Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions and Blue Monday - the cure


Happy New Year! As many reckon, we are entering a new decade - the teens. Resolutions will be made, and psychologically, we all have another chance to start over again with a clean slate.

There are many great New Year Quotations about putting behind the Old Year and looking ahead to the New Year: www.quotegarden.com/new-year.html

From this high comes the low when reality bites, again. Resolutions are broken. The memories of Christmas and New Years parties fade. Gatherings with family and friends end. Debts hit. Winter sets in. We settle back into the same old same old. To make it worse, there are no established holidays to look forward to in the near future.

Then depression can hit, most likely on Blue Monday.

The date of this emotional crash has been calculated in the "Blue Monday" formula . (Yes, there is an app for that.) This year it's January 25, 2010.

How to cope with Blue Monday? A ton of advice is out there in cyberspace, but the best advice I found is from the Good Book:

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 3 (KJV)

So beat back Blue Monday with these New Year's Resolutions: FRP - Forget, Reach, Press
1. Forget the things which are behind
2. Reach forward to things which are before
3. Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in God in Christ Jesus

I must have been over my blue Monday when I penned this poem in the winter of 1976. (Yes, I know this dates me.)


Success



Don't be afraid to fail
Or your dreams you'll cease to strive
Heed not the mockings of those
Who really are not alive

Look not to the side for direction
To the lamb-skinned wolves nearby
Who say that they do speak the truth
But devour with a lie

Look above for your direction
To the star in the sky
And don't be afraid to fail
And be not afraid to try!



To my writer friends, keep on writing! To my readers, thank you for your encouragement and support. May God bless you all in your calling for 2010.


photo from:
everystockphoto: happy new year

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas 1776 - the gift of freedom



1776 was a watershed year in American History. July 4th, the colonies had declared independence from Britain. And so the American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783) continued.

By December 1776, prospects of victory seemed remote for the Continental Army. The British had driven General Washington from New York to retreat to Pennsylvania. The annual enlistment of the American soldiers were expiring at the end of the year and funds as well as morale were low. If there was every a need for a Christmas miracle, it was needed in 1776.

In this bleak setting on Christmas Day, General Washington made a daring move to attack the enemy, crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey. The day after Christmas, Washington caught the Hessians by surprise and won the Battle of Trenton. That victory boost the morale of the Continentals and spurred the troops to continue fighting and eventually win the war.

For our first American Christmas in 1776, we got a priceless present from our founding fathers and mothers - Freedom!

Likewise, on the first Christmas, which we celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God, we can receive the ultimate gift of Freedom:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
(John 8:36,King James Version)


Merry Christmas and God Bless America!
Painting jpg from:
Wikimedia: Washington Crossing the Delaware

Related links to the Battle of Trenton:
Trenton 1776
Battle of Trenton
Timeline of the American Revolutionary War

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 15th - Bill of Rights Day - Sometimes we do learn from history

HAPPY BILL OF RIGHTS DAY!

December 15th should be celebrated by all Americans. On this day in 1791, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, were ratified by three-fourths of the States. This document secured our freedoms as much (or more so) as the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It still lives and serves to prevent us from repeating the mistakes of our past.


One of the dark periods of American history was The Salem Witch Trials. In 1692, hundreds faced accusations of witchcraft; 19 people were tried and hung for it; an 80 year old man pressed to death for refusing to submit to a trial; dozens languished in jail for months without trials.

What were they thinking?

The philosopher George Santayana had said: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

With the Bill of Rights added to our Constitution, our founding fathers did learn from history. When enforced, the first ten amendments can avert human rights violations, such as what happened in the Salem Witch Trials.

Let's look at some of these rights:

First Amendment: freedom of speech, of the press, freedom of religion, and of assembly; right to petition

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


Fourth Amendment: protection from unreasonable search and seizure
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Fifth Amendment: due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.


Sixth Amendment: trial by jury and rights of the accused; confrontation clause, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.


Eight Amendment: prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


I cannot think of any major country in the world where such freedoms are given to their citizens. Can you?
With that in mind, Thomas Jefferson has been attributed to say:
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
Freedom isn't free

Related links:
Bill of Rights Day

Photos from:
Wikimedia Commons: Bill of Rights
Wikimedia Commons: Salem Witch Trial

Quotes from:
Wisdom Quotes: George Santayana
Quotation Page: Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Geminids - more star showers



Did you see the Leonid meteor showers in November?

Last month, very early on November 17, I got up at 1 a.m. as it was to be the prime viewing for the Leonids. I admit it. I did not leave the comfort of my home, as I looked out the windows in all directions. And I did not see any falling stars this time. Sleep overcame me and I went back to my warm bed.

I was not alone in my defeat. That night (November 16), an episode of the TV show, The Big Bang Theory: The Adhesive Duck Deficiency showed that the rocket scientists missed viewing the Leonids, too. And they were outside camping.

Good news for star gazers. This December 13 & 14, the Geminids should be at least ten times as good. And there is a much better chance of seeing this meteor shower.

So what are the Geminids? Each December 12 to 14, the earth's atmosphere passes through the debris of an object called 3200 Phatheon, thought to be an extinct comet. This JPL applet provides an excellent simulation of the cause of this meteor shower: 3200 Phaethon (1983 TB)

Universe Today offers some excellent viewing tips: Tips for Viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower.

I do not know if I will be brave enough to shiver out in the snow. Most likely I will be viewing the stars from the comfort of a warm house.

Please share any cool experience you had viewing the nighttime sky.

For more information on this meteor shower, check out Sky and Telescope: Geminids: An exception to the rule

One final thought. I cannot count the stars, nor name them, but there is Someone Who does:

He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.
Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
Psalm 147:4-5 (King James Version)


Photo from:

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Geminid meteor shower

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day, 1941 - World War Two Soldiers Remembered


My mother-in-law wrote down memories about World War II in this article: World War Two - before, during, and after.

During the Great Depression, my father-in-law had been in college ROTC and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Army. He was scheduled to be discharged January 1942, but December 7, 1941 changed all that.

The next day, President Roosevelt delivered his "Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation:"

"Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. ...
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. ..."

Four days after Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the United States. As a result, my father-in-law was first sent to North Africa, then Sicily to fight in the European Theater. Later, he waited in England where he would be part of the invasion into France on D-Day + 4. After the liberation, he witnessed the horror of the concentration camps.

In this deadliest conflict of human history, when the war was over, more than 70 million people (military and civilian) lost their lives.

The 2001 mini-series, produced by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks, "Band of Brothers" chronicled what the soldiers of Easy Company had endured during the war. It was based on the Stephen Ambrose book of the same name, which gets its title from the St. Crispen's Day Speech in Shakespeare's Henry V .

The video clip below show Easy Company's first encounter with a concentration camp inside Germany. These images give a glimpse of what my father-in-law had experienced in Europe.





After the war, my father-in-law made a career in the Army. When stationed in West Germany, he took his sons to the Dachau concentration camp site, as a lesson in man's inhumanity to man and why we had fought this war. He passed away a few years ago on Pearl Harbor Day.


Other links honoring World War Two Soldiers and all those in harm's way, who guard our freedoms:

World War II America (Battle Hymn of the Republic)

Sir Winston Churchill - Finest Hour


Related links:
photo from everystockphoto.com: Pearl Harbor

Saturday, November 28, 2009

SCRABBLE - Part of the writing game


Writing is an ever-learning journey.

When writer's block hits (especially when I'm on the computer), I am tempted to fritter away time on a myriad computer games or wander about the Internet. Sometimes I need a jump start to get the words flowing.

One of the best motivators installed on my computer is the game Scrabble. When stuck, I take a short breather playing a game or two.

My computer opponent sometimes displays unfamiliar words. These times, the handy dictionary on the board is at my disposal, so I can easily look them up. And I learn some new words for the day! After a game, words start to flow, again.

And the other up sides? The computer does not get mad when I win. I don't feel guilty playing this computer game. And it gets my mind on words, again.

What games - computer, mind, otherwise? - do you play for writing inspiration?


Related links:

Photo from everystockphoto.com: Scrabble

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Timeless Thanksgiving


Millennia before Europeans discovered the New World, people celebrated Thanksgiving. Undoubtedly, the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock were most familiar with this well known Psalm:

Psalm 100
(King James Version)

1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

At Mom's Bible Journal, I found an excellent verse by verse commentary of Psalm 100. The journalist makes the comment that "all" are invited to "enter into his gates with thanksgiving."

The Book of Psalms is the ancient Hebrew hymn book as we are encouraged to "come before his presence with singing." And whether or not you can sing, the psalmist invites all to - "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord..."

How did Psalm 100 sound when it was first sung perhaps by King David? The musical slideshow below may give us a hint. The words of the Hebrew Text shown with its transliteration and translation are sung in the ancient melodic line, accompanied by a Celtic harp.

The Music of the Bible Revealed - Psalms 100
(The music starts about 1 minute after the introduction.)




May your Thanksgiving in the year of our Lord 2009 be filled with worship and praise.

For all those traveling during the holidays, be safe!


Other Thanksgiving and Psalm 100 links:

Treasury of David by Charles H. Spurgeon

The Thanksgiving Story

The Real Story of Thanksgiving



Related Links:
photo from everystockphoto.com : praise

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Trinity Site: Where the First Atomic Bomb was exploded


Twice a year, the Trinity Site in New Mexico is open to the public, the first Saturdays of October and April. October 2008, I visited Ground Zero where the first atomic bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945.

My memoirs and some pictures of that visit are published in the online magazine TRAVEL THRU HISTORY.

Please feel free to check out my article: The Trinity Site: Where the First Atomic Bomb was exploded.

Walking about Ground Zero and the McDonald ranch house, where the first bomb was partially assembled, was a somber experience.

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Photo: by S. K. Smith (that's me)

Note: As you see in my picture, "where the toilets are" is very important to us vistors.

For another travel article that I have written from BeatenPaths:
A pilgrimage to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Catch a Falling Star out of Leo?


When I was active in Amateur Radio, we Hams got excited about the Leonid meteor shower.

This time of year, the earth passes through the debris left behind by the Temple-Tuttle comet. The particles passing through the earth's atmosphere result in a delightful cosmic light show that appears to come from the constellation Leo. Hence, this meteor shower is often called the Leonids.

Since the meteors ionize the air, radio waves reflect off the upper atmosphere. When this happens, the Amateur Radio Operators (Hams) love to get on the air and talk around the world .

Also, for those who like to wish upon a star, this is a good time.

Here are some pictures of past Leonid meteor showers, courtesy of environmental graffiti: Meteor Showers!!!

For stargazers: Happy viewing this Monday and Tuesday of the Leonid Return.
For Hams: May your talk be heard around the world: As the World Turns Ham Radio News.


For more information, check out:
The 2009 Leonid Meteor Shower at the NASA site, science.nasa.gov
Heads up! Leonid meteor shower is next Tuesday at the Kansas City Science News Examiner site.
Major Meteor Showers in 2009 at skytour.homestead.com/


Links:
Photo from everystockphoto.com: Meteor Shower

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Veterans Day - World War One Soldiers Remembered


When my grandmother passed away in 1975, I collected a metallic shaving mirror inscribed with a sergeant's name. The sergeant was her fiance. His mother sent her the mirror after he was killed in action during the Great War, which we now call World War One.

My grandmother later married a veteran of the Great War, an immigrant from Denmark. (I still have his dog tags.) For his service to his country, my grandfather earned his US citizenship.

My mother said her father talked little about the devastation of the mustard gas that he had witnessed or his life in the trenches, which affected his legs for the next 50 years. It was an experience he wished to put behind him.

This Veterans Day, in memory of the World War One soldiers like my grandfather and my grandmother's first fiance, the following YouTube.com scene is my tribute to their sacrifices as well as the sacrifices of all the men and women who serve their country.

One BBC comedy that I have enjoyed is Blackadder, whose four seasons span various periods of English history. The last season, Blackadder Goes Forth, is set during the Great War. After three weary years in the trenches, the British soldiers finally get the order to "go over the top."

According to BBC news, "The poignant finale of sitcom Blackadder has been voted the best farewell episode of a TV series."



In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army


Other links from YouTube.com:

In Flanders Fields
(tribute of music and images set to the words of the poem above.)

Over There: Remembering WWI
("Vintage Antique Classics" presents "Over There" patriotic music by George M. Cohan, sung by early 20th century Pop sensation Bill Murray.)


Links:
photos from everystockphoto.com
photo of poppies

Monday, November 2, 2009

Review - Eva Galuska and the Christmas Carp: A Novella


Halloween is over! Now thinking about Christmas?

Last year I had purchased the novella by Kathleen Clauson - "Eva Galuska and the Christmas Carp." It is a great Christmas book.

In 2008, I wrote the following review at authorsden.com -

Kathleen Clauson’s writing first got my attention on AuthorsDen with one of her short stories “Night Owl”. I read her excerpt from “Eva Galuska and the Christmas Carp: A Novella” and was intrigued. Then, I recently purchased the novella and read it.

The story is full of detail and rich with description of superstitions and traditions - especially around Christmas - in the lives of immigrants and their children, who settled in the great melting pot of the Chicago area. It takes place in modern times, and yet the Old World influences them as they pursue their American dreams.

In a short time, I got to care about the characters and got to know them. I experienced their life, their culture, their short-comings, their triumphs, and a unique slice of Americana. I regretted when the story ended, for I wanted to know more, especially some of the mystery about Eva Galuska.

A parallel is Earl Hamner’s “The Homecoming”, another tale spun about Christmas. This novella became “The Waltons.” Who knows? There is a basis for a script in “Eva Galuska and the Christmas Carp.”


Link:

www.authorsden.com/visit/viewwork.asp?id=27766&AuthorID=89736

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween 1517



After moving and settling down in a new area of the country, I joined a Protestant church in the community. As part of the new member's class, we got an introduction to the denomination and an overview of church history. And Halloween of 1517 was a most important date.

October 31, 1517, Martin Luther had nailed "The Ninety-Five Theses" to the castle church door at Wittenberg, which outlined grievances against the Catholic Church, in particular the abuse of indulgences. Some historians have pinpointed this act as the catalyst of the Protestant Reformation and later the Counter-Reformation (also known as the Catholic Reformation or Revival), which sought to remove abuses within. Many Protestant churches see their genesis in the posting of Luther's "95 Theses."

In my new member's class, we covered the different styles of church government and traditions of the Catholic and various Protestant denominations. Which one is right?

Taking Luther's lead of Sola Scriptura, "by Scripture alone," the New Testament does not give details in governing or even following many cherished Christian traditions (like observing Christmas on December 25). What the New Testament gives are great principles and guidelines. Therefore, it seems that any system of church governance will work if there are godly leaders of character. Without godly character, it does not matter. No system will work.

Catholic? Protestant? Which is the "true" church?

The Scriptures say in Ephesians 4 (King James Version):
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Strong's Greek Dictionary gives our English translation of "church" as ekklesia, a called out assembly. The "one true church" is comprised of all believers whom Jesus Christ has called out to Himself.

In the words of St. Peter:

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
I Peter 2 (King James Version)

The church of the New Testament and the ancient creeds (Apostles, Nicene) transcend all denominations, whether Catholic, Protestant, non-denominational, evangelical ...

Using the Protestant definition of "saint" as any Christian, what more appropriate day for "all saints" to reflect than the Eve of All Saint's Day - Halloween in 1517 - a turning point, which called the church back to the Bible?


Related links:

Photo from everystockphoto.com:
Martin Luther - everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2546814

Biblegateway.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roger Bacon - a scientist ahead of his time

Continuing from the past 2 blogs ....

This summer, I had read the Dan Brown's novel Angels & Demons and was fascinated by the renewed Science vs. Religion debate. Science and the Bible are some of my favorite topics.

During research of life in the Middle Ages, I discovered that the Church did not see Science and Religion as poles apart as we may view them today. In the Medieval Church, pursuing Science was encouraged as a means to better understand God. One of the most remarkable Churchmen and Philosophers of those times was Roger Bacon.

Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294) was a Franciscan Friar who wrote his Opus Magnus for Pope Clement IV. In the area of science, he was hundreds of years ahead of his time.

The Earth is Round:
Two centuries before Christopher Columbus sailed for America, Roger Bacon wrote that the curvature of the earth explained why we can see farther from higher elevations.

Splitting White Light into a Rainbow:
Four hundred years before Sir Isaac Newton's experiment (in the 1660s) that split white light with a prism into the spectrum of the rainbow, Roger Bacon in the 13th century passed light through a glass bead to produce the rainbow.

Father of Modern Science:
"Isaac Newton's discoveries were so numerous and varied that many consider him to be the father of modern science." Yet, a few scholars credit Roger Bacon as a pioneer in the advancement of natural science, who emphasised the importance of mathematics and "experimental science." In his works, Bacon mentions gunpowder and lenses and proposals for horseless carriages and flying machines.

The telescope:
In the "The Starry Messenger," Galileo had improved the telescope (invented by Flemish spectacle-maker Hans Lipperhey in 1608) and turned it to the heavens to observe such things as the craters on the Moon and the four satellites about Jupiter. In the Cipher of Roger Bacon, the manuscript suggests Roger Bacon was in possession of a reflecting telescope, which he observed and drew a spiral nebula.

To sum up the Medieval philosophy of the Church concerning Science: If the Bible contained the truth, how could the Church be threatened by understanding the truth better? Only later, during the time of Galileo, the Church became frightened of Science. (That could be the subject of another blog. )

A great find on the Science vs. Religion debate was the Terry Jones' (of Monty Python fame) series - Medieval Lives. Medieval Philosophers were the scientists of the "Dark Ages" which were not as dark as they seemed.

For a humorous history lesson of Medieval Science, check out youtube video on episodes of Medieval Philosophers:
Medieval Lives: The Philosopher

Related link:
Roger Bacon photo from Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Roger-bacon-statue.jpg

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Christopher Columbus, Washington Irving, and the Medieval Church


Many Americans will celebrate Columbus Day this Monday- October 12, 2009.

In my school days, Christopher Columbus was presented as a hero (and rightly so), for he not only discovered America, but he proved that the world was round to the unenlightened medieval academia and potentates. And this myth was re-enforced in American culture, even humorously such as a favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon - Hare We Go - as Columbus argues with the King of Spain whether the earth is flat or round.

In my previous blog, Dan Brown's novel Angels & Demons integrated into its plot the Church's pressure on Galileo to recant his helio-centric theories. Hence to this day, Science and Religion are perceived to be poles apart.

We may cast medieval philosophers (scientists of their time) as superstitious, ignorant people, clinging to falsehoods like the flat earth. But the medieval Church never taught that the earth was flat. Medieval sailors knew the earth was round for they observed ships disappearing over the horizon. Much of that perception of the flat earth mentality comes from the fantasies of a 19th century American novelist, Washington Irving, best known for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.

Irving's biography of Columbus, The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, came out in 1828. Before the Great Voyage, a scene in this book describes how Columbus was confronted by the ignorance and bigotry of the Church authorities. They accused him of heresy for claiming the earth was round, when the Church taught that the earth was flat. Hence, Washington Irving's fantasy of Columbus portrayed a false picture that the medieval Church suppressed knowledge and suppressed those who taught to extend the boundaries of Science.

Yet, the philosophers of the Middle Ages saw the purpose of knowledge as useful if it brought them closer to understanding God. Therefore, Churchmen carried out scientific experimentation with the blessing of the Church. Roger Bacon was one of these remarkable Churchmen, who was 400 years ahead of Galileo and Newton in his discoveries. And this, Lord willing, will be the subject of my next blog.

Related links:
Photo from: everystockphoto.com
Replicas of the Santa Maria, Nina, Pinta: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2036740

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Angels & Demons - Science vs. Religion - some thoughts


Dan Brown's novel, Angels & Demons was one intriguing book that I read this summer. Chronologically, this novel's setting precedes The DaVinci Code (though "The DaVinci Code" was made into a movie before "Angels & Demons" was.)

"Angels & Demons" was a page turner of mystery, conspiracy plots, serial killings, revenge, exciting locations in interesting times. The story took me from CERN, Switzerland to many architectural marvels in Rome and the Vatican. It introduced me to the fascinating traditions and rich history of the Roman Catholic Church.

The age old conflict - Science vs. Religion - rippled as the common thread throughout the novel. A mixture of fact and fiction, the plot spun a good yarn of the Illuminati, a secret organization allegedly started by Galileo, which survived throughout the centuries. Now this secret organization was rearing its ugly head to wage war on the Catholic Church for her persecution of free thinking scientists.

As I am a student of the Bible and have earned a masters in physics, the Science vs. Religion discussion is always one of great interest to me. I had learned much about Galileo in my physics classes, reproducing some his experiments on motion and inertia. We learned about galilean relativity before leaping to Einstein's special relativity. And we gazed at the moons of Jupiter through our telescopes like Galileo did in 1610.

Also, I had heard how the Church had forced Galileo to recant his theory that the earth revolved about the sun. We will never live this one down! Throughout my schooling and work, many of professors, colleagues, co-workers denounced those narrow minded Christians for doing that.

Recently, I have been researching life in the Middle Ages. I found the Roman Catholic Church did not view science and religion as incompatible at all. In fact the medieval church embraced science and encouraged it.

And that will be a subject of my next blog.

Related links:
Photo from: everystockphoto.com
DAVID, Gerard Altar of Archangel Michael, c1510: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=4536219

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When You Feel a Quake and Shake ...


"When You Feel a Quake
and Shake
Get under Your Table
and Finish Your Steak!"

That was the warning sign (or something like that) I saw when I ate dinner at the Parkfield Cafe in Parkfield, California.

Parkfield prides itself as the "Earthquake Capital of the World."
They are on the San Andreas Fault (or very near it) and this small town has US Geological Survey (USGS) equipment in place as geologists wait for the "big one" and collect the all important seismic data.

Reference: "The Parkfield, California, Earthquake Experiment."

The news (as I type this on September 29, 2009) of Tsunami Strikes American Samoa After 8.3-Magnitude Quake brought back memories of living on the West Coast. I used to check the map of the Earthquakes in California on the USGS site as often as others would routinely check the daily weather report. Earthquakes happened everyday - only I did not notice them much. All the traffic noise usually drown out most of the earth tremors, except for the real big ones.

My first trip, my husband and I went pig hunting with a guide near the San Andreas Fault. As we stayed at the Parkfield Inn dining in the Cafe, I noticed their "quake warning sign." They had a hundred branding irons (or more) hanging from the ceiling. The thought of all those branding irons raining down on me during the "big one" was as comforting as the Sword of Damocles dangling over my head.

Our first visit, my husband got a boar and we ate sausages all the next year. (They were good.) Next visit, we signed up for hunting lessons from our guide.

That late December 2003 before Christmas, we stood out in the ripe grass, practicing our stances, our aim and shooting skills at targets. Then the ground under us shook, the pickup truck jumped up and down on its tires like giant springs, and the trees lining the field swayed in convulsions.

Earthquake!

Was this the "big one" the USGS was waiting for all these years?

This quake broke several wine glasses stacked in the Parkfield Cafe. I had hoped everyone remembered to get under their table and finish their steak.

But Parkfield was disappointed, again, as this quake came from the San Simeon Fault, not the San Andreas. And my guide was disappointed for he forgot to look at the fields to see the rippling of the seismic waves.

Unfortunately, this quake brought some heartbreak as a few people in a nearby town died from the crumbling debris falling from a building. Then governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the area and offered condolences for the victims' families and assessed the damage.

The force of nature is awesome.

At times like these, the following verses have a personal meaning:

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
Psalm 46:1-3 (King James Version)


Related links:
Photo from everystockphoto.com
Me at the San Andreas: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3994227

Parkfield: Quintessential California: Parkfield, California
USGS - Recent Earthquakes in California and Nevada: quake.usgs.gov/recenteqs/
Parkfield, CA and the San Andreas Fault: www.openroad.tv/index.php?categoryid=16&p25_id=297

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Of Seasons, Boat People, and Freedom ...


Fall begins with the autumnal equinox, this year September 22, 2009 at 5:18 pm EDT. Change of seasons evoke many memories. One that stands out happened when I was living and working on the West Coast.

I had made some casual conservation with my cubicle mate, John, about the changing seasons. John was a bright engineer, an immigrant from Vietnam. I was most surprised by his comment that he thought it was cold in the winter because the earth was farther from the sun.

How could someone so educated be ignorant about a basic fact? I had learned about the seasons in kindergarten. At my teacher's instructions, my mother had speared an orange with a pencil and rotated the citrus fruit at an angle in the light of a candle.

I pointed John to some websites, such as Seasons. They explained the earth rotated about a tilted axis, whereas in winter the sun's ray were less intense, the days shorter, hence contributing to a colder climate. In summer, the rays were more direct, more intense, the days longer, hence a warmer climate.

As I got to know John better, small bits of his personal history came to light. When growing up in Vietnam, he had lived under the communist regime of the post-Vietnam War. His family had to work all day in the rice fields just for the privilege of buying rice at a discount from the government. I wondered when his family had the time to make any money to buy this discounted rice.

John was one of the boat people. I found this out when he cheered at a news story about pirates that were gunned down on the seas. He commented that his boat was attacked by pirates while he was fleeing Vietnam. Later, he had spent two years on an island. Eventually, he came to America, got a college degree in engineering, married, and had a son, and was working right next to me.

Shelly, another engineer from Vietnam, worked a few cubicles over. One day she laughed, pointing to some discolored water in a clear container. "It reminds me of the urine we drank when we ran out of fresh water." Shelly was one of the boat people, like John.

While I was growing up watching "Star Trek" and learning facts about the universe and the solar system, John and Shelly had grown up under tyranny and survived a gutsy escape to freedom.

The Vietnam War was the bane of the baby-boomers. Yet, for as evil as America was supposed to be, many Vietnamese risked their lives to come here. Many came for political freedom, many for economic freedom. Yet, may we all find the greatest freedom of all:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
John 8:36 (King James Version)


Related links:
Photo from everystock.com
early: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=3114960

Friday, September 18, 2009

Talk Like a Pirate Day - September 19, 2009

Now we have a day to talk like a pirate - What a country!



"Aaarrrg! Ask me what my favorite animal is?" my lead - who wore patch over his eye, a black three cornered hat, and an earring - asked at work a few years ago.

"Parrots?" I said naively - for what is a pirate without his parrot?

"Aaarmadillos," my lead answered with a grin. "And my favorite vegetable?"

We all stared at him like the stress at work had finally gotten to him and he was bonkers.

"Aaartichokes!" He smiled, exposing a some blacked out teeth.

And he continued asking us questions - all with answers that contained an "aaarrr."

No, he was not celebrating Halloween early. It was the annual - "Talk Like a Pirate Day."

And like all thing that happen annually, they happen every year. (Now, I'm talking like an idiot) :) And September 19, 2009 is the day.

Today, we see pirates through the lens of Walt Disney. They are fun and cute and lovable. Anything could be further from the truth. To sailors and their passengers, pirates were (and still are) a real and present danger for those traveling on the sea.

For all those weathering the storms of life and facing danger on our journey, there is a psalm of comfort for us:

From Psalm 107 (King James Version)

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end.
28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!



Related links:

Picture from everystockphoto.com
Ye Olde Drunken Pirate: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2733948

The Original Talk Like a Pirate Day Site: www.talklikeapirate.com/piratehome.html

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One Tuesday in September, eight years ago ...


Eight years ago, I was living and working on the West Coast. One Tuesday, the radio turned on at 6:25 PDT. I was expecting to hear the Wall Street Journal Report. Instead, reports came of debris coming out of some building in New York.

My husband thought it was accident similar to one that had happened in 1945, when a B-25 bomber accidentally flew into the Empire State Building: The Empire State Building Plane Crash. We turned on the TV to see what they were talking about on the radio. Not one, but two jets had flown into the World Trade Center.

As soon as we said, "This is no accident," reports came of another jet crashing into the Pentagon, and then another plane downed in Pennsylvania. Soon, all air traffic in the US was grounded.

"You're not going to work right now," my husband told me. Yes. We were under attack.

Later that morning, no further attacks advanced to the West Coast. Many of my co-workers were at the workplace, soldiering on as normally as they could, and I eventually came in. During part of this eventful day, we stood out in the lobby, watching the news as surreal scenes replayed of the Twin Towers collapsing. Terrified bystanders ran for cover, like a scripted disaster movie.

One of my co-workers touched my shoulder. "You are a person of faith. Why would God allow this to happen?"

Certainly, no one, except God, has the answer for this one, but I gave it my the best shot. "It seems in this world God allows evil to run its course."

One example in the Holy Scriptures came to mind. Saul, the first king of Israel, was given many second chances, but he turned into a mad king, tormented by an evil spirit. Then God picked David, a man after His own heart, to replace Saul as the next king. Yet, evil ran its course for some 15 years before God dealt with Saul and turned the kingdom over to David. During these years between the anointing and ascending, David gathered his faithful followers.

There is a corollary to this present day. St. Paul refers to the devil as "the god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4), much like the time when mad King Saul was ruling over Israel. Yet, God's anointed - the Lord Jesus, the Son of David - is now calling out His people - the church. One day, like when God had dealt with Saul, He will deal with the devil and drive evil from His universe forever.


Related links:
Photo from everystockphoto.com
World Trade Center - Aiming for Heaven: http://everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=4504113

Monday, August 31, 2009

"I'll get you, my pretty and your little dog too! "


"I'll get you, my pretty and your little dog too! "

That quote from the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz came to mind as I gazed at the actual witch's hat worn by Margaret Hamilton. The hat itself, though pointy, was velvety, still quite elegant - even after it had debuted 80 years ago on the big screen .

This summer, we visited friends in Idaho, where (they joke) the biggest cities are Salt Lake City and Spokane. Since they live in the pan handle, we trekked for an afternoon at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture (MAC) in Spokane, WA. The MAC hosted the traveling exhibit "Out of This World: Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television" from science fiction films and television programs. These were part of the private collection of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.

No pictures were allowed, but I jotted some notes of other memorable costumes.

From the Original Star Trek series:

  • The tunic of the evil Captain Kirk worn in "Mirror, Mirror," the first alternate reality episode where a transporter mishap swaps Captain Kirk and some of his crew with their evil counterparts in a parallel universe.
  • The Gorn lizard suit, where in the "Arena" Captain Kirk was pitted against this reptilian captain. Captain Kirk triumphs, showing mercy, though he manages to get his shirt ripped - so common in many episodes.

Star Trek: Next Generation:

Star Trek: Voyager:

  • The uniform worn by Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, the adapted Borg, severed from the collective. From the costume, this actress was petite with curves in all the right places.
Star Wars:
  • The costume of one of the most well known super villains of the cinema - Darth Vader. Those buttons and controls on the front of the dark lord's suit up close looked so faky. Oh, the power of the big screen!
  • The black robe of Obi-Wan Kenobi. With the pointed back of his hood, this costume looked like a black KKK robe if the hood was over his face.
  • The Imperial Stormtrooper outer armor. Again, up close, the white armor looked more like Styrofoam covered with white plastic.
Leather jackets:
  • Indiana Jones's leather jacket. Still looked very cool.
  • The leather jacket worn by the Terminator complete with metallic bullet holes. Not as cool as Indy's jacket - all those metallic holes kind of wreck it.

Super heroes:
  • Batman & Robin costumes. Batman was very dark. But Robin? These duds were full of color with those bright yellows, greens, and reds. If you ask me, Robin was the most brave to wear this with a straight face.
Like the ancient Greeks' gods, goddesses, and demons, these are a sampling of our super villains and heroes in the 20th and 21st century. Yet all these characters are just extensions of our faulty images of ourselves.
Psalm 97:9&10 (King James Version) gives me a perseptive that we have much greater Deliverer than anything else that is reflected in our popular arts and literature:
For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods.
Ye that love the LORD, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
Related links:

Witch's hat: http://clipart.peirceinternet.com/halloween.html
Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture: http://www.northwestmuseum.org/

Monday, August 24, 2009

From Huckleberry Jam to Buffalo Jam to Obama Jam


Mid-August, we took a trip to Yellowstone Park. We met with friends, did some camping, and took in many things wonderful and wild.

Huckleberries - a wild blue berry - were omnipresent in and about the park. Restaurants served huckleberry pie, huckleberry ice cream, huckleberry sauce, huckleberry milk shakes. Concessions sold huckleberry jams and jelly, huckleberry coffee and tea, huckleberry candy, .... I can't remember them all. I do remember the huckleberry ice cream with huckleberry sauce was wonderful. The wildness of the fruit makes it sought after and intriguing. And it is the state fruit of Idaho.

Wild things were the tourist's obsession, seeking wild life as the paparazzi seeks after hot celebrities. As the traffic crawled to a halt, odds are it was a buffalo jam. When a buffalo, an elk, a deer,whatever, does what comes natural - grazing the the meadows, basking in the sun, the cars slowed, many stopped, cameras whipped out, pictures taken. The tourist were thrilled.

The day after we left the national park, I just missed one of the biggest jams of the Summer - the Obama Jam - as the President of the United States swung by to visit Yellowstone.

What was amazing and wonderful is that so many people get excited about nature and the beauty of God's creation, whether animal (buffalo), vegatable (huckleberries), or mineral (Yellowstone Falls.) And this wonderment is shared from the humblest camper to the President of the United States.

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.Isaiah 40:25-27 (King James Version)


Related links:
From everystockphoto.com: Buffalo in Yellowstone
Yellowstone Insider: Obama Visit to Yellowstone
Biblegateway.com: Isaiah 40:25-27

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

91 Year Old Blogger



O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.

Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.


Psalm 71: 17 & 18 (KJV)

Since last Thankgivings my mother-in-law has felt compelled to write down her memories of the Great Depression, World War II, and 1950s. As part of the "Greatest Generation," I am grateful she penned them or typed them out on a manual typewriter. I was able to post her manuscripts on my website, smithsk.com, and at authorsden.com. On authorsden, her stories of the Great Depression have surpassed my best read article on Black Holes.

Her latest, Memories of Japan, has just been posted: smithsk.com/shortstories_Japan.htm

As my mother-in-law is into her ninth decade, I thought of Psalm 71, a psalm for everyone as we all are getting older. Even in our old age, God still uses us and is glorified.

During these uncertain times, I noticed many have taken a renewed interest in the Great Depression. A teenager from the Midwest was doing a class project this spring and was most interested in interviewing someone who had lived through these economic troubled times. She read my mother-in-law's stories and contacted me. It was difficult to arrange for the student to directly interview her, so I got the student's list of questions, conducted the interview, and emailed back the answers. The student was most grateful.

Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.

Please feel free to check out some of the my mother-in-law's memories:
The Great Depression 1929 - 1945
The Great Depression 1929 - 1945 Part 2
World War Two before, during, and after
Cherry Blossoms
Memories of Japan

Photo from everystockphoto.com: second thoughts

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

National Night Out


National Night Out? It was to happen August 4, 2009. The flyer caught my eye earlier this week as we were paying our city water bill at the local town hall. I just found out about another national event where the flyer explained -

What is National Night Out? This is an annual event where citizens throughout the country are asked to LOCK their doors, TURN ON their outside lights, and spend the evening out with neighbors and law enforcement.

Last night, we did just that. Locked our doors. Turned on the outside light. (This really wasn't necessary for it was still light out.) Then we went to the park near the river where the sheriff and a few of his deputies were cooking up hamburgers for the community.

We are newcomers to this small town and had a chance to chat with some of our neighbors. Greeters presented us with "National Night Out" stickers with a red flashing LED. The kids thought these flashy things were pretty cool. We meet our county sheriff and a few of his deputies, who have quite a large territory to cover, as we had an opportunity to ask questions and share our concerns.

This all dovetailed with a Bible study (http://www.ttb.org/) I'm following in I Timothy:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (KJV)

Truly, these men and women in law enforcement are God's ministers and through this national program they are ministering to the public. They all deserve are prayers and support.

Related links:
National Night Out Kick-off photo: http://everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=4337416
National Night Out: http://www.nationalnightout.org/
Thru the Bible: http://www.ttb.org/

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Happy Friendship Day!


"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24
(King James Version)
This morning I got a surprise eCard from Carole, a friend and former co-worker, who now lives 1000 miles away. It looked like a Birthday greeting. She wished me a Happy Friendship Day!
Friendship Day? I looked it up on the internet. From the site, friendshipday.org, I learned this -

"Friendship Day celebrations take place on the first Sunday of August every year. The tradition of dedicating a day in honor of friends began in US in 1935. Gradually the festival gained popularity and today Friendship Day is celebrated in large number of countries including India. ..."

I wish all my readers, fellow writers, and bloggers a Happy Friendship Day. I thank you for following my blog and encouraging me - like a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

Links:
Photos of friends: http://everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=806884
Friendship Day: http://www.friendshipday.org/

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Colter Church Conspiracy - Book 2 of the Samantha Matijevic Chronicles



Well, it's out! My second eBook in the Samantha Matijevic Chronicles, "The Colter Church Conspiracy."

What this book focuses on is cult-like behavior. I don't delve into doctrine, but how leaders or systems treat their followers and the people they are supposed to care for. Psychological abuse, manipulation, control is democratic. It can be found in obvious far out groups. It can be found in main stream religion. It can be found in other institutions, such as colleges.

The following is a spiel for this latest eBook:

Oil shortages. Energy crisis. War in the Middle East. Political scandals. Doomsday prophets pointing to Armageddon. Is this today? No, it’s the 1970s.

Pastor Bill Renfrew comes back to his hometown Colter, Montana fresh from Bible college on a mission to save a holy remnant for God in America. To do things God’s way is to do things his way. Tapping into the angst and malaise of the times, this sanctimonious preacher targets the vulnerable and the naive.

When Samantha Matijevic turns eighteen and enters Colter College, Pastor Renfrew snares this disoriented girl from a small town into his fold. Will Sam ever wise up and extract herself from the Colter Church Conspiracy?

And what I want you to know most of this book - it's for sale!

Related links:

To purchase the eBook: synergebooks.com/ebook_colterchurchconspiracy.html
Also, available at: smithsk.com/books

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Moon Walk - 40 years ago


I know this post will date me, but I remember the evening of July 20, 1969 very well. I was back east with my mother’s family, sitting in my uncle’s living room. We all gathered about the television set to watch history being made.

Neil Armstrong emerged from the lunar capsule. “That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind,” he said to the world via the radio transmission almost 240,000 miles away, as he left his foot print in the lunar dust - the first man on the moon.

This feat consummated the space race between the two Cold War super powers, the United States and the former Soviet Union, which started more than a decade before the moon walk.

October 1957, the sighting of Soviet satellite, Sputnik, inspired the son of a West Virginian coal miner. Homer Hickam and his friends, overcoming many obstacles, designed rockets and won science fairs, for which they were awarded scholarships to go to college.

Homer Hickam wrote about this in his book “Rocket Boys” released in 1998. In 1999, a movie was made, an anagram of the original title - “October Sky.”

The 30th anniversary of the moon walk, July 1999, Homer Hickam’s Wall Street Journal article - Time to Be Great Again - reflects on this moment of history: Time to Be Great Again

Much has been and will be said of this 40th anniversary, but this "Rocket Boy" said it very well ten years ago.


Related links:

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
Neil Armstrong On The Moon: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=1989648

Homer Hickam’s official site: http://www.homerhickam.com/
Time to Be Great Again: www.homerhickam.com/books/time_great.htm
October Sky: www.imdb.com/title/tt0132477

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1776 & July 1863



On July 4, 1776, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson. Adopted by the Continental Congress, this Declaration announced that the thirteen American colonies were now independent states and no longer a part of the British Empire.

One of the best-known sentences in the English language is the second sentence of the Declaration:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our inalienable Rights do not come from the government nor from the people, but from God. Since no government or person can grant us these rights, no government or person can take these rights from us.

My favorite flash video of Independence Day can be found at Dayspring ecards for the 4th of July: America's Freedom story

Four score and seven years later ...

In July 1863, the United States was engaged in the Civil War, the worst war in our history. The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863), the battle with the largest number of casualties in that war, is often described as the turning point in favor of the Union.

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave a two minute speech at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

President Lincoln began where Thomas Jefferson left off:

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. …”

For the entire speech, youtube.com/watch?v=V4bM9geY0do

In his short speech, Lincoln redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but -

“… that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Gettysburg Address has since then been regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history.

Before 1863, “the United States” was considered a plural proper noun - as in the United States are expanding with the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase. After the Civil War, "the United States" became a single proper noun - as in the United States has grown to 50 states.

E pluribus unum, “Out of Many, One.”

Best wishes this Fourth of July and be safe!


Related links:

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
Declaration of Independence: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=662439

Monday, June 29, 2009

Artistic Readings


One recent weekend, my husband and I visited family and friends in Colorado Springs. Fortunate for us, the Summer Music Festival was going on at Colorado College. Since 1984, this music festival has been an intensive three-week program for 45 advanced musicians. One of our friends regularly sponsors a student at these festivals and he invited us for one of the Concerto Readings.

First on the program that day was Ran Kampel from Tel-Aviv Israel. He read through the Concerto for Clarient and Orchestra, Op. 57, by Carl Nielsen (1865 - 1931), one of the most difficult pieces written for clarinet.

Second, was Kathryn Brooks, who received both her bachelor and master of music degrees from Cleveland Institute of Music. She performed Bassoon Concerto in B flat Major, K. 191 by W. A. Mozar (1756 - 1791)

I enjoyed these readings even more than regular performances. The student gets immediate feedback from the masters as he/she does a first reading of the piece. A second performance of the same piece follows as the student plays with the critique in mind.

Having studied music myself, I find the insight of the masters invaluable, especially when I hear the difference between the first and second performances.

For a sample of some of the performances: click here.

This process reminds me of a method to fine tune the craft of writing. After a story is written, the masters' critique can pick out ways to improve the piece and create a better connection with the audience.


Related links:

Colorado College Summer Music Festival:

Music Festival: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/SummerPrograms/SummerFestivaloftheArts/MusicFestival
Sample of Performances: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/SummerPrograms/SummerFestivaloftheArts/MusicFestival/downloadperformances.asp

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
Musician & music: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2492989

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

China Ready?

China ready? Are we having a fancy dinner or what? Not quite.

When Nathan Seidle asks the question - Is it China ready? - it pertains to a new product. Can he produce 10,000 units for this giant in the world market? There is even a website dedicated to this: areyouchinaready

Nathan shared lessons at the 2009 EntConnect conference of SparkFun’s recent China tour. His group learned such lessons as how their manufacturing works and the scale of it. They discovered new products and how they were done.

Often hardware and software are protected by patents and copyrights. But many, like SparkFun, take the OSH - Open Source Hardware - approach. OSH, for example, openly shares documents that illustrate how to make their electronic systems. In additon to OSH, creating modular electronic building blocks helps the hobbyists and designers to more easily develop their own gadgets.

This OSH strategy of putting their hardware designs in the public domain encourages the world to use and improve their products thus spurring ingenuity and innovation.

Nathan’s company, SparkFun, has benefited from the China - USA OSH cycle. USA design-> improved by China -> China design -> improved by USA -> …. And the improved products, which originated from OSH, are not the property of one particular entity. They are open to all to use, improve and enjoy.

One fun example of applying OSH is the first annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition - a higher tech version of match box car races. Check out the YouTube video: SparkFun - Autonomous Vehicle Competition - Course Preview

Both SparkFun employees and their customers participated in this race which put the “Spark” and “Fun” into SparkFun.

What does this have to do with writing? Writers often check out websites and blogs of those who offer their wisdom to improve the craft. This is our OSH - Open Source Help. And the bloggers also benefit by gathering a following and getting their name out there.

Two examples of such "open source help" sites that I follow for help are:

The Denver Writing Examiner: examiner.com/x-5787-Denver-Writing-Examiner
Prose from the Pros: prosefromthepros.blogspot.com

What are your OSHs? Are you one?

Related links:

EntConnect website: entconnect.org

SparkFun: sparkfun.com
SparkFun - Autonomous Vehicle Competition - Course Preview


The Denver Writing Examiner: examiner.com/x-5787-Denver-Writing-Examiner
Prose from the Pros: prosefromthepros.blogspot.com


Photos from everystockphoto.com:
China ready: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=105956

Monday, June 22, 2009

LilyPad - Electronics you can wear!



In the beginning, Nathan Seidle, CEO of SparkFun, had

No Knowledge
No Plan
No Tools.

No Plan? As he explained to the 2009 EntConnect conference, Nathan had no plan but to relate to his current customers.

There is a parallel to writers. One type makes a detailed outline of his/her story and fills it in. This MO is much like the entrepreneur that has a detailed business plan, which is required for business loans requests or doing business with the government.

Then there is the intuitive - write by the seat of the pants - writer who has no plan but to fill the need to write. This is much like Nathan who maxed out his credit cards and launched a business from his room.


What worked for Nathan was that he fit into what Chris Anderson coined in "Wired" magazine - the "Long Tail of Economics." Nathan found a market for a large number of unique items in small quantities - the long tail. Also, his plan to relate to his current customers drove innovation and synergy with other entrepreneurs.

One great example was LilyPad, the next generation of e-textile modules for the Wearable Electronics Do-it-Yourself enthusiasts. E-textiles are hardware and software modules that interact with the environment, sown into clothes with conductive threads .

Check out some of the lastest in e-textiles at:

Talk to my T-shirt
SparkFun LilyPad accelerometer

Likewise, the intuitive writers comes up with ideas as they writes and their story take them places that they would have missed if they stuck to their rigid, detailed plan. Serendipity!

Hmmm. What "Long Tail" market is out there for writers?

Related links:

EntConnect website: entconnect.org

SparkFun: sparkfun.com
SparkFun LilyPad accelerometer: www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=8462
Talk to my T-shirt: www.talk2myshirt.com/blog/archives/315

Photos from everystockphoto.com:
Lily Pad: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=750910
Long Tail: everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=1068554