Tuesday, July 07, 2015

July 4th at Letchworth State Park

Joc and Me in front of the Middle Falls
Eddie and I were down visiting friends outside of Rochester this week-end.  They took us to Letchworth State Park.  I had no idea how nice it was.  We drove around, walked to the Upper and Middle Falls, looked at the "Grand Canyon of the East" and had a great lunch.
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It was good fun.
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This is the Upper Falls with a train bridge above

The "Grand Canyon Of the East"

Les and Eddie on the lip of the Canyon
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Joc, Les and Eddie above the middle falls

The Middle Falls (and the damn rainbow the gays put everywhere!)

I loved this little side creek that fell into the Canyon.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Kotor : Surprise of Montenegro


While on vacation, we took a trip out to Kotor in Montenegro.
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For those of you that don't know, Montenegro is one of the smallest of the ex-Yugoslavia republics.  We stayed in Dubrovnik (the small red * on the extreme south of the Croatian coast) and drove around the Bay of Kotor to the walled city of Kotor (the small blue dot).
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Both John and I had read that the Bay is breath-taking, and it is.  But the little walled city also amazed me.  Being more remote, smaller and harder to get to that Dubrovnik, the city was less flooded with tourists (luckily we had also just arrived after a smaller cruise ship sailed out).  In any case, this was a great town.  I will add a lot of pictures with captions, click to get more information.
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Note that in many of the pictures in the background is a hill with small rows of walls.  The walls are actually quite big, and run up to a pre-Roman fortress.  John and Sue climbed the walls way up to the fortress.  I would have, of course, but was busy being a tourist in old town.
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Lorenzo Pompeii and I on the walls (what a great name).
John and Sue - PreHike (the walked to the top of the mountain above!)
There is a tiny church from the 9th century shown below.  It was originally a Roman Catholic church, then, for 1,000 years, it was a shared Othodox / Catholic church.  In the 1800s it was turned over to the Orthodox church exclusively.
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But inside you can see the Catholic frescos from the 9th century in an nave.
 

The church above and the Orthodox front.  Immediately above is the uncovered frescos.
Other pictures of the city, the main Catholic church and us...
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The Walls at the river, and then creeping up the hill.





The New Church (808).

Gareth, Jane, Barbara, Lorenzo and Ed in the new church.


Coco Vandeweghe (Niece of Kiki)

Coco
So going into the women's quarterfinals is a lone unranked player, US player CoCo Vandeweghe (pronounced Van-Da-Way).  I root for the young Miss Vandeweghe not only because she is an underdog, unranked.  Not only because she is an American (Serena Williams is still in and ranked #1 in the world).
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But Coco is the neice of Kiki Vandeweghe.
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Who?
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Kiki.  He was our star basketball player when I was a yell leader at UCLA.  Larry Brown took 1 senior and a bunch of Freshman to the Final Four.  In fact he took them within 90 seconds of winning it all.  This group had almost no experience.  Kiki was the only non-freshman starter and provided a cool head and big heart.  Sure, later he played in the pros and coached.  He is right now the VP of Operations at the NBA, but to me he will always be the calming, smiling face of UCLA basketball in the Larry Brown era (short as it was).
Kiki (from Sports Illustrated - see the fuzzy blond with the megaphone behind his left hand I could find my way into any picture).

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Honk Honk! Clown Car Coming Through

In an effort to separate himself from the pack, Ted Cruz gets a jump of our past few Presidents by embarrassing himself even before entering office.
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Top from Zagreb

I have a new header image.  This is from a tower in Zagreb, across the roofs of the Upper (Old) Town.  It was a quaint, small city.
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Here is a pic of Eddie and I in front of St. Mark's Church (seen in the panorama as well).
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The New Russian Religious Paintings in Kotor


I will post about our trip to Kotor in Montenegro soon.  It was a spectacular city.  So cool, I almost want to keep it a secret to myself.
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Among its many surprises is the big Orthodox Church (as in Eastern Orthodox Religion - Catholic without all the squishy liberalism!).  It had the normal icons of the saints and all, but DOMINATING the entry were four massive paintings.  These pictures can't really do justice to their size.
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They were given from the Russians to Montenegro about 3 years ago.  They are the four Evangelical Saints (John, Paul, Luke and Mark) as painted by the Russian Academy of Art.  And they are a bizarre, but wonderful, combination of heavy Religious Iconography with a serious influence of Communist Social Realism.  I have put them below, but you can select them and enlarge.  The angle is off because they were too big to get a good shot of!
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I asked, but there were no icons or prints of these new works in the shop (which is also right inside the church).
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Very Cool.
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Oye - Bad Ideas Run Amuck

I am going to start with, I think the Confederate Flags should come down across state houses in America.  I explained my reasoning here LINK.
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However, TV Land canceling The Dukes of Hazard, and doing because of the flag on the car is asinine.  I say this with no love of Dukes of Hazard (I haven't ever been able to sit through 1 entire episode and I LOVE bad TV).
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Realistically, no one watched the Duke Boys because of hate.  The flag on the car was minimal, and the Duke Boys actively were anti-racists (as befits TV in that time).  Look at this picture below.  No watched watched the show to cheer on the car!
NO ONE looks at this picture and says "Wow, I wish that girl would move so I can see the flag."
More to the point.  Times change.  You can't ban things that are now offensive because something is offense to someone, always.
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Soap - which I watched to see a gay character - is painfully stereotypical now.  Jody Dallas was gay and dressed up in women's clothes for goodness sake.  The Carol Burnett Show now plays badly because of jokes about drunks, smoking in bars and sexual situations we find squirm worthy.  Yet, it was great.  Hogans Heroes made light of prisoners of war and there were good Nazis.  Aside from Gone With The Wind, I would guess about two thirds of the historical movies in the 1930s southed the South in a better light than the North (Little Foxes, Jezebel, and The Little Rebel with Shirley Temple come to mind).
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Too political correct is too politically correct.  If Dukes of Hazard promoted burning down black churches, ban it.  But they didn't.  They tried to find who did it and help those hurt.  That isn't racist no matter what their car has on it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

This is NOT a Joke

Oh My.  One hopes that Mr. Jindal knows that this slogan was the butt of many many jokes the first time.
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One doubts it, but one hopes.
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Seriously....
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For those that do not know, this was Richard Nixon's slogan in 1968.  You see, President Nixon had lost the race in 1960 (to Kennedy).  Later he lost the California Election for Governor.  After that lost, he had the famous "Checkers" speech.
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In that speech to the press about the loss of the election for Governor, his dog Checkers was at his feet (hence the name) and he whined / bragged that the Media "Won't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore!"
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So when he was thinking about running for President, the quip was that he was tanned, rested and ready.  Because he had not be doing anything but thinking about running.
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Bobby Jindal has been Governor of a state (yes, Louisiana DOES count).  So the slogan really means that he didn't do crap as Governor?  Or that Indian-Americans are alway tan? Or what?  Someone thought it was cute?

Mascot for July: The Hardworking and Beautiful Weaver Bird

July's Mascot comes courtesy of Lynn, who brought this fascinating little bird to my attention.
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The Weaver Bird is just cool.  It makes a complex nest that hangs upside down for entry.  This protects it from many predators (you know that might swoop down and eat the young).
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To make it harder for non-swooping predators, some build them over water, so if they fall into the drink when attempting entry, they don't get a second change.


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Although the entry type doesn't vary, the nest themselves do.  The male of some species rebuild their nests yearly.

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Other pairs rebuild year after year in the same place.  In parts of Africa, some males get together and make massive colonies in a tree or a collection of trees.  Like a community of weaver nests.
That isn't just dead tree, it is a weaver nest colony.
In other weaver species the males make part of a nest or parts of many nests, and the only finish when a female picks one.
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Anyway, I like them.  So here is the mascot for July - the fascinating weaver bird.

The Confederate Flag - Yeah I Get It.

I have no problem being civil in the Confederate Flag debate.  I find it offensive, but only in the way that people flying it mean to be offensive intentionally.  That is, people displaying the Confederate Flag are screaming at me to shut up because I am a (deep-breath) West Coast, Liberal, Fag or Fag Appeaser who probably believes in equal rights, global warming and voted for Obama / Clinton / Kerry or Gore.  This is why they display the flag, I get it.
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I am not particularly sensitive to it the message, but I understand the message.  Same as I understand the Fish for Jesus, the Darwin Fish for Atheists, the Rainbow for the Gays and the weird cat stickers for the ladies at church.
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I used to drive in LA, I get it.
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Means: Will drive slow, Wears a sweater in Summers and Will ignore your horn, so go ahead and toot away!
But for many people the Confederate Flag is a little more.  And we should all realize that, no matter what you mean for it to say, it says different things to a different audience.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Wander Around Taskin Square and Galata Tower

Galata Tower and the Genovese area
In Istanbul on our second day, we hired a local guide, Faruk, who took us around the "new town" and Taksim Square.
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Select to expand and see the Soviet fighters on the right.
Faruk showed us a lot of very cool things.  Including the the statue of Ataturk who overthrew the Ottomans AND pushed the French and British out after World War I.  On the statue below you can see Ataturk leading the people into Istanbul.   You will also see some Soviet Generals behind him.  This is to commemorate the Russians helping drive out the British and French after the war.
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Ed and Faruk.  You can see the different spigots behind Ed's hand.  These were connected to pipes in the old days.
Taksim Square itself is named after the high point in the city, where the water was divided into the city pipes.  You can see Eddie and Faruk at the station where the water taps were turned on for each city section.
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The style of the buildings in this area.

One of the passageways, with (now empty) apartments abvoe.
There was a fire in the area in 1865 or so, and the entire are was rebuilt at once.  It is very "European" of the day.  There are a lot of these big buildings, with indoor passages (like mini-streets).  The passages were lined with shops and above where apartments.  The buildings and stores are still there, but the apartments are no longer used as such.  Some are storage, some are offices and many are just empty.
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For a distance view, see top picture.

The Galata Tower itself was built in 1348.  Actually, rebuilt, the first one burned down, so the Genoese built this of stone.  This part of the city was occupied by the non-muslims of Istanbul.  There are Greek, Catholic, Armenian and Russian churches throughout the old town.  A census was done when the Ottomans took over the city, and the percentages of various ethnic people in this part of town was preserved.  So this area was also where the embassies where - and most are still consulates.


Finally, Eddie and I had dinner on a roof int he old town, near our hotel.  The view over the Asian part of the city was great.
That is Asia behind him (Anatolia)
And 8,500 years of history is everywhere, these are the Byzantine walls of Constantinople right below us, where the road winds through.  They are over 1,000 years old, and just hanging out.
Just some 1,000 year old ruins.  Ain't no big thing.

Salon (and Others?) Miss The Big Picture by focussing on the Wrong Thing:

I love Salon (salon.com).  I find them, normally, the voice of liberal reason.  However they, like all of us, allow themselves to sucked into the wrong argument sometimes.  Today is a huge one of those days.
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You see, today I am going to agree with Ross Douthat.  (I will wait while you recover from that statement).


You see Ross, in today's Opinion piece, tries to move past Gay Marriage (Thank God!) and onto the good things about religion.  Sure, he makes some silly assertions early, but to me he is trying to paper over a conflict, while allow some face-saving to the evangelicals.  Fine.
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But, the big thing, the important thing, is that he gently tries to move the religious back into, what many of us believe the great thing about religion is, charity and community.  Look at this snippet from the NYT Times Op Ed - Salon misses the point itby being so annoyed by what came earlier.
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Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.
Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness.
We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.
Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.
The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.
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My only addition to this would be a simple one, invite your community - gay, straight, white, brown.  We are on board with this given and generous form of Christianity.  Many left the church because it turned into a lighthouse of hate, not compassion.  Give those people a reason to embrace it again.

Monday, June 29, 2015

While We Are Busy Arguing if Dylan Roof was Crazy or Racist -> His Work Goes On....

Dylan Roof, the young man that sat with AME Church Worshippers for 45 minutes of Bible Study before killing 9 people (and leaving one alive to spread fear), has succeeded in a way that we seem to be ignoring.  Perhaps it made sense at first, but know maybe we should acknowledge it.

Jon Oliver Explains It To CNN

Just watch the first 4 minutes.  Jon Oliver is hilarious at CNN's expense.
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Justice Scalia dissented from the Marriage ruling...

To no one's surprise Justice Scalia dissented from the Marriage ruling.  As has become custom, he read his blistering dissent from the bench.  His dissents have, over time, moved from unusual and precedent setting to disdainful, bitter and caustically offensive towards his colleagues.
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Rather than quote it, including the nincompoopery about asking the nearest hippie for advice on spirituality, I shall differ to my good friend Steve Timinskas ....
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I'm Back: With Much Too Say - But first these pictures from Istanbul Day 1

I really do love Istanbul.  It is a great and beautiful city.  The people are wonderful.  Yes the government is a little heavy handed, but they just lost an elections, and it doesn't seem to be heading towards a coup or anything.
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Given that, here are some pictures from Istanbul day 1.  And, oddly, we arrived on the first day of Ramadan!  There was a massive free feast the first night to break the day long fast.  Ramadan, which occurs on the lunar month, is particularly bad in summer.  The last meal before sunup was at 3:45AM.  Observent fasting Muslims were not suppose to eat or drink again until 8:44PM!  That is a lot of time in the heat of the day.
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Anyway, here are some day 1 highlights.
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The New Mosque with the faithful doing the ritual washing of the feet.

The Interior of the New Mosque.

Some detail on the side walls and an alcove of the New Mosque

This is the Grand Bazaar - and the Scooter Pose

My Eddie, looking extra handsome outside Hagia Sofia

This is the Mother-in-Law Mosque from the tour bus

The Blue Mosque - after the meal of Ramadan's First night.