Saturday, July 30, 2011

SHETI:  Search for Hostile Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.

My wandering paths are always taking me to new and strange places.  Thus, today I saw this unusual sight of the Stanford Dish.  The left middle section shows the beautiful chapel roof.  The painted section is of our Lord Jesus with the twelve disciples just before going up into heaven.  The dish, of course, is also being pointed up towards heaven.  Coincidence?  I am just here to gather the evidence in an unbiased and scientific manner. 

Previously I had insinuated that the purpose of the Stanford Dish was to negotiate surrender with the first alien race that it could find.  Now I am not so sure.  Do they have a direct communication channel to heaven? Direct link or not, I fear something has gone badly wrong in the communications. 
Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion:  Book 2

This is a continuation of pondering related to Calvin's (1509-1564) teaching that the human will is capable of exactly nothing good.  What bothered me a bit is Calvin's insistence that he is not in the least distinguished from Augustine on this point.  To defend this claim Calvin quotes Augustine's work against Pelagius (354AD-420) who believed that human will could lead to unbounded good.  I haven't read Augustine's work against Pelagius.  What bothers me is that Augustine (354AD-430) also wrote On Free Choice of the Will in which he is quite clear on the potential of the Will to choose good, while Calvin doesn't quote this work.

We could speculate that Augustine wasn't completely clear on the matter and used one sort of rhetoric against Pelagius but another when arguing against the neo-Platonists.  Putting things into Calvin's context, he was up against the Catholic Church which had become very much into enumerating sins and goods while grace had been reduced to a commodity which could be bought and sold via indulgences.  It is tempting to simply say that Calvin was selectively emphasizing certain aspects at the expense of others to highlight the differences with the Roman bureaucracy.

My general view is that absent a knowledge of God, that man can do a bit of good.  At the same time, good is what we are created to do.  It matters not how much good I do if I go out and murder someone, or commit some other sin against God.  Whether a murderer is a social worker or a pimp is hardly an issue.  There is a certain penalty for murder.  As such, sin marks us out for death.

Looking at good, however, we also see a difference.  Giving for a benefit has been known since ancient times as the Persian kings gave gifts to their subjects in order to receive honor.  Is giving in order to receive honor legitimate?  There is something wholly different in true Christian charity which gives to those for whom there is no tribal bond, that gives anonymously, and that desires to give in a way that long term good can be done.  Bad motivations can still creep in, however, so it is a constant desire to be able to give perfectly as God does.  Only by God's grace can this be accomplished.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Debt limits ...

The Democrats are willing to increase the debt limit in exchange for a boat load of new taxes, while the Republicans will increase the limit in exchange for a balanced budget amendment. This all sounds like negotiating with a drunk.  The Republican drunk will stop drinking in exchange for no restrictions on visiting the liquor store.  The Democrat drunk will stop drinking provided a distillery is installed at his house.  

I am in favor of a balanced budget amendment, but think the far better solution is simply not to raise the debt limit.  Or is that the credit limit?  California has a balanced budget amendment which is slightly better than meaningless.  The budget must only appear to be balanced, but then it never is so debt just keeps going up.  If you fix the credit limit, however, then a hard stop is hit when the spend-o-holic overspends.  A balanced budget with teeth!

Yes, it will result in total chaos.  Unfortunately the total chaos is inevitable given that the long term US federal budget appears to be designed by Charles Ponzi.  In fact the sooner this chapter is brought to a close the better given that the longer it continues the more pain there will be.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Calvin's (1509-1564) Institutes: Book 2

"Then, if a discourse is pronounced which flatters the pride spontaneously springing up in man’s inmost heart, nothing seems more delightful. Accordingly, in every age, he who is most forward in extolling the excellence of human nature, is received with the loudest applause."

This book focuses on the utter worthlessness of the human soul.  The above, of course, has quite a ring of truth to it as these days it is considered to be a violation of human rights to upset a student regarding his failings.  Self esteem is number one.

Calvin is extremely hostile to the philosophers in this work and the Christian theologians who have followed in their footsteps.  On this account I agree - with exceptions - since the philosophers believed that reason led to good while desires led to bad.  I noted that in my review of Anselm as well and Calvin also highlighted Anselm as one of the offenders.  Augustine clearly is of a different view - that reason is just as useful for evil as for good.  Calvin quotes Cicero also, but fails to note Cicero's attack on the Stoics regarding the evils of reason.

Still, I think Calvin goes too far.  Mankind has a conscience that directs him towards the right, even though all else might direct him otherwise.  Yes, this conscience is something we are endowed with by God, but at the same time, it is part of our makeup and clearly does effect are behavior.  To what degree is impossible to say, since our decisions are the result of so many things.  It seems to me that the boundary between man's free will and God's predestination is more than a little bit fuzzy when I consider this and that ambiguities are inevitable.  Calvin argues that the only way to have a clean system that does away with the ambiguities is to assign 0% to free will and 100% to predestination.  That scores well on the neatness category, yet it still suffers from an inescapable fact:  No matter how firmly a Calvinist believes in predestination, he conducts his life as if it were 100% free will.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ambrose (340AD-397):  Concerning Virgins.

This is a delightful little work.  I learned that Christians originally frowned upon dancing due to the antics of Herodias and her daughter, who through dancing enticed king Herod into beheading John The Baptist.  Moral:  If you want to keep your head on you shouldn't let women dance.  Modesty and temperance are the most important characteristics of the Christian woman along with keeping silence and only speaking as necessary.  He did, however, leave blogging as a legitimate outlet for their communication instincts.

There are many examples of martyrdom.  One is the case of a 12 year old girl who was executed for refusing to deny Christ.  Her hands and feet were too small to be bound in the fetters, but she held her head high and proceeded proudly to her death.  In many other cases the choice given the young Christian women was to deny Christ or be set to forced labor in a brothel.  Death was preferred.  Visiting some university campuses, I have a feeling we aren't too far from returning to this form of persecution.

Women are encouraged by Ambrose to take a life of chastity dedicated to Christ, while at the same time marriage is also honored.  A dilemma of this age was that young virgins were not their own, so that the choice of a nunnery or a husband was made by their parents.  Most arranged marriages fare better than modern love marriages, but what of the woman who is forced into a convent against her will?  Many a parent would be tempted to do this just to save the price of a dowry.  The enthusiasm of the age seems to have covered over the problems that would become more apparent a few generations later. In any case, the term virgin is used quite broadly to refer to those who live their life single, those who are not yet married, and of course the virgin Mary, who was married and produced brothers and sisters to Jesus.

As mentioned elsewhere, all the great fathers of the church were literate in the classical literature. The book describes other notions of virginhood such as the Vestal Virgins - pagan priestesses - who were only virgins for a fixed time.  Ambrose claims that Christianity alone had determined that there was a special merit to those women who never married for the sole purpose of piety.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Breivik:  2083: A Declaration of European Independence

“An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide. “
Arnold Toynbee

The above quote is from The Manifesto.  I read about 100 pages and skimmed down to about half way through the 1,500 page document.  The last half was about how to wage a civil war.  The first chunk of The Manifesto reads like countless other conservative articles, but far more extensive.  The universities are systematically twisting history and just about everything else in their war against Western Civilization.  Thus, our governments have become active instruments for the destruction of Christianity, the family, economics, culture and everything else related to civilization, while Islam is unconditionally praised.  The source of this he identifies as political correctness which in turn he derives from Marxism.  This early section has a quote which expresses his view:

"Cultural Marxism defines all minorities, what they see as the victims; Muslims, Feminist women, homosexuals and some additional minority groups as virtuous and they view ethnic Christian European men as evil."

Sadly, modern university scholarship is this mindlessly simplistic.  At the same time, any genuine Christian would take exception to the term "ethnic Christian" as being nonsensical.  Ethnicity does not bequeath us our relationship with Christ.

Where things differ from the American conservative is the analysis of corporations.  Breivik criticizes Western capitalism as being a major part of the problem.  If only the West were capitalist.  The current cozy relationships with politicians and regulators - government directed corporatism - or corporatist directed government if you prefer - is anything but capitalist.  Capitalism requires the government to be a neutral and fair arbitrater so that markets can function properly.  The modern leftist, however, is quite comfortable moving between Washington and Wall Street - raking in the cash while piously insisting that it is all on behalf of the poor and oppressed.  (We dare not mention the name of the political system that advocates government directed capitalism.)  Certainly corporations are amoral and will always be so, but Breivik has bought into the classic leftist rhetoric here.  Breivik does not provide any challenge to the notion that western conservatism is unique to America.

Breivik doesn't seem to state anything directly on his religious stance.  There is plenty to say about the Koran, but not a quote from the Bible that I saw.  Sections 2.82-2.85 have comments on Christianity, but they are written by another author.  All we can do is presume that Breivik is sympathetic to the views he prints, while noting that he didn't write them directly:

"As a non-religious person, but still one that acknowledges and respects the impact of
Judeo-Christian thinking on Western culture, I have warned against naive Christian
compassion[1] related to Muslim immigration, as well as a disturbing tendency among
too many Christian organisations to ally themselves with Muslims, for "religious values"
and against Israel. But frankly, the most useful allies Muslims have in the West more
often than not tend to be found among the non-religious crowd."

This looks more like the modern secular conservative's attitude.  Christianity is a useful ally, but secular conservatives don't believe in it.  There is a bit more as I searched (3.81- ):

"Only Rome is the true church, since only Rome can lay claim to apostolic succession
dating back to Peter, the rock, per the sixteenth chapter of Matthew (" are Peter
and upon this rock I will build my church..."). Only the Roman Catholic Church is rooted
and grounded in this ancient apostolic tradition."

Fundamentalist Christianity has traditionally been about the Word of God (i.e. Christ, the Logos), which means the Bible.  The Bible is considered superior to tradition, hence the slogan Sola Scriptura.  Beivik says:

"Christ left a church, not a book, and that the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura (by
scripture alone) is illogical because the formation of the canon (i.e. what we recognise as
Scripture) was itself a monumental act of the church. Thus, the Bible requires an
infallible church."

Um, no.  That mainline protestantism has committed spiritual and intellectual suicide is no secret, but that wasn't due to an unintelligible Bible.  And finally we see where this is leading to:

"When a just and conservative Pope mounts the chair of Peter, the tide will set strongly
toward Rome. We will hear of conversions on every hand. The joyful radiance of this
Popes appearance among us will be seen as nothing less than a strong and just knight of
Christianity. A Crusader Pope, a man who symbolises and protects the persecuted
Church. This new Pope will be a defender of Christianity, and will not contribute to the
annihilation of Christendom through suicidal humanism."

Salvation by the Pope?  Or perhaps the Pope is the Mahdi?  I am still left wondering whether Breivik is an atheist or not.  There doesn't seem to be any real spiritual dimension to anything.  Machiavelli is one of Breivik's heroes and this may represent Machiavelli's view of a church that is useful for harnessing the superstitions of the people towards the ends of a state, rather than the Marxist "opium of the people".  I didn't stumble across one Bible verse among the pages I surveyed.  Lest I be accused of doing the same, I will finish this post with a verse:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." - Ephesians 6:12
Breivik: Trying to understand the incomprehensible.

The events in Norway will generate a lot of discussion for years to come. The news has noted that this guy was a "right-wing fundamentalist Christian". Hmmm. Note that the description comes from the "police official, Roger Andresen". I have generally had the impression that right-wing fundamentalist Christians are less common than followers of the Klingon religion in continental Europe, so the claim begs for a bit of scrutiny. Did the claim come from Breivik's extensive writings? Or did the police official simply reason that he was white, he wasn't a leftist, and he killed, therefore he is a right-wing fundamentalist Christian?

Breivik's video being up on the web, we can get a little idea.  First I will note that most of this message is hardly any different from that of Alexander Solzenitsen's  Suicide of the West and countless others.  Things change a bit as Europe feels threatened by Islam much more than by communist armies these days.  The theme of Eurabia is delved into.  Breivik then looks to the examples of an earlier age:  Various great historical leaders who held their ground against Muslim armies or pushed back.  There was, of course, a Christian/Islam divide in the wars enumerated.  A few of the heroes are Charlemagne, Richard the Lionheart, Vlad the Impaler, and Tsar Nicholas.  The last I presume was for the Crimean War where the French and English joined the Turks against the Russians.  The only Christianity on offer here is a nostalgic cultural/traditional variety.  There is still the 1,500 page manifesto which will likely go up on the web sooner or later.

UPDATE:  The Financial Times has an article on Breivik in which they claim that his manifesto self-describes Breivik as a "cultural Christian".

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Calvin's (1509-1564) Institutes: Book 1

I finished listening to the first and shortest of the four books while out on the trail. The overall impression is that it is primarily a summary of various views that have been a subject of Christian discussion during the first 1,500 years of the church. Calvin quotes a large number of authors ranging from classical Greek and Latin authors to the church fathers along with the Bible. This I hadn't expected, but probably should have. All the outstanding early Christian theologians seem to have spent considerable time immersed in classical literature of all kinds. It does seem to point to a dilemma as each generation of Christian scholar was expected to have mastered all that went before.

The only thing that jumped out to me as something new and unusual was the assertion that Adam alone had free will, while mankind since the Fall does not. Calvin explains that free will was an invention of Plato and it doesn't derive from scripture. The final extensive discussion on this subject is something quite useful as Calvin attempts to answer the key questions: If everything is predestined, why should humans bother about anything? Isn't God responsible for evil? Some of Calvin's answers echo Augustine, yet Augustine affirmed free will. In this matter I will stick to Augustine.
Feeling sad for Norway ...

What to pray for them?  Sympathy is required for the survivors and for those who are grieving.  May God comfort them.  I can pray for physical recovery for many, but the psychological healing is going to be much harder.

I have been suppressing the analytical side of me.  We should really hold off until there is more information.  For example, political parties holding summer youth camps seems odd.  One pundit commented that it was terrible that this happened in the same location that the Nobel Peace prizes were awarded.  It was terrible, but don't get me going on the significance of the Nobel Peace prizes.  And what about the millions facing famine in Somalia/Ethiopia/Kenya ...   Stop it.

May God bring about something good in the attitudes of the people of Norway towards Himself and their position in the Creation.  Ditto for us.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Calvin's (1509-1564) Institutes: Condemning evolution by name three centuries before it was invented ...

"And then in regard to supernatural events, though these are occurring every day, how few are there who ascribe them to the ruling providence of God—how many who imagine that they are casual results produced by the blind evolutions of the wheel of chance?" - Institutes of the Christian Church

Reading Calvin's Institutes makes it clear that modern evolutionary science is simply warmed over Epicureanism. One of the common errors parroted is that a well known Calvinist theologian, B.B. Warfield claimed that evolution was compatible with the Bible, thus, there is no conflict.  Was he really an adherent to Calvinism?  Or was he simply playing both sides of the fence like a modern intellectualloid?  As for those who think the notion of the evolution of religion is new, there is this to ponder:

"It is most absurd, therefore, to maintain, as some do, that religion was devised by the cunning and craft of a few individuals, as a means of keeping the body of the people in due subjection, while there was nothing which those very individuals, while teaching others to worship God, less believed than the existence of a God." - Institutes of the Christian Church

This left me pondering the fact that the terms "modernism" and "post-modernism" are really misnomers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion

Another massive work. This one is supposed to be the most important theological work done by a Protestant. I am listening to this rather than reading thanks to The introduction has a number of gems in it, but I will just highlight one:

"But human affairs have scarcely ever been so happily constituted as that the better course pleased the greater number. Hence the private vices of the multitude have generally resulted in public error, or rather that common consent in vice which these worthy men would have to be law." - Introduction

This reminds me a bit of our current efforts to impose morals on society.  The public may not choose wisely, but the courts have proven far worse.  Here Calvin complains clergy facilitating the vice.  The reason for the Reformation in the first place was that the church was taking a lead role in the furtherance of vice towards the end of the Renaissance. It would seem that there is no hope in any direction, except that society should experience a bit of virtue by the grace of God.

Monday, July 18, 2011

California Prop 71 (Embryonic Stem Cell Research) recap:  $3 billion of taxpayers funds squandered.

"CIRM's own scientists acknowledge that no CIRM-produced cures have trickled down to California patients."

CIRM is the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the organization that spent the money.  I had forgotten about the California embryonic stem cell initiative, although I am still paying for it.  Recalling back to the 2004 battle, the initiative was initially condemned for the obvious reason of depending on abortion with the additional note that adult stem cells had promise but embryonic ones did not.  Embryonic stem cell research is both immoral and bad science.  In the obsolete science of Economics, there was also the notion of "opportunity costs".  Funding researchers to pursue doomed projects has the side effect of excluding the money and talent from pursuing things that might be successful - like Malaria or Tuberculosis.  

The fact of it being immoral, however, merely generated a backlash from the intellectualoids.  "Immoral?  Then it is unconstitutional for the government not to fund it!"  To this end the usual full force media war was launched to accuse Christians of being anti-science, anti-progress, hopelessly selfish, hypocritical imbeciles.  Retractions anyone?

Now that the money is gone with nothing to show for, the CIRM is seeking $5 billion more.  Meanwhile, the Obama administration has duly noted that embryonic stem cell research is an immoral failure, thus, they have rescinded the rules restricting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.  My guess is that the Federal government will find the $5 billion needed to keep the CIRM's scientists fully funded so that they can enjoy first rate restaurants in exotic vacation destinations.  Deficit?  What deficit?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Roald Amundsen (1872-1928):  The South Pole

Caution:  This book will send PETA members into a fit of rage followed by a terminal depression.  If you don't like reading about penguins and new born puppies going into the frying pan, then you probably won't like this story.  Then there is ...  

I was searching on for interesting material to read and this long winded account of the Norwegian adventure to the South Pole caught my attention.  It is a story of adventure, mountaineering and one life threatening encounter after another.  Scott's fatal attempt (Librivox has his diaries up also) to do the same trip is a testimony to the danger.  The stories of crossing ice fields full of bottomless crevices hidden under a thin layer of snow is the sort of thing that gets me excited to make a trip there.  At the same time, the technical details going to the level of latitude, longitude, barometric pressure, ... were of the sort that gets me interested.

There was something that bothered me in all this.  The volume is massive going into all kinds of details about their lives during the years from 1910 to 1912.  One is left with the impression that no one had a spiritual life of any kind.  Easter and Christmas are mentioned, yet other than longing for home there is no spiritual side to anything.  A sentence in the introduction by Amundsen is this:

"One of his ships, the Victoria, accomplished the first circumnavigation of the world, and thus established in the popular mind the fact that the earth was really round."

This is based on Washington Irving's flat earth fiction introduced in his novel about Christopher Columbus.  Another quote from one of Amundsen's lieutenants:

"Meanwhile I considered it inadvisable to come to close quarters with them so long as we were unable to use our eyes, and, remembering what happens when the blind leads the blind, we camped."

This is an obvious reference to Matthew 15:14 - "Leave them; they are blind guides.  If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

Clearly there is some familiarity with Christianity in this group.  My general impression about the era around 1880 - 1930 was when atheism reached its zenith.  It should be no surprise that the writing is a reflection of the times.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

California's Gay History.

Yes, our famous governor, Jerry Brown, just signed a law requiring the teaching of gay history to all California school children.  Now I should admit that Christians are generally favorable to the notion of gay history being taught.  Nero, Caligula, Government funded male shrine prostitutes, forceably transgendered eunuchs, pederasty, Sodom & Gomorrah, STD's...  should all be taught.  No problem here.

This being California, however, we need to keep in mind that California school history textbooks are written by moonlighting Hollywood script writers.  Nero is simply a program for dealing with media.  What we will learn from the new textbooks is that Columbus was gay and he discovered the New World by accident while fleeing the Inquisition.  Mohammed had set his mind on a pacifist religion of peace, but was forced against his will to pick up a sword to defend the honor of his lesbian sister who was relentlessly taunted by the Jews.  Then there was the famous charge of the LGT Brigade.  The possibilities are endless.

My real concern, however, is that the large majority of California school students find history anything but gay and instead tune out, fall asleep and/or get high during class ... and that is for the few who actually bother to go to class.  Thankfully Hollywood has already written an outstanding text on Gay California History as a search of the archives quickly proves.  The following should satisfy all parties as Zorro The Gay Blade leads a revolt against excessive taxes and inane regulations that were stifling the economy of our state back in the early 19th century.  Brown and Steinberg, are you listening?  And yes, it will keep the kids awake too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Aristotle:  Belly Gods.

This is part of an extended section describing those who are self-indulgent, such as I am with regard to sporting events.  The concept extends to many other areas:

"Hence these people are called belly-gods, this implying that they fill their belly beyond what is right. It is people of entirely slavish character that become like this." - Nicomachean Ethics, III.11

Bible students should immediately recognize the phrase:

"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with many tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things." - Philippians 3:18-19

Presumably belly-god was a well known reference to the self-indulgent that Paul is reusing.  I have to wonder if there is any connection between the above and the rising obesity rates in the US.  Now if only I could hide my stomach ...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Swim Around The Rock:  Survivor Report.

You can see my bare back as the "skin" standing to the left most.  Number 27.

We got to the San Francisco Aquatic Park at about 6AM.  There was a big cancer march event that day also so the free parking was all blocked off.  We parked in Ghiradelli Square instead which cost $27.  The stands of the Aquatic Park were filled with a brisk, cold, humid, foggy breeze that was probably around 50 degrees.  The hope for a dead calm was thus dashed.  A few minutes later the grease pen markings were going on.  Then the start, but why did they forget to sing the National Anthem?  Someone noted that the swimmers were self segregating at the start between the skins and the wetsuits.  I was one of the skins.  No wetsuit.  Just a swim suit.  Otherwise it was bare skin in direct contact with the San Francisco Bay's salty water.

The event started at 7 as we all rushed into the water.  It was a bit cold at first, but this gave way to the usual burning sensation after a few minutes.  A bit further and the water was feeling warm, even though it was about 60 degrees.  The entire group quickly cleared the Aquatic Park's lagoon and we were out in the channel between San Francisco and Alcatraz.  Here we were treated to rolling waves a few feet tall.  This had us all bobbing up and down like so many little corks.  Crossing the channel to the island was no problem, but it seemed a bit of a struggle to get around the first point.  Eventually that was accomplished and we covered the north side of the island quickly.  The water was calm and we had a tail current.

Going around the other end of the island things got rough again with the rollers coming into our face from the Golden Gate.  A little bit more, however, and we turned things around so that the rollers were coming up behind us and  we were on the south side of the island.  Then a problem developed.  I was swimming and swimming, but my location relative to the island didn't seem to be changing.  We had been advised to stay close to the island, but the kayakers directed me into the channel saying it was better there.  Gradually I made some headway.  Emphasis on gradually.  About 20 to 30 minutes were consumed swimming along this section without a whole lot of progress.  I normally swim more directly towards the shore, but was instructed to swim towards - then to the left - of the famous Transamerica Building from the Carmen Sandiego video game.  This had me primarily swimming upstream since the currents had shifted.  I should note that if I had turned 90 degrees and swam straight for shore there would have been no trouble to end up at Crissy Field.

Finally my guardian kayaker raised his paddle.  We were being repositioned. I say "we" because there was a second swimmer with me who told me that he had been following me.  Apparently not everyone is comfortable looking for landmarks which aren't visible from the troughs of the rollers.  A ski boat came over quickly and took us on board. We were then sent over to the Dauntless which was fetching some other swimmers who did take the course closer to shore but weren't successful in the battle against the accelerating ebb tide either.  We jumped off the ski boat, swam over to the Dauntless and then climbed up the ladder.

Aboard the Dauntless we saw about 8 other swimmers.  One of them was in a wetsuit and shivering uncontrollably.  Pre-hypothermia.  Another was laying on the deck still in his wetsuit, but with a towel.  The pilot checked on him periodically and warned him not to go to sleep.  A towel was offered to the two of us who were last arrived.  We both declined.  We were being repositioning and a towel would be an admission of defeat.  Never mind that we were already defeated.

The Dauntless then set out upstream (relative to the ebb tide) and across the channel.  We were then invited to jump back in with about a half mile further to the finish.  This we did, but the ebb was running even faster now.  The other swimmers were quickly warned to change course and swim way to the left so that they wouldn't be swept past the entrance of the aquatic park.  I had already adjusted for this and was sighting on Coit Tower, then the masts of the sailing ship at the maritime museum.  The entrance to the aquatic park arrived.  I adjusted course for the finish point which had just become visible.  The last quarter mile was covered quickly as I still felt I had plenty of energy.  Accounting for the boat ride, I spent nearly two hours in the water.

Being over 50 and not a super swimmer, I should feel good about all this.  Swimming into the current is futile if you aren't too fast, but a little more speed can make a big difference.  My feet didn't have any feeling in them from about 30 minutes into the swim and continuing for several hours.  The overall experience was well worth it.  Many thanks go to Pedro, the kayakers and all the rest of the support crew.  Next time I should choose an event slightly easier like the Alcatraz Touch and Go which is a bit shorter.  Hmmm.  August 6th.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Coach Pedro is giving a briefing on how to swim around Alcatraz.  I drove an hour and a half into the Presidio to hear this talk along with most of the other swimmers.  The poster on the right shows the correct way to do the swim which is a "figure 8" driven by the currents.  Pedro did the swim while dragging a GPS unit along and found that he covered 4 miles.  That is a bit more than I anticipated, but I should be ready for it.  What to do if a large container ship comes by?  Answer:  Tread water and wait for it to pass, then continue on.  They promised to adjust the completion time accordingly.  

The water temperature is between 59 and 62 degrees.  The other tidbit is that the extra runoff from the Sierras is causing the ebb tide to be stronger than the flood.  One of the pilots engaged me in conversation and told me of last year where a swimmer was caught up in a whirlpool off Alcatraz for 15 minutes with no progress although swimming steadily.  Gotta get some sleep.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Swim Around The Rock:  Just two more days.

I really should post more pictures from the Fraser Mountain adventure in New Mexico, but Saturday's swim is too focusing my mind elsewhere.  This morning I finished my last 4,600 yard training swim.  The threatened two hour cut-off time has me a bit worried since this is about what it will take me to do the event.  Other than that, I should be sufficiently fit and trained for the open water swimming.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Fires in the mountains north of Los Alamos.

Taos Ski Valley.  This is where we spend the night and get ready for tomorrow's adventure.  We got rained on twice heading up and everything is green here, but all the wilderness trails are closed due to fire hazard.  Thus, we are rerouting to a different summit on private land.

Some other high mountain scenery.

On the road again ...

Friday, July 01, 2011

Minnesota government shutdown.

The context is the generalized bankruptcy of the US due to hyper spending.  No amount of tax increases can fix the problem, but the governor is in full demagogue mode demanding more taxes, while the legislature has said "no" to increasing the taxes and thereby further encouraging the spending disorder.  It does leave us wondering what happens when the parties in charge are so far apart that the nation becomes ungovernable.  Democracy, however, is supposed to end in self inflicted total chaos.