Who Dat?

Blog 1399, 15 January 2018, Monday

Dear friend,

It’s been fun to parade around in my new “doo.” Those who read the blogs knew I’d changed my look, they’d walk up snickering and telling me things like the new haircut makes me look younger, more professional, neater, better educated, better whatever; no one but me seemed to miss the hair. One said I was “A bit Mephistophelian” referring to the chin. Another used the lovely phrase, “statesman-like.” That last two have never been used to describe me before. But the truth is this: I’m so lazy I don’t want to think about how I look. I’m married to Jean who is almost always aware of how she looks, what her hair looks like, which earrings she’s wearing, etc. She’s more aware of such things than I can imagine. I don’t think about such things. I tell people that I look in a mirror to see if there’s any twinkle in my eyes and can walk away without noticing my hair needs combing, my face is dirty, and there’s a big, ugly, white pimple on my nose. I am amazed how many people really care how I look. Thank you, and I apologize for my unkempt appearance. My look is probably a remnant of my street days. Also, I really am that lazy about such things.

This is my last blog from my desktop computer for a while; I’m moving to the laptop to make the transition to Africa a little easier. It’s got all the protections we need (we hope), including malware. It’s got no banking information, personal information, and a limited address list on it. I’ll miss the big screen and the wonderfully comfortable office chair in which I can sleep so easily.

This is Martin Luther King Day. I always wanted it to be celebrated on Presidents’ Day, combining holidays, thus it could have had the ironic name “Two Presidents and a King’s Day.” But that would greatly diminish the impact on Dr. King’s legacy. I was heading to Michigan, hitchhiking across North Dakota, when I got word he was shot. I remember the driver who told me was named Joe Schmitt who owned the Dairy Queen in Rugby, ND. For the rest of my trip, every cop, border guard, or customs official who saw me stopped me. In 1968 I still had a Yupper twang in my voice and they all thought I was Canadian coming to join the riots. No, I was going to a suburb of Detroit to pick up a car to drive to Washington State. North of Detroit, in Pontiac, they stopped me for good, I had to call someone to come pick me up and drive me into the Detroit area. Before I left, I drove through the riot scene. It looked like a war zone. I probably wouldn’t do that nowadays.

The struggle is still not over, but the world’s a better place because of him. The “Me, Too” movement is another painful step in making life more open. May we not be afraid of change. That includes my hair, I suppose. Love,


Hair Today; Gone Tomorrow

Blog 1398, 13 January 2018, Saturday

Dear friend,

If a picture is worth a thousand words, behold:

Who is that old guy in the picture? We couldn’t decide whether the part should be on the left or right so decided to part with it all. Jean gets her hair done for Africa this week, equally dramatic but in a different direction; she gets curled. These are hairdos that help us endure periods without water or effort, wind-proof and simple.

We have sixteen days until we leave. I have our four pieces of checked baggage packed, but it’s only a temporary packing with about 25 pounds more that can be squeezed in or, perhaps, find a larger suitcase. Nothing is certain; everything is changeable until that last Sunday evening when final adjustments are made. Then, after we check in, board the plane, that is the time when Jean’s brain suddenly remembers all those things she’d thought about taking and either forgot or rejected and she goes through a verbal period of regret. Next to her, I’ll be wondering about our next luggage transfer with four large suitcases and five carry-ons. It would be lovely to check our luggage in Seattle all the way through to Kilimanjaro Airport but we’re going through three countries and they probably all want to see what we’re bringing in. It also gives their customs people some time to do some post-Christmas browsing. We miss the days when you could lock your luggage. Coming back ought to be a breeze.

Finally: the way we (that royal we) were:


Vacuum Packing

Blog 1397, 12 January 2018, Friday

Dear friend,

It was wonderful and spooky the first time I tried to “vacuum pack” those sweatshirts we’re taking to the Plaster House in Africa. I packed the bag with shirts, took the end of our vacuum cleaner hose and applied it to the little opening, and seconds later I’d reduced the volume of the bag by 50%. It looked like the horror scene in a mummy movie, they open the crypt and the lovely face looks up at them, then it shrivels and looks like a prune. It sucks out almost all the air (apparently sweatshirts have a lot of air in them). It went from feeling like a bag of clothes to a block of beef jerky in two seconds. Because weight is not a problem but volume is, the vacuum packing solves at least one of our problems. I don’t know what security of customs will do with the bags, I hope they don’t open them. We have four suitcases filled with sweatshirts, Duplos, toy cars, and plastic dinosaurs. All our clothes will be carry-ons. We’re going to the middle of summer; we don’t need much. My vest with its 22 pockets but it is never considered a piece of luggage although it should be, my CPAP machine is considered medical so that doesn’t count against my two carry-ons. We do OK.

Today is the day I’ve long dreaded, worse that the drilling by the dentist or the prodding of the doctor, this is the day the hair goes. I like hair. In fact, I wish I had more on top. I like it flapping in the wind. I think it adds to my image of not being a totally trustworthy sort of adversary. But we’re going to Africa where water is iffy and style seldom matters. So, if you see Jean with some strange man with really short hair in these coming weeks, I sure hope it’s me.

But it’s not raining today (although this morning was a little confusing, rainwise), so I’m going walking. That’s what I do. Love,

Today’s Most Holy Thing

Blog 1396, 11 January 2018, Thursday

Dear friend,

This mornings reading defined what the most holy thing we’ll encounter today: our neighbor. The devotional reading urged us to be representative Christians, showing a “with-ness” for Christ to our neighbors, co-workers, etc. Truly, think of your neighbor as being Christ and yourself as a sibling. Unfortunately, this list of Christ-like people probably ought to include a certain Audi driver/neighbor I encountered on Tuesday. The devotional reading was good, a lesson I should learn and repeat often.

If we were to examine me closely, and let us not do that, you’d find that Christian “with-ness” is not always showing in my attitude. However, this morning’s walk was different. It was raining pretty hard, but with my new Gore-Tex hat, I was good to go. My yellow jacket has a hood that I put over my head but under the hat, not for dryness but to prevent it from collecting water. Today I met four people also out walking, and three of them were smiling and grateful (I believe) to be waterproof. The fourth, not so happy, was obviously carrying a briefcase, racing with his head down, running into the rain, and not about to straighten up and enjoy the sensations. He had a bus to catch. Three Tiny Tims and one old Scrooge: God bless you, Mr. Scrooge! At Starbucks I had three cups of coffee (my Gold-Card refills are free) and it was still raining. I finished my studies for our second class on First Timothy and solved the Sudoku I generally carry in my notebook, and it was still raining, so I walked back uphill. It was a simple day, I got everything packed for the Plaster House in four suitcases, barely, even though I know there is still more treasure coming. I like rainy days. Love,

Not My Rage

Blog 1395, 9 January 2018, Tuesday

Dear friend,

After three weeks off, we’re back to two Bible studies today. The first, the men’s group, taking our discussion from the 1530 Augsburg Confessions (we use a modern translation), we discussed, among other things, God, the Son of God, and the Church. It was not a reading lecture, it was discussion, and it was good. The second study was John 15, and it, too, was good.

Three weeks from today (it’s noon as I type this) we’ll be flying toward Addis Abba, Ethiopia from to Dulles in Washington D.C., spending our second night in an airplane. It’ll be 11 p.m. at our destination time zone and we’ll be mentally and physically shot as we make plans to fly down to Kilimanjaro airport the next day. It’ll be good to have something to look forward to—getting off the plane and seeing if we can still walk.

It’s now 5 p.m. as I write this. “Rage is futile!” I was being a teacher today, coming back from Bed, Bath, and Beyond with vacuum bags for packing sweatshirts tighter. There was an Audi behind me, right behind me, wanted me to go faster and so, to express his displeasure, crowded me. That doesn’t actually work with people who, knowingly or not, don’t react. So I kept at the speed limit, he stayed behind me, and I thought, “Your rage is futile. Relax.” It was a good lesson and I’m sure one that scored an absolute zero on his mind. Had he backed off and followed my by two car lengths, he’d have gotten where he was going no faster and with less angst. He raged, I prayed for him. When I finally turned off, he sped by with an attempted roar from a car that didn’t growl and so was as ineffective at that as were his efforts to get me to speed. Normally speeding a little doesn’t bother me, unless there’s someone trying to rush me. He probably thought I was just an inept old guy who didn’t know what he was doing—but I did and I, terrible person I am when you don’t see me, tried to teach him, an unwilling student, that it was futile to rage. My drive home may have been my highlight of the afternoon. Love,

50 Years of False Teachings

Blog 1394, 8 January 2018, Monday

Dear friend,

Logic will probably lead us astray more easily than imagination will. When it’s fiction, we know to not accept it fully; when it’s logic, we aren’t as careful. For example, today’s lesson in English is on contractions. Take the sentence, “I won’t come” obviously means “I wouldn’t come.” True? No. I learned today that the contraction “won’t” means “will not” and not “would not.” Secretly I’m hoping that no one really listened to their English teacher when I taught the meaning of “won’t.”

My niece’s family gave me a “Bathroom Reader” daily calendar, you rip off the previous day and learn something usually suitable for instant forgetting. But the Workman Publishing Co., Inc. for January 4th says this:
“Won’t” is a contraction of “will not,” and it’s also a relic of a word that’s been corrupted over the centuries. In Old English, wold was the past tense of the verb willan, or will. By the 16th century wold had evolved into woll. Adding in “not” made the phrase woll not, and got contracted to “won’t,” because the double “l” was too hard to pronounce. “Woll not” ultimately disappeared from English use entirely . . . but “won’t” clearly didn’t.

I knew someone, somewhere would agree with me. I checked all my dictionaries. Apparently not. The only thing I learned was that an alternative spelling for “won’t” would be “wo’n’t” but nobody uses that. So, for the thousands of students I’ve taught falsely over the years, I’m sorry. And for the two of you who heard me and remembered, wherever you are, I’m doubly sorry. Never again will I be wont to use won’t for wouldn’t.

Today I started the sorting, packing, repacking, re-sorting frenzy that precedes any trip, although this time everything is semi-packed (Thanks, Beth) which means my task is much easier. Still, balancing scales, debating between weight and volume, it’s really boring work. But Africa is our destiny with 100 sweatshirts, educational supplies, loads of toys, and socks and underwear hopefully packed to look like clothes that are mine. Good luck. I’m just hoping the customs folk don’t realize what they’re looking at. I’ll just talk to them in my Swahili and that should keep their brains unfocused as they try to make sense out of my nonsense. I’m to Swahili what Professor Cory was to English. We make Rev. Spooner sound sane. With that, and much love, we close.

First Rains and Movies of the Year

Blog 1393, 6 January 2018, Saturday

Dear friend,

Today I begin my serious rain walking. It’s not just a coincidence that the serious rains began late last night. Today’s the 12th day of Christmas (also called Twelvetide), marked by the taking down of our Christmas lights and taking the tree outside, with plans to transplant it into someone’s yard soon. Our lights were up for six weeks. I’ll probably take the lights off the tree before I replant it if I can’t find a convenient currant bush.

Sunday will be our first teaching Sunday of 2018, we’re starting a unit on First and Second Timothy, probably with an unscheduled Titus thrown in. The three epistles make up the “Pastoral Epistles” by Paul, written to Timothy and Titus, both of whom were acting as pastors in churches, Timothy in Ephesus and Titus on Crete. On this first class, my problem is always going in with too much information. Jean has the same problem. I don’t know if those who attend those classes know that, but somehow we never have trouble filling up the 60-minute class, with coffee and treats (grapes and doughnut holes).

On Friday we went out to see The Darkest Hour, the movie on Churchill and England getting into the war. If I said it was a dark movie, would you boo? Today we went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. One is a billion dollar movie; the other is history. But it’s Churchill we’re talking about so Yoda and Winston may have more in common than would be expected. I liked both movies but I lay little praise on either. Looming over us today is the specter of Paul’s letter to Timothy. I’ll be glad when the first class is over. Our last study on the Epistle to the Philippians was so smooth, but we’re aware there are bumps in this text study. If you’re doing nothing else tomorrow morning at 7:15, the class and we would both love a little prayer for us. Love,

A Five-Event Day

Blog 1392, 4 January 2018, Thursday

Dear friend,

1-As I type this, soft jazz is playing from my new $49 Google Home Mini. As it plays, I turn and say, “Hey Google, how cold will it be tonight?” “The temperature in Bellevue tonight is predicted to be forty-one,” a slightly feminine voice says, then the jazz resumes playing. I ask a question I doubt it can answer, “Hey Google, who wrote RACA ROAMING? (Spoiler: I did) “Sorry, I don’t know how to help with that, but I’m still learning,” she says. I think she means she doesn’t know the book and not that it’s beyond help. Marvin got himself a new toy yesterday.

2-Eric was the salesman at Best Buy who guided me through the process, and then when I asked him to help program the needed app into my phone, he said he could, in fact he liked working with these older Androids. I think he meant the phone and not me. I didn’t dare ask what kind his phone was.

3-The temperature was 40˚ when I drove to Best Buy, as I waited for the light to change in my favor, a BMW sports car went by, top down, driver in a flannel shirt, zooming through the light. “Cool,” thought I, a word of many meanings. He looked happy.

4-I swung by Tuesday Morning to look for a new puzzle or two. They had a new batch so I bought (at $6 each) two 1,000-piece puzzles. The saleslady/stockperson came up to me and asked, “Can you think of a better way to display the puzzles?” I could, I suggested she put the larger boxes on their bottom edge, then lay a stack behind so the pictures showed. Will she do it? I’ll check later; but I loved her asking me. I must have been better dressed than usual.

5-Finally, as I returned to our parking lot, I saw one of my less-than-energetic neighbors get into his car that had been facing the sun, hence the windshield was cleared from ice by the solar energy, and turned his car around so the rear window would also thaw. He’d do that rather than physically try to scrape off the already softened ice. It wasn’t noon and already my adventure quota was exceeded! What a day!

As I finish this blog and already knowing this answer, I asked, “Hey Google, when was Martin Luther excommunicated?” She said, “1521, January 3, by Pope Leo,” and then she gave me more information than I knew or could process. Marvin’s got a new toy! Love,

What a Kindle Can’t Do

Blog 1391, 3 January 2018, Wednesday

Dear friend,

Recently someone bought one of my books, the one that contains poems and artwork, and couldn’t understand how it could be so poorly formatted. The answer was that my friend had a Kindle, that wondrous e-book from Amazon. With the Kindle, the reader formats the book, not the writer or the publisher. By reducing the font to its smallest setting, this last book assumes only some of the formatting that the printed text possesses. Restated, if you want to know how the book is formatted, you need to see the hard copy. It’s a little better if you turn your Kindle sideways, but it’s still not the same.

This doesn’t apply to books in paragraph form, the novels or non-fiction type books, the Kindle (and I assume Nook) work well with real books. What I’m saying is that to read certain types of literature, think poetry here, you really want a printed copy. And, if there are any pictures involved, the Kindle limits you again. It reduces the size to an image not much larger than a postage stamp. Turning a picture sideways doesn’t help it at all. Here are two images from the book, the first is the book size and the second is the Kindle size.

This is not a promotion of my books; this is explaining the limitations of e-books I’d never understood before. I’m sharing my insights (which you probably already knew) into the limitations of an e-books. I buy e-books, I’m not against them—I only find them hard to underline or add notes or edit them. In fact, I can hardly read a “real” book without a pen in my hand, but that’s me.

A friend asked me a question and I learned. It’s an honor to share the question and answer with you. May all your fonts always be the right ones in all things. Love,

The system limits what I can show you, both of these pictures are about 50% larger than they appear in the book and Kindle. The idea is good, my execution lacks.