded 50% of the summer coughing and hacking from the flu and its aftermath. This usually just reduces my getting out to exercise, by I noticed that when things get bad I don't blog much either.

If I remember right, the morning of 9/11 I got up as usual and headed off to the coffee shop, but was listening to the radio. After catching the initial news, I circled back home and decided to work with the TV on. Some of the people I work with are in New Jersey and had acquaintances who died there. Sometimes it is best just to shed a tear and not go much further. It is always best to let the initial wave of emotion pass so that reason can have a chance to reassert itself. The TV pundits were busy immediately and quickly followed by the conspiracy mongers.

The term that most grates on my ear from all of this is "Islamo-Fascist", which is mandatory to use by the right wing pundits. This comes across a bit like "frog-elephant" or "apple-orange". Is there anything Islam and fascism have in common besides an antipathy for Jews? The equating of Islam to Fascism necessarily precludes any desire to study the particulars of what they represent. At this point, I will bring in Sun Tzu's quote from the Art of Warfare: "He who knows the enemy and himself will never in a hundred battles be at risk; He who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes win and sometimes lose; He who knows neither the enemy nor himself will be at risk in every battle." Those who talk about Islamo-Fascists are doomed to remain as the second or third kind that Sun Tzu described.

As for the far left, it seems that their enemy will always be American civilization, not foreign terrorists. Hence, the need to blame 9/11 on Bush, capitalism, American imperialism, ... Sun Tzu has another quote which applies to the left: "Warfare is the art of deceit". And so it continues, non-stop. For the most extreme of them, 9/11 was a gift.

If the anniversary were celebrated by a unified America, I would probably just focus on the event. Sadly, America is becoming more and more divided in the culture and ideology wars.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama's health care speech...

The transcript is here. I should note that I am self employed, so the detailed, full force of the runaway health care costs are things that I have to face directly. Thankfully my family doesn't have any major, chronic illnesses.

My impression of the speech is that it represents the usual neo-Marxist / populist leftist world view, but at the same time, I am not the least bit afraid of the government taking over health care. For example, as I noted in the past, a major goal of any American health care system is to maximize medical malpractice payouts. Government employed workers, however, are universally deemed to be incapable of malpractice, hence, we must retain the majority of the medical work force in private employment. A similar argument is based on regulation. Bureaucratism needs a private sector to justify its regulatory existence. A government can regulate itself, but the real joy is when a government employed bureaucrat regulates a private company. Obama's speech provides plenty of reasons to be optimistic on this front. There are all kinds of new mandates proposed for businesses and health insurers. The government will need to hire people to dispense the regulations and verify compliance, while businesses will need to hire people to respond to mind numbing government red tape. This is what we call a "win win situation" here in the US.

Another canard of the scaremongers is that the taxpayer will subsidize the public option. Nothing could be further from the truth. Currently, the states provide regulation of health insurance plans for the average person who isn't covered under a ERISA based health plan. ERISA based plans cover most large unionized groups and typically have much better benefits with less cost. A big reason is that to cover the costs of providing free health to illegals and others who don't work, the states tax health plans so that the average family buying health insurance is buying both for herself and others. A public option plan, however, will be federal and won't need to pay these taxes, hence, it will be a bargain for the taxpayer. Of course the taxes for the uninsured will be distributed over a smaller number of state regulated private plans, but we need to make the rich pay their fair share.

One thing I didn't see in the speech was any concerted effort to expand the number of doctors and nurses, especially as we have a growing percentage of our population above 50 years old who typically have more medical problems. Fortunately, there is a solution to this too. If there isn't a doctor or nurse available, we can continue expanding into alternative coverage such as witch doctors, new age crystals, psychiatrists/psychics, and hallucinogenic therapies. The future is looking bright. Investing tip of the day: Put marijuana stocks on your buy list.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Touring at Berringer Winery.

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109AD): De Grammatico.

When I was in elementary school in Tennessee back in the 60's, they taught us that there was a "Dark Ages", where learning was lost because of Christianity and bigotry trumped reason at every opportunity. Anselm is one of the best to compare against what I was taught by the intellectuals of "The Enlightenment". The referenced work is about grammar and nothing to do with theology, but it is an interesting work to ponder how Anselm interacted with pre-Christian classical literature.

The Monologion which I discussed earlier certainly used many classical examples. Anselm's teacher, however, criticized him for not including any references. Probably it could be lined up with various authors to see where things came from, but this would require the dedication of a specialist. Proslogion includes some new thinking which I wasn't entirely happy with, but then Anselm does something odd: A critic of one of his arguments, Gaunilo, supplies a challenge called "On Behalf of the Fool", which is to counter Anselm's use from the Psalm "The fool says in his heart, 'there is no God'". Anselm ordered this rebuttal to be included with his work. On reading the works, it did seem to me that the level of politeness was rather alien to today and wasn't really an example of sharp dispute from which we could asses the charge of 'bigotry' against the Christians.

De Grammatico is a bit different in that there are more references and the topic derives from Aristotle. The issue was Aristotle's assertion that words deal with substance, quality or quantity. A student is disputing with his teacher regarding ambiguous words in this dialog created by Anselm, but the teacher is fully supportive of Aristotle. Hence we have these bits:

"For, without going into further detail, the classification which he undertook at the opening of his work On the Categories is enough to bear out what I assert." - De Grammatico.17

"Teacher: And do you consider that anywhere in his work he treated the matter otherwise than he did in this classification, or that any of his followers wished to adopt an attitude differing from his own on this topic, when writing on logic?

Student: Their writings contain no grounds whatever for such an opinion ..." - De Grammatico.17

On The Categories comes from Aristotle and these portions are specifically referring to Aristotle. This brings up an additional puzzle due to my novice student status: The introduction to this book of Anselm's works asserts that Anselm didn't know Greek, but Aristotle wrote in Greek. Anyway, the dialog format itself comes from the Greeks and Anselm seems to be simply assuming that everyone reads the classical Greeks. For a concluding remark, we have this bit:

"Teacher: You are well aware, however, of the degree to which contemporary logicians are at loggerheads about this problem of yours, so I do not want you to stick to our findings to the extent of stubbornly hanging on to them should someone manage, by dint of better opposing arguments, to demolish our results and establish different ones. Should this occur, at least you cannot deny that all this has been handy as an exercise in the art of disputation." - De Grammatico.21

This spirit of humility seems to me to exceed everything that I have seen in our modern era. If an argument is demolished, the usual pattern is to confuse things and then make personal attacks against the person who formed the argument.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Visiting the CIA's California training center.

This facility is in Napa Valley also - off of highway 29 just north of St. Helena. It is housed in a hundred year old building that was used before Prohibition for processing and storing wine. The dungeons and caves made by earlier wine growers still have some use. Operatives are sent here from all over for training. You would think they would be more secretive, but this isn't the case. They have a store featuring a wide variety of knives and other instruments that have proven effective over the years in eliciting positive feedback from their, um, clients. There also are a number of books on sale describing how to properly use this equipment. My wife then informed me that my kids had already been checking out the CIA with regard to future employment! If you would like to know more about the CIA, you can check them out here.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Today, Mr. and Mrs. Looney celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary by heading up to Napa Valley with the kids. This is not our usual destination since we aren't drinkers, but I will try to add some pictures and catch up on the blogging over the weekend. Have a good holiday.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Forced to join a union ...

So my daughter tells me. She was just finishing the paperwork with the Human Resources Department at San Jose State University and called to let me know that joining the union was a mandatory part of the process for this 3 hour a week grader job!!! I wonder how much they are going to deduct from her paycheck for the union services.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Dear Looney,



This is an invitation to swim from Alcatraz in honor of one of ours Bay swimmers!
This Saturday September 5th, we will have a swim from Alcatraz to help to raise
funds for one of our swimmers Adriana Ospina. Adriana joined us long time ago to
swim in the Bay and since then, joining the South End became an avid swimmer and
great Triathlete. Unfortunatelly this past Sunday she had a terrible biking accident
at Mount Tam in Marin County. Right now she is in a coma that we are hoping she
will recover soon. For this purpose we have organized this swim to help raise funds
for her family that are standing by her. Please join us in this swim, there are
35 spots available and we only ask you for a donation. You may send us a check made
to her mom, Ms. Myriam Ospina or bring on the day of the swim a donation addressed
to her. You may register at our website and send us an e-mail to
[] with the amount you are donating. Keep praying
for her soon recovery and to have her swimming again from Alcatraz to celebrate
her come back. Thanks for your consideration for our fellow swimmer and athlete.
Any donation by mail please send it to our address below.

Coach Pedro H.Ordenes, ASCA/WSCA
Water World Swim

Bring Donations Addressed to Ms. Myriam Ospina
Minimum donation $ 80.00
Meeting at 6:30 a.m. - Hyde St. Pier - next to Capurro's Restaurant (498 Jefferson
Jump 7:00 a.m. to Aquatic Park.
We encourage you to bring well wishes signs to Adriana- We will give photos to her
family []

Coach Pedro H.Ordenes, ASCA/WSCA
145 Town Center No.495
Corte Madera, California 94925
My daughter brought back this little gem from San Jose State University where she is studying. For those who believe that Social Science is an oxymoron, this should come as a relief.
My usual pattern of regularly getting out to take fresh pictures has been stymied by the second case of the flu this summer. This is the one that started the day before my Alcatraz swim leaving my breathing impaired when I needed it the most. Usually I only get sick in the winter, and rarely once in the summer. This summer I have already had Swine Flu and now have gotten sick a second time. Too bad this isn't Swine Flu too, because I could get my weight down to a reasonable level! By the time flu shots are given out in October, I should already have had everything!

This picture is of a mountain meadow in Yosemite from the Mount Dana hike we took on August 22.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The New York Times regarding elderly immigrants to Fremont.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." - James 1:27

Today, some Christian groups emphasize the avoidance of "being polluted by the world" to the exclusion of everything else, while others try to help orphans and widows while being oblivious to the concept of "polluted by the world". It is tough to maintain a balance.

The linked article tells of a growing opportunity here in my home town. There are plenty of elderly with needs. So far the government social safety net has met most of them, but this has limits so that we are able to squeeze some charity into the gaps. What will happen as the California budget continues to unravel?
"Fundamentalism" Invades Manhattan.

This is a good article for those who grew up in the real world and would like to know what is happening elsewhere. The charge of "Fundamentalism" was leveled against the Rev. Brad Braxton because he gave Jesus a special place in the pantheon of deities worshiped at Riverside Church, although he had otherwise not deviated from the typical gospel of political correctness. Riverside Church has been the nation's premier liberal social gospel church for most of a century.

The cynical side of me has thought that the Biblical hero of the social gospel movement isn't the Good Samaritan, but rather the Inn Keeper and the Robbers from the same story. The Inn Keeper is the hero because he does charity for a fee. The Robbers because, well, if they hadn't beaten up and robbed the traveler in the first place, where would the opportunity to conduct charity have come from? And so it goes, as upper class mainliners encourage social dysfunction on the one hand, and conducting charity with the wealth of others. This article mainly encouraged those views, as it turns out that the Rockefeller Foundation is the primary tithing source for this institution.

Having vented this, I now have a moral obligation to do something for someone the proper way ...