Apparently someone named William Nicholson wrote, “We read to know we’re not alone.” Supposedly the remark is from a play about the life of C.S. Lewis, Shadowlands, and I probably first heard it in the film of the same name.  Then I forgot where I heard it until I looked it up late morning today before writing all this.

About a hundred years ago, when I was a small child living with my younger brother and my mom in a 1920’s cut-rate, smallish Mission Revival style bungalow on 18th Street below Mesa in San Pedro, California in the days before area codes.  That’s when I first began to read – to bend my mind in earnest to read.  

We were my father’s second family (or, who knows, possibly his third or fourth – he was capable of living double and triple lives if it suited him).  Dad came to the door and I crowded beside my mother at the door impulsively the way little kids respond to anything like a telephone bell or a knock on the door.  My dad was excited in a happy way.  He held up a stack of papers for me to examine, pointed to some words about midway down, and asked, “What does that say?”

What he’d pointed to was his name on the title page of his doctoral dissertation.  I couldn’t read his name and tried to sound it out, couldn’t, felt ashamed.  I remember that.  

Dad flipped out and started yelling at my mom, cursing.  The gist of what he said was, “What are they teaching him at that school” – a parochial school where my mom taught to offset tuition.  Dad used profanity.  Mom started crying and pleading with Dad to understand that I’d only recently started 1st Grade (we’d been out of the country during the year I would have been in Kindergarten). 

And I can still recall wondering why it was that I started crying as soon as my mother started crying.  Dad wasn’t angry with me and I didn’t feel sad.  I remember wondering about that strange circumstance and connection and feeling dissatisfied with it.

I read because my father programmed me to read using the trauma method of child training.  I didn’t know that’s what had happened. I was only consciously aware of the strange connection-with-my-mom thing.  I read to make my father happy and keep my mother from crying.


I was a different kind of child – I spoke my first sentence at about nine months.  “Look Mommy, doggy eat eat all up.”  That sentence is recorded in a scrapbook documenting my first year of life.

Years later, during elementary school, I was subjected to an intelligence test.  I have a freakishly high intelligence quotient.  The kind of I.Q. based on actual calculations of the sort that doesn’t factor in leftist fantasies about correcting for whiteness or ‘privilege’. Several standard deviations above the mean, within the standard error of measure.

I wish my dad had come unglued about a math problem because if he had, I’d probably have become a math prodigy of some sort and mind-numbingly rich due to having weaponized human consciousness or something easier like Tesla’s electric-power-out-of-the-air or perpetual motion underwater drives or how to travel faster than the speed of light.  I have worked out some basis for understanding the nature of time and human experience of and function within same.  Etc. But my point is, the ability to read.  The ability to comprehend pretty much anything another human mind can devise and put into words.  Big whoop, right?

Another problem with high intelligence is that you tend to think everyone’s like you, and when they don’t understand what’s obvious to you, or what you think is simple, straightforward communication, it’s damnably frustrating.  It’s easy to become embittered against people who are just being the people they are and genuinely aren’t able to grasp what seems simple to you.  More difficult but right is finding a way to show kindness toward them, and a lot of the time that involves wishing them well from a safe distance.

Watching TV and Reading

When I was young, I had asthma, severe allergies. Those conditions imposed limitations upon my activities.  I remember frequent trips to the local emergency room and “adrenaline shots.”  Additionally, I was sick a lot. The kind of sickness that results in feeling weak and barfing.  I spent a lot of time indoors and home from school due to illness.  

I watched a lot of TV.  I read all the time and also drew pictures pretty much constantly.

I still read and sometimes still draw.  If you look, you can find some of my drawings in various posts on this blog.  

Over the past 10 plus years have watched TV shows by the season on various subscription services.  I watched a couple of seasons of The Pretender TV series.  More than once, I wish I’d been sold to a research institute and raised to fulfill my intellectual potential.  The renowned Karen Horney famously opined that the first evil children perceive is parental indifference and I think she was right.  To this day, I have no idea to what purpose my parents “raised” me.  

Back when I had a Facebook page, in the About section, I described myself as the “product of a Cold War era eugenics experiment that went unreported in the major scientific journals of the day.”   That’s a metaphor, right?  I use metaphor to cope with life as I experience life, to help explain and make tolerable that experience.

Right now, I’m reading a Karen Traviss novel entitled “Going Grey” about the product of military industrial biological experiment that was carried to full term and allowed to live.  Odd it strikes me that someone’s written a novel about something similar to what I in dark good humor wrote about myself.  Or maybe it’s pretty common to feel that way.  Possibly there’re a lot of us who feel we may as well have been grown in a tank. 


Because at one point in my life – 25 to 30 years ago – I got tired of hearing myself whine about “I never chose to be born into this family” and “Why should I have to suffer because of (whatever I wanted to believe was someone else’s fault goes here)?”  Because of that, and my complaining was constant enough it broke through to my conscious awareness as an irritant, I found a way to stop it.  I asked God to provide me exactly the circumstances I found so objectionable – parents, family situation, life circumstances.  And I invited the Almighty to join me, to experience all that with me.  

Emotions are Shit

recently heard a preacher declare that worship equals an amalgam of emotion and truth, but I don’t think emotion is necessarily a component of worship.  I think human beings likely apprehend and respond to the majesty and glory of God in a variety of ways.  Worship is transformative and elevating.

Emotions are the byproduct of neurobiological functioning that involves awareness and the ability to know one is having an experience – like feces and urine are material byproduct of the way we, as organisms acquire/process nutrients through feeding and digesting.  We live and experience and produce emotions just like we eat and process nutrients and are left with waste matter.  Emotions are a variety of waste.

Maybe not in every instance are emotions of no value.  Sometimes in the moment we experience an emotion that tells us that something in the circumstances we inhabit is problematic or is okay or is better than okay.  But the emotions we’re left with after an experience versus those we experience in the moment are pretty much shit.  Offload it discretely, clean up, and move on.   

If you’ve read this far, maybe you’re not the only one of your species on this planet regardless of what it feels like to be you.


isn’t color-coded.  Those who imagine that the value of human lives or whether human lives matter depends on skin color are: racists; have well-below average cognitive horsepower; make their living by ensuring large numbers of human beings see themselves as primarily their skin color.


Do black lives matter?  Not any more than the lives of members of any other race.  And the extent to which human lives matter is best determined by other human beings on an individual basis.

In the world of work as in the larger society, I tend to value human lives according a rule of three.  I ask whether the individual with whom I have contact is:

  1. A person of goodwill;
  2. Oriented to reality;
  3. Competent or moving toward competence.

Obviously a man or woman can be a person of goodwill and still not be oriented to reality or competent.  A human being can be oriented to reality and be a person of ill-will and an incompetent.  A competent person is usually a person oriented to reality, but that person may lack the quality of goodwill.  An individual who meets all three of my criteria, or Christov10’s Big Three, is not often found in media, in politics, in government middle management positions, or really occupying positions prestige in most realms of human endeavor.

I’m reminded again of C.S. Lewis’ address, The Inner Ring.  I’ve either linked to it previously or mentioned it in this space.  I first ran across when working for a largely unknown and strictly small-time (by the standards of modern bureaucracy) state government agency.  It was while so employed that I also developed my Rule of Three, which appears as a numbered list, above.  No imagination should be required to understand why it was that I turned my mind to matters of this sort during that period of my life.  By the way, it was at that time that I first read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Keep your speech free, people of the left, the right, and center.  Resist anyone who tries to silence you and to diminish your ability to think for yourself and experience your own circumstances according to your own perspective and within your own values.  None of that is infallible, but to what extent a genuine manifestation of your real self, to that extent meaningful and of value.

Dos centavos, people, dos centavos.


Finishing Up and Other Stuff


In February of 2014, I left a government job in order to complete a Master of Education degree specializing in clinical mental health counseling.  Because I took my coursework piecemeal, as I got my classes paid for by my former employer, when I left the job to address those remaining degree requirements, some of the courses I needed were not available.  It’s taken me until now to complete my degree work.  Other requirements remain to be met in order to obtain licensure, but the degree work is done and I graduated yesterday.

I didn’t walk in the graduation ceremony because I’d left it too late (early March) to reserve a room in a local hotel (mine was a distance-learning course of study) and all the acceptable hotels in that city were fully booked.  What I did, instead, was take a bike ride in the morning through some of Stepford’s better neighborhoods.  My wife and son had gone strawberry picking at a nearby farm, so I had the morning to myself.  In the late morning, I again rode out to the soccer fields across town to watch my son play in the local youth league.  He scored two goals in the game.

Supernova at Soccer Game

Jamis Supernova at Saturday’s soccer game.

Friday before last, 24 April, I finished up my internship at a locked geriatric psychiatry unit in a nearby town’s hospital.  I’d worked there from 5 December 2014 to complete two sections of internship, all that I lacked to complete my degree program.  Oddly enough, the unit has no true mental health counseling program.  Instead, it has social workers who (and they work, constantly) provide any counseling; they are primarily concerned, however, with discharge planning.  While on the unit, where I served a 100 hour practicum during Fall 2014 semester, then carried on, more or less straight through the new year to the end of this semester, I also assisted with discharge planning as well as administering a depression scale for older adults and conducting fairly extensive background interviews with patients and family, as well as facilitating group sessions and providing individual therapy.  Although not initially a fan of Solution Focused Brief Therapy (finding it extremely formulaic), I found that persons whose dementing process had progressed to the point where they cannot tell the day, their age, or even where they are can very frequently respond appropriately and meaningfully to SFBT stimulus queries.

Already, I miss the social workers and nursing staff on the unit – they treated me like a valued colleague and taught me much that will be of use in other work, the patients, the unit’s doctor and the unit’s psychiatrist.  They all contributed to my education in ways I value.  Now the great task is finding remunerative employment and obtaining licensure.

Also, during April, I lost an older cousin to lung cancer, but misread the email detailing his funeral arrangements and missed the service.

During the month of April, I continued to carry on as the Solitary Cyclist of Stepford.  Here are a few of the photos I took on my rides –  a number of these pictures were snapped with my super-cheap cellular flip-phone.  The first row of pictures is from a ride I took through some of Stepford’s older districts, exploring some waste places.

Supernova-Alley-Lean Bike-Lean-No-TrespassBehind-the-Building

This second row is from a ride in the country on the King of Bicycles, my beautiful Miyata 610 – Fairweather.  I asked the octogenarian farmer repairing the barn whether he minded if I took a picture of my bike leaned up against it and he said, half-smiling, “I don’t care.”


The next row of phots is from another ride around lovely Stepford’s largely unknown waste places, this time on the Jamis Supernova.



And finally, from a ride to a scenic spot with the Supernova –



A Birthday, Visitors, A Comprehensive Exam

A Busy Weekend

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I agreed to host a family visiting our congregation last weekend.  After having said we’d do it, I thought, “Ah, isn’t that the weekend I’ve got my comp?” as well as, “that’s Mom’s birthday, too.”  Because I’m naturally too absent-minded to focus on rearranging things that can’t really be rearranged, anyway, I carried on with the plan, which was really no plan beyond not fighting with happenstance.

Comprehensive Examination

My graduate studies program requires that the candidate for a master’s level degree pass the National Board for Certified Counselors comprehensive certification examination.  A few months ago, I ordered the prep book from the organization after having taken a sample exam online.  The online test questions were really easy.  When the book arrived, I glanced at it.  Over the past month or two, the names Vygotsky and Kohlberg came to mind again and again.  Last Friday night, which was the night before the test, I reviewed some material about both Vygotsky and Kohlberg, took the practice examination (which was included in the study guide I’d purchased) and scored the instrument.  My score was not stellar.  I was weak on the theories of both Super and Roe, so I looked them up and reviewed them.  Around 2:00 am, I went to bed.

Saturday morning, I awoke between five and six, breakfasted, showered, dressed and drove over to my friend Theodore’s house, arriving there around eight.  Theodore’s got a Ph.D., has taught numerous university courses online, holds a couple of positions with a local school board, and had agreed to proctor the online examination for me.  I greeted him and his family, we drank coffee, ate cinnamon rolls, and talked for a bit before I took the test.  Anyway, I correctly answered a sufficient number of the 160 test items (among the 160, questions on the theories of Vygotsky, Kohlberg, Super and Roe) to warrant a passing grade.  My relief was immense.

The Gibello Family

The Gibello family arrived at our house during the early afternoon, last Saturday; they arrived with a mini-van and a small travel trailer.  We didn’t know what to expect, and neither did they.  Years ago, as part of another congregation, we had a good experience hosting a missionary couple who were (and did) travel to Australia to help found a Reformed theological seminary there.  We hoped this experience would be similarly good.

Turns out we had a great time.  The children played together pretty well (although our son, a couple of years older than their son, was way too bossy at times), we enjoyed cutting up with the Gibellos, who are normal people with intact senses of humor and good insight.  Whenever I encounter anyone, what I hope for is to find someone who is:  1) Oriented to reality; 2) Competent or working to develop competence; and 3) A person of general good will.  Usually, if the people I meet hit two out of three, that’s pretty good.  The Gibellos hit the mark three out of three times.  That’s better than good.

Caleb and I didn’t get to take a bike ride Saturday, but he’ll be taking the Razesa when they come back through Tennessee in May.  My friend, Eric Thompson, bought the bike at Ciclos Madrid in about 1985 when he was serving as a missionary in Spain, so it seems fitting that Caleb Gibello should get the bike as he’s preparing to travel to Papua New Guinea to serve as an itinerant missionary to people in remote villages there.  I doubt he’ll be able to take the bike to PNP, but he’ll have something economical to monkey around with on home visits.

My wife and I have decided to help support our new friends with a little money each month.


Mom’s Birthday

Mom said she was feeling pretty bad Saturday when we invited her over to the house for supper with the Gibellos and to celebrate her birthday.  We finally did get to see her on St. Patrick’s Day – she invited us over to her house to share the traditional corned-beef and cabbage meal she makes annually.  We had a good visit and gave her a present; took some leftovers home, too.  I ate the last of them Thursday night.


How Do I Learn Stuff?

How Do I Learn Stuff

How It Works

Usually what happens is that something piques my interest and I begin to acquire information about the subject.  A lot of the time, what interests me is technology, and when that is the case, I learn everything I can about whatever the thing is that interests me.  Curiosity is the starting point.  My interests are not limited to things, but this post is about things.

I scour discussion boards, old catalogs in portable document format, reviews, purveyors of new old stock, and consult with those known to me who are more expert than I.  Sometimes, I decide I’ve got to have whatever it is I’ve been studying about.  Usually, then, what I decide is that the cost of the latest version of whatever it is cannot be justified, so I buy (when I can find it) an upper mid-range or top of the line item that is several years old.

For instance, I bought a 1981 Miyata 610 that was in nearly new old stock condition, and have put the bike to constant use.  I obsessively researched the manufacturer and the model for a month or two before making the purchase.

Except for the Power Mac 7600 I bought in the Nineties, I’ve never purchased a new computer.  All of our computers were refurbs and supposedly obsolete when we bought them, but they serve us pretty well.  My smartphone is the version of the Iphone that my provider was giving away at contract renewal time.  My Pentax Optio water proof camera was several years old, but new in box, when I got it.

Sometimes, I’ll buy something on the used market that may be suitable, but isn’t what I really want.  The reason for that is that I never do want to spend a lot of money.  I have qualms of conscience about spending money, and because, as a married man and a father, what I really want more than things is to husband the family’s resources.  I recall buying a Power Mac 8500 for a video project in college – several years old at the time, but I got the project done and got to monkey around with video.  I got the 8500 because I thought the used 9500 was too expensive.  Sometimes what I buy on the used market that turns out to have problems that require correction or upgrade which may have a learning curve and require spending more money.

I learn how to cobble stuff together out of necessity.  Sometimes I find I am able to tackle learning projects that seemed impossible to me when I was younger, before I had learned how to learn in the need of the moment.  Necessity promotes learning.

Who Needs a ‘Modern’ Bicycle?

I figure, back in 1981 or 1985, cyclists were doing cool things with their then-new bikes, so why shouldn’t I be able to do cool stuff with those same bikes that are now old.  Having old bikes, I learned how to operate downtube friction-shifters, ride fairly heavy bikes, ride where I want to ride, ride hills that intimidated me, outrun (for the most part) trailer-dwelling pit-bull dogs, ride in traffic, and so forth.  No worries, right?  So, why would I want an index-shifted, lightweight road-bike?  I don’t know for sure.

I have been intrigued by purpose-built cyclocross bikes because there’ve been times I’ve ridden my road bikes down gravel roads and through mud and on dirt tracks, experiencing their limitations.  Pavement ends, and I want to keep going.  Limitations including clearance at brakes, forks, and stays for mud; road tire (even the venerable Continental Gatorskin) inability to maintain much traction on degraded small town alleyways, mud, sand, gravel; road bike lateral drift on dry, loose dirt and gravel.  Frame geometry has not been a problem with my old lugged-steel bikes, nor has ride comfort.  Modern cyclocross bikes appear to have similar slack frame and fork geometry to my ancient Razesa (a sport-tourer/racer) and the older Miyata (primarily a tourer).  Additionally, I don’t want to abuse the Miyata – my favorite bike – during the winter months.  Something newer might hold up a little better in Southern Middle Tennessee cold-and-wet-season conditions.  I ride all year long.

Without regard to harsher climatic and road surface conditions, having joined a cycling club and occasionally participating in group rides, I listen with envy to guys talking about their 65 to 75 mile rides.  I wish for a sufficient number of cogs at the rear wheel to address the varying terrain in this part of the state, as well as the ability to more effortlessly shift between them while riding.  I’ve gotten tired of unexpected goofy cable maladjustment causing the chain to bang down to smallest cog in back when trying shift into a lower gear to climb a hill.  I hate walking up hills and, although I could  be a stronger cyclist, some of the problems are due to an erratic funkiness inherent in the old equipment.  Heck, next year, I’d like to ride the BRAT – that’d be greater challenge than necessary on a 33 year-old tourer with the original 15-speed Suntour groupset.  Actually, I could probably do the BRAT on the Miyata, but I’d rather ride it on an Orbea Starship.  Heck, I grew up watching reruns of Star Trek on a 13” black and white television in my room when I should have been doing homework.  Starships are where I come from.

So, regarding a modern bike – a choice of two types of bike:  a premium road bike, or a cyclocross bike.

Bike versus Upright Freezer:  Freezer Wins

We got the upright freezer my wife has been wanting for months, and that was the right thing to do.  Got the freezer at about 60% of the item’s on sale price because it had some cosmetic imperfections; that’s fine with us because the appliance resides in our garage.

About the bikes, then.  The one I wanted was a 2003 Orbea Starship (Columbus aluminum) tube frame with carbon seat and chain stays, full Campagnolo Record Ultra 10-Speed gruppo, Bontrager wheelset, Bontrager carbon fork and seatpost, and Bontrager seat, bars, stem.  Truly a beautiful bike, right down to its tan bar-wrap, which reminded me of the steering wheel wraps we had on our cars back in the 70’s.  Pretty much the-best-money-can-buy build in its class.

My wife told me to go ahead and make an offer on it, and I, the expressionless man whose dial rarely registers anything that could be interpreted as enthusiasm, was visibly excited and happy about the prospect.  Then, I woke up in the early a.m., the day I was to drive out and test-ride the bike, and I had this sense that the amount I was prepared to spend was out of all proportion in terms of what is important to my family.  With real regret, I emailed the bike’s owner and explained that I would not be able to look at the bike.

I’m certain I made the right decision about the Orbea, and if I come into a providential windfall while the bike’s still for sale, the first thing I’ll do is buy it.  Christmas is on its way.  Who knows what will happen.

A Less Expensive Compromise

This bike in this condition was not worth what the seller was asking

This bike in this condition was not worth what the seller was asking

I did travel to Murfreesboro to test ride a 2003 Bianchi Reparto Corse Alu-Lite SL in my size, celeste green with Campagnolo Centaur 10 speed gruppo.  According to the seller, he bought it from the original owner, a Chattanooga physician who’d put a lot of miles on it; seller said he’d only ridden it about 2000 miles.  If the bike had been in better condition, it would have been worth what he was asking.  I actually offered him more than I’d originally wanted to because I did like the bike, and now that I’ve been super close to buying a top-end European bike with top-end groupset, I would have settled for a less expensive, lower-end European bike.  The seller, however, said, “For that, I’d just as soon keep the bike.”  So, I let him keep it.




What I wound up getting was a 2007 Jamis Super Nova cyclocross racing bike.  I’d seen the ad on Craigslist for about the past month, so had plenty of time to research it.  The photos above are those the seller used in his ad.  The 2007 Jamis catalog can be found here.

The biggest complaints I’d read on various Internet bulletin boards were:  Avid Shorty brakes provided inadequate stopping power; strange seatpost brake cable routing; heavy wheelset.  The 2007 Jamis catalogue lists the Supernova as the company’s top-end cyclocross bike that year (but, there were only two cross-specific models).  The Craigslist seller had addressed the brake problem by installing a set of Kore brakes using Kool Stop mountain bike pads, added Dura Ace rear derailleur and shift/brake levers, Ultegra front derailleur, Ritchey carbon fork, RaceFace alloy stem and 44 cm bars, SRAM rear cassette with a large cog for hills, cheap SRAM chain, Mavic Ksyrium wheelset with cheap Continental Ultra Sport tires.

I probably paid $50 to $100 too much for the bike, considering the seller had built up the frame (purchased on Ebay in 2009, he said, from an Oregon bike shop that probably stripped a complete bike that didn’t sell) using components he’d already had or bought, like the frame, on Ebay.  On the way home, I agonized over not having bargained better.

I've got ideas

I’ve got ideas

Because I felt chagrined, when I got to the house, I added some air to the tires and rode the bike around the neighborhood deliberately hitting every rough patch I could find, and then rode it around my yard a few times, hitting roots and holes on purpose.  What I discovered as a result of this caveman-level emotionally motivated activity was that the frame is supremely comfortable; that even with low-end, treadless road tires, the bike handles all manner of lousy (but dry for this experiment) surface conditions in a manner that left me feeling confidently in control of the bike.  I began to like the bike in spite of my stupid bikesnobbery.

Bike Learning

This bike’s a little like those second and third hand computers and videography equipment I bought back in college for projects, only I have no project to justify the bike’s expense.  I’ve already bought a 90 mm stem to replace the 110 mm unit that came with the bike.  Tried that out today, along with some cage-pedals.  Stem and pedals are fine, but I’ve got to reorient the bars for a little better long-ride comfort and control.

I do like the orange and white color scheme.  I like the fact that the bars are wider, but hate the drops – they aren’t long enough at the ends.  Or, rather, they don’t sweep back far enough to comfortably grip for longer periods of time.  Maybe Salsa Woodchipper or Short and Shallow bars?  I hate the black bar tape and switch to white when I get a set of bars I like better.  Okay with me that the white will become dirty-gray before long.  Adds character and still matches the bike’s color scheme better than black.

It did turn out those Mavic hubs are either in need of service or replacement – they don’t spin as freely as they ought.  Getting the bike up to speed requires real effort.  I ordered a set of Continental Tour Ride 2 tires for winter riding here at Stepford.  They arrived today.  I’m not sure about them, but will try them out after I get the hubs sorted.

Here’re some pictures I’ve taken of the bike while out on rides since last Thursday’s purchase:



Set the bike down here to snap some photos of wildflowers, nearby. That’s not really my house in the background. No, really, it’s not….



December 2012 Post


I’ve been busy since the disastrous national election, and, really, even before then.  Like most Americans who believe the U.S. Constitution remains in force and provides, along with the Bill of Rights, the only valid model of governance for the United States of America, I will continue to work to ensure that the U.S. remains a free republic, those holding high elected and politically appointed office who wish to transform this nation into something that’s a cross between Zimbabwe and socialist European kleptocracies notwithstanding.

Job Change

Back in the fall of this year I changed jobs.  The hapless, incompetent, and mercurial flunky who’d been placed in supervisory role at former place of work, after more than a year in that position, failed to develop any competence of her own or any understanding of the work done by those whose work she was supposedly hired to supervise.  I was no longer willing for my good work to lend credibility to that fool’s failed tenure as a manager.  Every other person employed in the facility, by virtue of their competence, willingness to work, ability to function as a team member, was and is that supervisor’s superior.  I interviewed for and obtained a job closer to the house (that’ll save about $1,000/year in unreimbursable gasoline expenditure) that registered as a promotion and resulted in a raise in pay.  The fact that the agency for which I now work seems to foster a positive orientation to reality, value competence, and manifest a little common good will was, in sum, the real reason I took the job, but the savings and raise comprise an additional happy providence.

Christov’s Three Criteria

Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed three simple criteria for quickly evaluating other people in the workplace.  The core concepts are not original with me and I owe much to the reading I’ve done over the past few years on human development and various approaches to mental health counseling.  They are as follows, and are assessed in the order presented because those that follow are dependent upon those that precede them:

  1. Is the person oriented to reality?
  2. Does the person exhibit competence to perform whatever he or she purports to be about?
  3. Does the person exhibit basic good will toward others?

The second and third, competence and good will, do not always follow the first, orientation to reality, but I don’t think they can exist without it.  Furthermore, competence is something that one develops over time, frequently after the person has taken more than one wrong turn – for instance attempting to study a subject for which he or she has no real aptitude and in the face of resultant failure in that endeavor, choosing a more suitable field of study.  Here, it is the orientation to reality that overbalances sentiment and allows the person to discern the proper path by apprising him or her that the present course will lead to no good end.  The man, woman, or child who is oriented to reality (in children, this is something developed over time intellectually and experientially by means of observation, consequence, and [ideally] good parenting) and who is developing or has developed a variety of competencies is capable of recognizing reality-orientation and competence in others and, having gained so much thereby himself, also wishes (or becomes hypothetically capable of wishing and aiding) others well and may assist them in that pursuit.

As an experiment, use these criteria to assess the people in your workplace and social environment.  Self interest (which includes the well-being of your children) may dictate that you distance yourself from those who do not meet this simple standard.

Weight Gain

Since September, I’ve put on about five pounds of belly and buttock flab.  My goal for the month of December was to lose five pounds by Christmas, but I only managed to shed about half that.  I’d been bicycling less frequently than during the lead-up to that 50-miler my friend Adrian and I rode in early September.  I’ve had a wretched cold for about the past two or three weeks (off and on, but worst during the past few days) that has kept me off the bike.  Cold winter Tennessee air makes the snot run like water out of my nose when I ride, anyway, and since I’ve added a pound of snot in my sinus cavities during this illness to my five pounds of body fat, the prospect of all that running out my nose and down my face and cycling togs during moderately intense exercise activity is not a happy one.

Probably my one New Year’s resolution is to exercise more and return to Weight Watchers eating habits.

Root Beer Barrel Candy

Weight Watchers allows one point for one ounce of hard candy.  I did bestir myself sufficiently during our family Christmas visit to the Midwest to drive with my brother-in-law to Farmland, Indiana, where I bought three pounds of root beer barrel candy to keep at the office.  While at the Farmland General Store, I sampled horehound candy, which I found not entirely unlike root beer candy, but had a slightly bitter aftertaste.  I would have bought some, but I was already emotionally, if that is the right word, committed to buying the candy for which I’d come in search.  The only other place I’ve found root beer candy in bulk is Gatlinburg, Tennessee, but I’d rather drive to Farmland, Indiana, than Gatlinburg, Tennessee, any day.

The Old Year

The new year, 2013, is upon us.  Who really believed space aliens would come and fetch away their devotees, or that the stone age Mayans would accurately predict when the great creation’s winding would come undone and release cataclysmic geological, climatological, and spiritual forces rending the fabric of all we know?  Honestly, that’s just silly.

So here we are.  Today, our congregation will hold its last worship services for the year.   We don’t have what 19th Century literature seems to indicate was called a Watch Night Service, where the congregation meets around midnight on New Year’s Eve to confess and repent of sins of the old year and to pray for guidance and good providence for the new.  Sounds like a good idea, though.

A New Old Car

In November I found and in December I bought a new used car – an early model Volvo all-wheel drive Cross Country station wagon with only 106,000 original miles on the drive-train.  My justification is that AWD will be useful to me in my new employment, the purchase price was well within my budget, and I like a station wagon.  After much debate with myself, I’ve decided I cannot justify holding on to Thursday, my 1997 Volvo 850 five-speed sedan, for the next 12 years in order to give it my son when he will be learning to drive.  I’ve offered the car for sale to one of my brothers for his oldest boy, who will be heading to college next fall, but my brother reckons the sedan’s mileage, a mere 205,000, is too high.  So, if you know someone interested in an extremely reliable manual transmission Volvo sedan, get in touch with me.  I have all service records for the car since 2005 and the timing belt and other service is all current.

As Freud Observed


Yesterday evening I was lying stomach-down on the floor in the den reading about Erikson’s 8 Stages of human development.  As two year-old Seventy-Six ran, jumped on my back, put his arms around my neck and swung around so that his face was next mine as he fell over onto the book screaming gibberish noises in my ear and laughing, I was reading the following aloud to him:

“As children seem so much more in control of themselves and reach peaks of willfulness, societies, through parents, decide it is time to teach them the right ways to behave.  As Freud observed, parents do not permit their children to enjoy their anality in any way they please; instead, they train them to behave in the socially proper way.” (Crain, 2005, p. 283)

Caution-Lady, in the room at the time, and I cracked up at Freud’s observation.  It was a funny family moment with our own little appropriately staged wild-boy in the starring role.

Trip to Dayton, Tennessee


The Bryan Institute for Critical Thought and Practice at Bryan College hosted a symposium last weekend (Friday and Saturday) entitled Christianity & Psychology:  Five Views.  My friend Eric sent me an email two or three weeks previously informing me of the event, and said he might be attending.  I’d been invited to a wedding at Santiago, Chile, but hadn’t notice necessary to obtain a passport and secure transportation in time to infest briefly that South American capitol.  I thought it looked interesting and since the event was free and open to the public, I decided to attend.  I checked with a couple of other friends who reside in or near Stepford, Tennessee, and one of them said he’d like to go to the event, as well.  As it happened, neither Eric nor Doros were able to make the trip.

A Late Start

Having nothing scheduled at the office that day, I took leave on Friday 19 March.  My plan had been to get an early start so that I could make Eric Johnson’s opening session at 11:00 am.  But Friday morning rolled around, and it was the first sunny day in several weeks that I was home and my son, Seventy-Six, was awake and asking to play outside.  In addition to that, I’d stayed up late the night before and slept late that morning.  Seventy-Six, just two this past month, and I looked at flowers growing in the yard and I don’t remember what else.  I have no idea what that flower is, but it smelled heavenly.  A few days after I first posted this paragraph, a Facebook reader commented there that the flower is a hyacinth, and that the flower does indeed smell heavenly.


I got out the door after my wife, Caution-Lady (named as you would expect for her superpower) and Seventy-Six left to go to a public library story-time.  I packed an overnight thinking I would have time for fitness activities in the afternoon.  I got about six or seven miles when I became aware of the fact that I’d left my laptop computer’s power adapter plugged in at the house. so I turned the car around and drove back to the house.

A Fatal Wreck

I don’t know, I think it may have been about 10:20 of the clock when I got back on the road to Dayton.  I took Interstate 24 East toward Chattanooga, congratulating myself on getting around all of the slow drivers peddling their cars up and riding their brakes down Monteagle when, about half a mile shy of Exit 161 traffic inexplicably stopped.  The car in front of me swerved side to side in an attempt to slow its forward progress.  I had better success with my decade-older Volvo’s brakes.


For what seemed like two, two-and-a-half hours traffic was almost completely stopped.  I ate a snack, read a book, got out and stretched, telephoned and left a message for Caution-Lady letting her know I’d be late getting to my destination.  I talked with other stalled motorists likewise out of their cars.  A helicopter appeared and, I would guess, carried off seriously injured survivors of the wreck.  The consensus was that a fatal wreck had occurred at Mile Marker 159.  From where I spent way too long parked, I could see people walking their dogs in the wide, grassy median.  One family even got the kids out to play there.

Just to my left at that point was Big Daddy’s Fireworks, which also appears to operate as a British Petroleum gas station.  On the ground, outside my car window (for about five minutes until traffic moved enough I was able to idle past it) was a not-very-long dead cat.  Mercifully, it had not yet begun to stink.  I thought about stuff like why my life has consistently been spared through all manner of vehicular mishaps and wrecks.  Wondered whether what my friend Doros would call the accident of Providence that sent me back to the house for the computer’s power-adapter had spared me yet again.

Arrived Dayton

On this day I did not become confused about the time change from Central to Eastern wherein I lost an hour.  The clock in the 850’s dash informed me that I’d arrived Dayton about 3:00 pm Central time.  Meant it was 4:00 pm Eastern.  Highway 27 North become Rhea (pronounced Ray) County Highway as you approach Dayton from the south, but I didn’t know it as I drove in to Dayton.  I veered left when the road forked instead of right, thus deviating from the Mapquest sanctioned route I’d printed up that morning before leaving the house.  Waiting for a traffic light to change, I noticed an Indiana license plate on the power utility truck stopped just in front of my car.  I snapped a picture – here it is:


Pretty interesting, huh?  Another of life’s oddities which collectively comprise the reason I usually carry a camera.  That and my Mr. Monk-like need to document or at least think about everything that intersects with my awareness.  I even thought about which direction the arrow should point deciding finally that it should point from the original plate in the photograph to the cut and pasted enlargement with which I conveniently covered a portion of the not-very-informational and annoyingly reflective metal pull-down storage-box door.


Rhea County Courthouse

By this time I’d figured out I was not on Rhea County Highway (which is where my hotel was located).  The county courthouse came in to view on my left – an interesting large brick building with a steepled tower on one corner reminiscent of a large First Methodist Church building.  Because I have for years wanted to visit the site of the Scopes Monkey Trial as both a religious tourist and one who has, in the past, regularly performed the Monkey Dance (about as dancelike, really, as Mata Hari’s rhythmic movements were in any wise sacred), I found a place to park on the square and got out to take a look.


The Rhea County Heritage Museum is located in the courthouse basement.  Entry is free, and I found no staff member anywhere in attendance therein.  I walked through and looked at the many displays.  The clocktower’s mechanism in the back of the museum along with pieces of early medical machinery.  Nearby was a case with dental instruments and photographs of dentists and dental technicians.  Of course, I took special note of all that because my father-in-law is a dental surgeon.  I saw a number of displays devoted to someone named Curly Fox who apparently played guitar and violin.  But I didn’t spend much time in the basement.

An-Act-Prohibiting Dayton-Dental-History


I found an interior staircase and took it up to the first floor landing where, I think it was there, a placard directed me to the second floor for the Scopes Monkey Trial courtroom.  This is what I was looking forward to seeing at Dayton.  I snapped a number of photos of the courthouse exterior, the museum (including the dentistry exhibit for my father-in-law), and the famous courtroom.  Also a photo of some mascots in the court clerk’s office.  The ladies there gave me directions how to get back to the main highway and to my hotel.  If I hadn’t lost so much time in traffic earlier, I probably would have spent more time reading the exhibit material in the basement.

Court-Clerk's-Office-Mascots Scopes-Trial-Courtroom-0 Scopes-Trial-Courtroom-1 Scopes-Trial-Courtroom-2 Scopes-Trial-Courtroom-3 Scopes-Trial-Courtroom-4


I drove out to my hotel, which will remain nameless in exchange for the deep discount I received upfront and then again after making a complaint about the, er, cleanliness of the plastic tray upon which the management had placed my room’s coffee maker.  To the good, however, the refrigerator and microwave ovens appeared very clean, and the bathroom seemed tolerably clean.  Heaven knows, I have slept in much worse places.  Also, the wireless broadband signal was strong.  After getting stuff out of the car and arranged in the room, I ventured out again.

I thought it would be a good idea to get some healthy snacks (because I knew I’d be eating some restaurant food), so I bought grapes, a banana, some yogurt at a nearby supermarket.  Later, I washed the 850 at a coin-op in the same shopping center – I hadn’t washed the car since late Fall, and I would have been embarrassed to motor up to the symposium in a filthy Volvo.  I drove out to find the college using directions the supermarket cashier had given me.  Turned left at the boat ramp, and then drove to the top of the hill.  Rudd Hall, according to one of the students walking about up there, was that first building, the one I thought was probably the campus chapel.


Friday Late Afternoon

I drove back down the hill and had a look at the boat dock.  When I asked the guy in the bait store there at the top of the boat ramp whether the low water level represented the normal winter pool, he looked at me like, “Huh?”  When I asked him whether the water level was normal for this time of year, he said that it was.  The body of water there, he informed me upon query, is Watts Bar.  I have noticed in times past that the flatwater in the Soddy Daisy area looks interesting – run-down marinas and the detritus of environmentally apathetic human development – to paraphrase Dave Kruger’s classic words, human places, but wild.  The flatwater shoreline in Dayton looked less run down, but also like it might be interesting as a couple of shallow creeks – Richland Creek and Little Richland Creek – flowed into the lake near the boat dock.  I’m guessing the creeks are deep enough in the Spring and Summer months to paddle up into the old part of Dayton a bit.

Dayton-Boatdock-1 Dayton-Boatdock-2 Dayton-Boatdock-3

After leaving the boat ramp, I found a small Vietnamese restaurant, unprepossessing in appearance, and ordered spring rolls and a vegetable stir.  The spring rolls were excellent.  It would almost be worth a trip to Dayton to sample them, but since I was there anyway, they were a providential bonus.


Warren Brown

The evening session of the symposium was scheduled for 7:00, and I arrived in good time for it, parking in the lot between Rudd Hall and the school’s cafeteria.  I entered the building from the side-door closest the parking lot, bypassing the knot of attendees milling about the book sales tables in the lobby area.  The lecture hall was not crowded, I would say no more than half full.

Brown’s area of research expertise is agenesis of the corpus callosum, and the gist of what he had to say related to the manner in which the human being is the human body.  Brown also presented Brown’s Model for discerning truth using information obtained from five authorities which he illustrated on a PowerPoint slide as a ring of five radios transmitting frequencies represented by curved lines converging toward the ring’s center.  Brown said he’d derived the model from John Wesley’s four-sided model consisting of Tradition, Scripture, Theology, and Experience.  You will have to email Dr. Brown if you wish to know the names of his five authorities because I feel certain I have misremembered one or two of them.

As Brown talked about his model for discerning truth in regard to a given question, I thought that the ring’s center should or would, in his metaphor, become populated by an approximation or sort of holographic mosaic of “Truth.”  But as Brown talked, he said that when he first conceived the model, he thought he was in the center, receiving information from each of the authorities, giving greater weight to one or the other depending on the nature of the question asked.  With good tuning or frequency modulation, some level of agreement can be found among all of the authorities.  Sort of an Hegelian thing with truth becoming manifest in the mind of Brown.  He said that over time he has been coming to believe that our culture has to an extent “over privileged the individual” and “under privileged the group” which is society and which is what he thinks really populates the model’s center.  So in Brown’s model, there is actually an uber-authority and that is the one who tunes the radios – the individual or the group.

During the question and answer period after the lecture I asked Dr. Brown whether during the application of his model he has found some questions or areas of discussion in regard to questions where no agreement can be found, and does he use that information to create a fuller picture of the object questioned.  My point, which I probably didn’t articulate at all well was that even when we cannot find definitive answers or even useful approximations of truth in regard to a question, we can still use that information to map the limits of the knowable, as well as to map the damage wrought by the introduction into the world of what the Christian calls sin.  That wasn’t really the use Brown had in mind for the model, and he emphasized that it is usually possible to find areas of agreement among the authorities.

Dr. Brown’s engaging presentation got me thinking again about the assumption many Christian intellectuals and academics make about communication, which is this:  Clear communication and clear reception of communication is possible regardless of whether the parties to the communication share a common language.  From a biblical worldview perspective, what this fails to take into account is the post-deluvian confusion of language at Babel.  And although I recognize that this particular bonneted bee may be insignificant, it is a question to which I return again and again.

Note: On 4/21/10, I finally got around to listening to the podcast of the final session, a panel discussion, and it was at this time that the matter of the ability of human beings to communicate clearly (or not) with one another was addressed.

Time Zones

Saturday was the day I became confused about time at Dayton.  Normally, I rely on my cellular telephone’s connection with The Great Wireless Clock somewhere in the air, or upon the computer’s link to The Great Internet Clock, or local FM radio as authorities reporting current time, but somehow I became convinced that my phone and computer were reporting time at Dayton as Central Standard, when in fact I was operating in the Eastern Time Zone.  When I conked out Friday night in my hotel room I mentally did so on Central Time, but when I awakened set about breakfasting, packing, and getting ready to check out and head back to the college, I unknowingly did so on Eastern Time.  So it was that when I arrived at Bryan College thinking I was about 40 minutes early for the 9:00 am lecture, I was surprised to find the parking lot already full, and took a spot in the student-only parking lot behind Rudd Hall.  Entering the building from the rear, I made my way up flights of stairs to the main floor and looking in a side door observed and heard Stanton Jones speaking from the podium.  It was then that I realized my mistake.  Simple time travel confuses me, and I think it is a function of some maths specific learning disability.  I continued climbing stairs until I got to the gallery and there took a seat.


Stanton Jones

Because I got to the lecture hall as late as I did, missing the introductory remarks and the beginning of substantive remarks, and because I didn’t take notes, I don’t remember as much about Jones’ presentation as I do about Brown’s (although I didn’t take notes during Brown’s talk, either; possibly his subject matter interested me more).  With the exception of Eric Johnson, whose name was vaguely familiar to me, I’d never heard of any of the Five Views speakers, so had no idea what to expect from Jones.  Apparently his area of expertise is homosexuality and the scientific research pertaining to its origins or causation in the person.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Jones remarks were not in the least bigoted, and equally surprised that he had no particular axe to grind regarding the possible contribution of genetics to causation.  Jones engagingly debunked a study of twins purporting to prove genetic causation.  What I appreciated most about Jones, and really about all the event’s presenters, was the acknowledgment of complexity and rejection of easy explanations or the idea of a definitive answer.

Paul Watson

The second speaker Saturday morning was Paul Watson, a professor at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.  He made a remark about feeling diffident because he was, if I remember this correctly, the “second author” of the chapter to which he’d contributed.  He went on to present a detailed teaching lecture that he admitted he had prepared specifically for the event, as opposed to having derived from his own work on the subject matter covered (and I cannot recall now what that was).  Because I did not find the presentation sufficiently vibrant to engage my attention, I fired up the laptop and spent the bulk of Watson’s talk writing about the Powhatan.

It was only during the question and answer period after his talk, when Watson seemed to feel more free to discuss his own thoughts and ideas, that he made what I thought were significant contributions.  He spoke about the need for Christian intellectuals to engage the wider world of scientific and academic thought and to avoid acting and thinking in ways that result in the creation of a Christian intellectual ghetto.  He spoke about his Quaker convictions and alluded to that bit in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel wherein Jesus likened his ekklesia unto a “city set on a hillside” that cannot be hidden in darkness (due to the light therefrom) or in daylight (due to its position) advocating for intellectual and scientific collaboration among Christians of the several denominations.

Note: I finally got around to listening to the podcast, and Watson made some contributions during the final session – panel discussion – with which I did not much agree.  His statements regarding disagreement and “blood” struck me as somewhat overheated, but I was pleased to note that he seemed to feel a little bit freer to speak from his own perspective.

Lunch at Bryan

I ate lunch on campus – Bryan College puts on a pretty good Saturday buffet lunch for $4.90.  I spoke to a young man I’d seen and recognized from the gallery earlier in the day.  Turns out I knew him from the seminary we both attended.  He stayed on and earned a doctorate, currently teaches at Bryan.  Although we were not friends at seminary, it was good visiting over lunch.  At lunch I met another fellow who has sailed recreationally, and we discussed the Tennessee job market, sailing, and a project he is considering that involves making a dugout canoe.  After lunch I returned to Rudd Hall and bought a copy of a book Warren Brown coauthored, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? The book table cost was a substantial discount over the Amazon price.

John Coe

By the time I’d left Rudd Hall for lunch, I’d finally noticed the paper sign taped to the door leading to the gallery stairs informing anyone with the sense to look that balcony seats were off-limits for the symposium.  I am grateful to the staff at Bryan for their courtesy in the matter of my initially inadvertent boundary-crashing.  I found a seat on the main floor’s center section back row for John Coe’s presentation.

Coe, who in person bears a slight but noticeable resemblance to comedian Chevy Chase, informed the audience that he has never mastered the art of the PowerPoint presentation, and that he had, instead, printed copies of his paper for distribution.  He then proceeded to read aloud from Transformational Psychology:  Deconstructing Modern Science and Rediscovering the Person, which he’d co-authored with Todd Hall.


Coe, as I recall it, took issue the truncated science that acknowledges only what is publically observable, clinically reproducible, and symbolically quantifiable.  Proposing a return to the roots of science as practiced during the millennia prior to the advent of Rationalism, Coe asked why anyone should believe that empirical reason is the only or even the best means of knowing.

Certainly I agree with Coe when he points out that what is billed as science today fails to account for much that is known and can be known.  On the other hand, that may be a good thing, as knowledge is so often twisted to suit political ends or simply to work harm against others to no remotely justifiable or good end.  Before the agnostic reader dismisses Coe as a sort of religious quack who suggest we return to the casting of lots or the reading of entrails or the observation of the manner in which ceremonial chickens peck corn, or worse, drink river water, I recommend obtaining a copy of Dr. Coe’s paper or attempting to correspond with him.  Doubtless I have not from memory done his ideas justice here, and a critique of his paper is beyond the scope of this blog.

David Powlison

Powlison’s was the last solo presentation of the day.  From the remarks of the bearded Bryan College faculty guy whose name I never did manage to remember (I thought he was probably Leo Buscaglia, but it turns out I was mistaken as you will find if you click on the link above), I gathered that Powlison had been seriously ill recently, and a Google search for the terms “David Powlison” and illness returned this link to the man’s comments on something written by John Piper evidently entitled Don’t Waste Your Cancer.  The page linked supra, informs the reader that Powlison was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006.  Although I despise the unreadable prose of John Piper, I find Powlison’s remarks on Piper’s material worth reading.

David Powlison, like John Coe, spoke without a PowerPoint.  He said his concern was the manner in which the theorizing of academics, scientists, practitioners are worked out “downstream” from Watson’s “city on the hill.”  Powlison spoke like a man who “gets” the fact that most of humanity lives in conditions that are far from idyllic, who experience little of the “common grace” (which is the theologically flawed term he used to describe the good will and bonhomie that more often prevails “upstream”) known to those with advanced academic degrees working in the realms of theory and research.


None of the kids in the hall took notes on anything other than their laptop computers.  A fair number of them were surfing Facebook or checking email, as well.I think it was as Powlison spoke that I snapped a flashless picture of coeds using laptops during the session.  Interesting to note about a quarter of the laptops I saw in use were Apple products.      All of the pictures I took over the weekend were made without flash.  Thought it would conserve battery power, and would be far less disruptive in the environment.  The Pentax Optio WR33 produces blurry indoor images when the flash isn’t used.  Dunno why.  Doubtless the solution is an easy Internet find, but I’m not interested enough to look into it.

Panel Discussion


Faced with the long drive from Dayton to Stepford and no direct connecting route, I debated internally remaining for the panel discussion or heading home to my wife and son.  About five seconds into the prayer led at first by Eric Johnson (pictured above), but couldn’t get out of my seat until the silent praying that followed was done.  Anyway, I’d enjoyed good conversation with the fellow seated next to me during the Coe and Powlison presentations, and wanted to say goodbye.  We’d already exchanged contact information.  So I took off as unobtrusively as possible.  Got in the car and drove off.  It was on my way off campus that I snapped the picture of Rudd Hall that appears about mid-post.


Because I providentially missed growing up immersed in the small “c”hristian subculture that, to use Justo Gonzalez’ phrase, passes for church in North America, I never know what to expect when encountering groups of my coreligionists.  I recall once attending a Voice of the Martyrs “conference” hosted by a large Franklin, Tennessee, Presbyterian congregation that devolved into a sentimental pseudo worship-service, when what I’d hoped for was serious discussion of Christian persecution worldwide.  So I was very pleased that the Bryan Institute foisted nothing of the sort upon those in attendance at the Five Views symposium.  Left me with a better impression of my conservative Christian intellectual brethren than I’d supposed possible.


Podcasts can be downloaded here