Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Peace on Earth

I received a couple very interesting Christmas gifts just before the holiday. The first was more joyous, a letter from the GRE board in response to the note I'd placed that perhaps a particular question was culturally biased. They didn't agree with me, but I was honored that they took such a great deal of time to investigate the question and talk with some experts, and then even respond to me. And I at least got to find out that that particular question was answered correctly.

The second gift was less sanguine, coming on Friday from Irad Medical Imaging. Regular readers may recall the enjoyment of kidney stones I had previously. Well, without insurance, that left me with a $7,000 bill from two ER visits. Actually, 4 bills, from two hospitals, and 2 radiation labs. All four are contemplating my situation, and I am waiting for them to tell me if they can reduce the bill. A good thing to pray for, surely. One of the smaller bills was for Irad Medical Imaging. As soon as I got the bill I immediately called them to reiterate my poverty (as I'd mentioned it at the time of the service). They asked me to send over a mess of paperwork, which I did. A bit later I hadn't heard from them, so I contacted them, to make sure they had my correct address, and ask what the status was. They told me they were still reviewing my case.

On Friday evening I received a letter from Irad, after it was too late to call them, as they have gone home for the holidays, along with their voicemail. The letter stated that this was a final notice, that I hadn't responded to any previous requests, and if I didn't pay in full I would be referred to collections. Although quite angry at the allegations, there was nothing I could do about it till after Christmas. So in honesty, this has been hanging over me throughout the holiday, and I have been fighting to not let the worry rule me in this time.
Me opening a book on Yemen and on Christian hedonism, from me Mom.
Last Christmas found me wandering through Sana'a and Ta'izz in Yemen. This Christmas Eve and Christmas were more normal, spent with my brother Kent and my sister-in-law Trina. A small, quiet affair. Made my My brother Kent, opening a game on predicting how well you know others, from me.signature bread, had excellent Trina-prepared food, opened presents, went to sleep, had more pancakes by the same great cook, and opened more presents. Kent's cat got me a dangling cat toy; the dog got me pork slivers for dogs. (Not being as intelligent as us, pets tend to get things for others that they might enjoy My Sister-in-law Trina, opening up perfumes, from my mom.themselves.) We actually had the most fun with the cat toy, watching the cat chase us around the house. And then after he grabbed the toy chasing the cat around the house. I got the cats a cat grass chia pet. I actually have been very excited to receive two books I've been dying to read- Obama's The Audacity of Hope, and Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Also got a toaster oven, so I can finally start making bread at home. Then we were off to the movies.

It seems like, after a great dearth over this past summer, the theatres are now flooded with Must-See movies. But for us, on this day, I must say the chief of them is The Nativity Story. It's hard to find something wrong with this movie. Mary is done by Keisha Castle-Hughes, one of the best young actresses I've seen, from the phenomenal Whale Rider. The original writing is top-notch. The directing isn't that bad either. They have really brought to life what is what like in 1st century Palestine, from the ululating zigharat at the birth of John to the cry for release from oppression of Roman taxes. This isn't Hollywood beautiful people or even white Britains in the middle of ancient Israel- these are average looking people, and very Semitic to boot. I'd imagine actually that much of the American audience would see the classic terrorist stereotype in Joseph's face, as in truth modern-day Arab Muslims are probably the closest in culture and physical appearance to the ancient Jews of any group on Earth. And there's even some extra action and humor thrown in.

But even more than the accurate culture description was really laying out what it was like for a teenager in this situation. This was a marriage true to the culture, not aligned for the comfort of Westerners in "falling in love", but the typical one of the Middle East, then and now, arranged, and difficult to accept for Mary. The movie also showed what it was like for her to be suddenly told that she was giving birth. Who's going to believe this? An angel told me? Please! She faced ostracism at the least; death was more likely. She was an unwed mother at a time when it was decidedly not popular. Although I am familiar with the story, for the first time I really saw the bravery in Mary, and what she faced, falling a vision that no one else had initially seen.

But best of all, I hadn't realized that the movie was also filmed in Morocco. Now here are two movies I've seen in a row filmed there. Here, as in Babel, I recognized Ait Benhaddou, near Oarzazet. They actually repeatedly return to this same small village, although it becomes a number of different places through the magic of Hollywood. I'm fairly sure they also visited Tubqaal as well. I saw sights that looked like the top of the mountain- even one where I could state exactly where it was, covered with scree. And I think I saw the only level stretch along that long hike up the mountain, only this time a donkey journey up from Jerusalem.

It is true, some elements were not quite kosher. The ending was a bit rushed. And they left out the little bit of the Christmas Story that no one likes to talk about- for it makes Matthew and Luke difficult to harmonize- namely the christening of Christ in Jerusalem. Honestly though, there was a reason a woman was considered impure for seven days after birth and not allowed to travel. You ever ridden a donkey? They're better than camels, I admit. But not much. There's none of the easy canter of a horse. Now imagine that you are a woman who's just given birth. No way Mary is getting up the next day for a journey to Egypt.

It's a special kind of movie that can show real life, real people, and at the same time tie me deeper into the numinous spiritual reality behind the story. Watching this, I understood better the glory of Christ, the shock and awe of His coming, and how those who bless the poor themselves find blessing.

And speaking of that, I finally was able to talk to Irad Medical this morning. They were very kind, apologizing for what had happened, and stating that the way their system works their application for charity runs concurrent with the movement towards collections. Therefore the letter sent out was automated, but accurately reflected the status of my bill. However, they are able to reduce my bill by half, to $150. I'll just need to send out a half payment this week or else it will go into collections. It turned out there was here a true Christmas gift after all.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

A Christmas Miracle

Seattle Metro does a pretty good job of helping out the handicapped. They have these fancy steps that turn into ramps, the buses can lean to one side, and the front seats fold up to belt in wheelchairs.

Today on my way to church we waited a minute for the steps to turn into a ramp, and the man rolled on to the bus. We waited another minute while he was belted in. When I'm patient as I should be I'm fine waiting for all of this. I was fine today. We drove off.

Immediately the man in the wheelchair got up out of his chair and strode to the back of the bus. It was a miracle! Granted, he had a slight limp, but otherwise he was fine. As I and the other passengers stared in consternation, he sat in the back of the bus. He waited until we came to the very next stop, and yelled at the driver to wait. He then slowly walked to the front of the bus while we watched and waited, he unbelted his chair, sat in it, and wheeled out, as the bus leaned over to accomodate him.

All of this ended up slowing the bus down an extra five minutes. As we drove off he's pushing himself up a hill backwards, using his feet.

Moroccan Babel

When you think about it, all the problems we face on this planet between people stem from different cultures, and different languages. That's the message of the new movie, Babel.

I went out to see the movie the day after the power returned to my apartment. Thousands are still without power after the worst storm in 13 years, in terms of wind speed, with 55 mph winds in downtown Seattle. I ended up having to throw out the Thanksgiving turkey. I’m still getting scratched up by downed trees on the sidewalk as the government struggles to clean the state up. At it’s high point over a million were without power. Some are not expecting power for another week.

Babel was a stunning cinematic masterpiece. A bit too graphic at times, primarily sexually, but otherwise well-done, showing how we remain connected, across the world, despite huge misunderstandings because of language. It came out quite clearly that language is culture, and culture is language. Even within a culture differences in understanding occur between the deaf and the hearing.

I loved this movie because 1/3 of it was filmed in Morocco, and even takes place there, at a place I've been to, the area around Erfoud and Ait Benhaddou. I even had friends trying out for the position of tourists on the bus. There was Dareeja Arabic throughout the movie, although not always translated completely correctly. ("Please", instead of the stronger, "May God have mercy on your parents." for "Allayrahim alwaladin.") It showed life for the Berbers in the East central desert region quite accurately, although I fear that a couple references will make people misunderstand Morocco. A shooting occurs in the desert, injuring an American tourist. Something important to understand the subtext of the movie is how rare this is and how illegal it is to even own a gun. Even the police have empty holsters. Morocco isn't dangerous, certainly not compared to Seattle, to say nothing of New York. 20,000 gun deaths last year in the U.S.; zero in Morocco. Secondly, there's a reference to not drinking the water as it could be contaminated. While it may take a bit to adjust to new bacteria in any foreign setting, I have drunk the water in most areas of Morocco without problem.

But the differences in cultures comes through the clearest perhaps in Morocco. The pivotal moment of the movie is seen in how medical treatment occurs. (To see the spoilers highlight hidden text: The Moroccan child is killed in the middle of the desert, and the police pick him up and carry him by hand. Later they watch with the villagers as the special helicopter airlifts the Americans out for medical attention- a kind of care they would never receive because of the differences in cultural history.) Throughout we are treated to the importance of privilege, simply because of birth. The country you're born in determines who you steal from. The director isn't trying to show an extreme cause-and-effect, like dominoes falling. We simply see the sadness and tragedy that befalls us, for we are all different, not understanding each other, in both language and culture. I don't believe I've ever seen another movie that so clearly shows this.

If you now live in Morocco, or have ever lived there, you must see this movie. And toot sweet.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

It was just lunch.

A few days ago I started working customer service, temporary, 3-6 weeks, at a business downtown, which shall go unnamed. Work's fine, if low-paying and a bit slow. But I was very excited about the guy sitting next to me, also a temp, also unnamed. He sounded something like Borat, but I couldn't quite place the accent. The second day I asked where he was from, and, it's Iraq! So we started in on pidgin Arabic with each other, enough so the supervisor was totally astounded and wanted to know what language we were speaking.

Today I invited him out to lunch, to go to the Thai-Moroccan place just down the street, in Pike Place Market. We sat down, and I learned he was actually a Christian, Assyrian, but unlike the church I attended recently, Catholic. I asked if he was going to any churches in the area. He said, No, he wasn't able to interact much with people, because of the mind control.

Ok, I thought. His English isn't the best. Maybe he means something different. So I asked him to explain. He did. It was a combination of manipulation and telepathy. At first he thought it was the Iraqi Intelligence Services, but then when he got here to America, he realized that it was actually the American government, along with many others. He hadn't gotten it all sorted out yet. But they are able to control those around him and him as well, in what they do, how they think, if they're interested in a woman...He realized it was safer for him and everyone else if he didn't interact too much with others.

He wasn't joking. He was completely serious, though I kept on wondering if they were making Borat II at the moment. He said he had been in the Iraqi military, and hadn't really been tortured- except for the pain he felt when they stuck something up his nose. Another physical result was the cracks in his hands he showed me, which looked to me just like slightly chapped hands, but he said leaving the window open at night helps the mind control effects stop on his hands. I asked him if there was a possibility that all this was demonic. He told me, No, because he could tell the difference between the jinn and the mind control.

It's all quite ludicrous, of course. Until I looked at his hands. There actually was something strange about them, and it wasn't that they were chapped. I couldn't quite place it at first. He had no fingerprints. At all.

Oh. And after this week, he'll start his training for his main job. He's been hired as an engineer for Boeing, helping to work to defend this country.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Why don't we just get rid of Christmas entirely then?

It all started a couple days ago. At least I realized it a couple days ago. A story broke locally that has now made national news. SeaTac, the local airport, decided to remove it's Christmas trees. Except they had never called them Christmas trees- they called them "holiday trees". They decided to remove them because a local Rabbi had complained that there were Christian symbols up, and therefore there should be Jewish symbols. He demanded a large Menorah as well, and if one wasn't put up, he'd sue the airport. (Though, to be clear, he never requested the removal of the trees.) The airport decided that, if they gave in to this request, they would then have to celebrate every single holiday, even if it was like the Zorastrians and had only 200 members in the continental U.S. (I know this to be true because I once sat next to a member of the community on the plane.)

The list of fallacies presented here rather boggles the mind. In the first place, calling them holiday trees is just silly. Everyone knows what the holiday is. It is equally silly to argue that you'd have to celebrate every minor religion. Let's just be honest. Celebrating the major religions would be polite and make your patrons happy. Just cover the five big ones in your area- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. If there's another major one in your particular constituency (a word I use as it seems like SeaTac is running for office), then honor them too.

Thirdly, I'm sorry, but Hanukkuh isn't a big celebration for Jews around the world. It's a rather minor one. It celebrates the oil lasting for an extra eight days in the temple. This oil represented the eternal flame of God's Spirit. It's one of those aspects that is most in contention between Christians and Jews. But it's never been a big holiday for Jews, like Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. Not until American Jews saw a need to have something during Christmas. So to demand an equally large celebration for Jews at this time is equivalent to saying that Jews need to conform their celebratory calendar to that of the Christians. It's an insult towards Jews. A way to truly honor them would be to celebrate their true high holy days when they do occur.

The fourth point is the most important. What we're talking about is two Christmases here. They both have the same name. One is attached to Christianity, and it's point is to honor the birth of Jesus, the man who was God. The other one is attached to shopping, and is to honor Santa Claus, the man who acts like a god. The trees? They have nothing to do with the Christian version. Sure, I'll give that Luther retold their symbology to suggest that their evergreen nature represented eternal life. But this was a taking of originally pagan celebrations, rather typical of Christian approaches- retell the pagan forms with new meaning. But it doesn't inherently hold that meaning, like a creche does. It is simply a pretty tree. If we are going to say we should remove the trees because they are part of a religion, well, coloured lights represent the light of God to Christians. I understand that probably wasn't their intended original meaning, but Christians have reframed the meaning. I think all Christmas lights should be removed. Christmas trees are no more Christian than is shopping at Christmas time. Perhaps that also should be banned. Now there's a fine idea.

Once it was clear there wasn't going to be a suit, they returned the trees. And then, if you want to put up religious elements, like a Mennorah, I think that's great too. Let's also put up a Christian symbol, like a creche. Or else leave it only secular symobls, like trees. But don't insult my religion by claiming that a symbol like a tree represents it.

I wasn't going to mention this whole controversy. But then, one after another, other events came to the forefont. AOL has a wonderful system, alone of the IM providers, whereby you can listen to music or news through their pop-up. I have long enjoyed them. I thought it might be nice, now that Christmas time is here, to listen to Christmas music as well. But the station kept on playing these moder rock versions. There's just something not complete when it's Christina Aguilera singing about the holidays. I thought, not to worry, in their seven holiday channels, one of them is dedicated to "Oldies Holiday". That must be the one.

I never knew there were so many secular Christmas songs! One after the other, with not a single song about Jesus, the orignal meaning of the season. Now, you can listen to Christian music online, like at AccuRadio, which has one channel devoted to a Christian Christmas. But one of the largest providers of internet music, AOL, has chosen to remove any religious connection to this holiday. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Jingle Bells and White Christmas. I'd just like to listen to some Silent Night and Joy to the World as well.

Now the TV ads are filled with references to a "new holiday tradition", as it's being billed. There are reeated ads for a horror movie, Black Christmas, about a man killing off sorority girls on Christmas night. The ads are so gruesome you have to look away and turn the sound off during the ad- or better yet, change the channel. It's set to open Christmas Day. I'm not speaking against horror movies in general, but rather the timing. I ask you, what kind of person decides to celebrate Christmas Day by going to a horror movie? My guess? A few million people, on opening day alone.

Everywhere businesses are now insisting on wishing a "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas", the always honorable Wal-Mart being the most notorious recent example. It is with deep chagrin that I now realize I am on the same side of the aisle as Bill O'Reilly of Fox News. But honestly, wherever you look in America, it's beginning to feel alot like...nothing to do with Christmas. It does seem as if there is a concerted regular effort to remove the Christian meaning of it all. I wouldn't say it's purposeful, or some vast conspiracy- it could easily be something far more subliminal. But again and again, the meaning of this season is driven into us. It's not about the birth of Jesus, about the Creator of the universe merging with His creation, about helping us to become divine, or the beginnings of the story of the ultimate act of sacrifice. It's not even a message about humility and debasement, choosing to give up the trappings of divinity to be born in a smelly stable and live on the run as illegal immigrants. No, today the meaning of the season is to celebrate the high holy rituals: shop, pursue happiness, celebrate Santa Claus, and get more gifts. And the best way to do that is more shopping. After all, it's the best defense against terrorism. And now, the best way to worship Jesus. Just don't mention His name. He might get offended.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Totally Lacking in Humility

I gotta say, I rocked on the essay portion. I was pulling in quotes and personal experiences and specific scientific examples and theory left and right. We'll have to see how it turns out and whether or not the graders agree, but I feel much better about it than I did the Biology GRE.

All General GREs in the U.S. are now computerized; the Subject test is still not. (However, there has been quite a bit of controversy lately because the General GRE still lacks a paper trail.) This means that, after answering a question, you can't go back, as every question is presented depending on how you did on the previous: If you answer correctly, you get a harder question; if you answer incorrectly, you get an easier one. Kind of a nice positive feedback loop. Although they also take into account that there are certain subjects that need to be covered, so it's not a guarantee that, if you come across a really easy question, the previous question was answered incorrectly. So, I have no idea how they determine the rubric, but somehow the test is personalized for every test-taker. And, you get to see your Verbal/Math scores as soon as you finish the test.

I got 710/590. Wasn't sure what that meant till I got home. It looks like, if past years are any indication, the Verbal is good, which is surprising, as I didn't finish, and had to randomly guess the last few questions. In fact, other than reading the instructions ahead of time, I didn't do any studying for the Verbal. And it was hard! There were a number of words there that I'd never heard of, and I had to guess the meaning based on the root. The Math score is average, despite extensively studying that aspect. Of course, evidently you have to know how to determine standard deviation in your head, among other things. Why even have calculators then? But I've learned my lesson. Studying for the GRE is a bad idea. You do much better if you don't.

If you want to read more about biology, well, I've realized that the diversity of my readers may not be equally interested in everything I post. So I've moved the World Science commentaries to a separate blog, at Imagine...A Complex Creation. Please feel free to leave your thoughts there.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Viewing the Word of God

I stopped by to read the original Dead Sea Scrolls today. They're on tour, opening for Jars of Clay right now, at the Pacific Science Center.

Unfortunately as you enter you're told no pictures. Evidently the works are copyrighted. I asked, "By who? God?" Actually, it's the Israeli Antiquities Department, and the exhibit has a strong pro-Israeli feel to it, with a large section devoted to the wonders of modern Israel, and a smaller section devoted to the Bedouin discoverers of the scrolls. And there was a great written emphasis on the importance of using "BCE" and "CE"- as if there is any less cultural bias in calling the "common era" that which is has become common only in the West.

There is a lot of exhibits on how the scrolls were found and their provenance. The walk takes you through methods of determining age, like DNA and radiometric testing; the differences between papyrus and animal skins; and some interesting discussion of the Dead Sea and saline deposits, which allowed the scrolls to still exist after 2,000 years. One of the most interesting exhibits in the early portion to me was the 2,000 year old comb. The lower teeth are for combing out tangles. The upper are for combing out nits. Also I liked that there are sandals that still exist after 2,000 years, especially since my modern shoes in the best of cases only last ten years.

After an hour you reach the main point of the exhibit. In subdued lighting you wander through the fragments on display, using the portable audioguides and reading the extensive script. The lights of the displays flicker on and off so as to protect the fragile manuscripts. Though they are made of more durable animal skins they still can't last forever. Even after their discovery it was found years later that the tape used to piece them together was tearing them apart. The one exception is the copper scrolls, indicating a vast treasure at Qumran, as yet still undiscovered.

Pictured below is a fragment of Ezekiel, one of the most interesting books to the Qumran community, judging by the number of copies discovered. They also really liked Isaiah, Genesis, Exodus, and Deuteronomy. The fragment from Isaiah was from 2nd Isaiah, as I recall. Some were sectarian works, describing how to perform Essene rituals. There were also apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works on display, like the War Rule , which described how the Essenes would one day rise up and destroy the infidels, ushering in the Kingdom of God. It made me glad that their vision didn't become reality, but how close we came to that kind of religion.

For there are more hints in the pseudepigraphical works of a desire for Son of God, who would rule over the land, bringing war, and then eternal peace. There was also a prophecy of the Seed of David to come. It indicated that the hopes found in the current Bible were in the general cultural milieu of the time, a desire for a coming king in line with the kings of old. This is especially true in Pseudo-Daniel and Pseudo-Ezekiel. But as with the Jews at the time of Jesus, the Essenes would have found him quite disappointing. For he refused the path of retribution over the Roman authorities, instead choosing something much more difficult.

To large measure these documents are the same as the Septuagint, though they follow the Masoretic more closely. Some, obviously, like the Psalms, indicate more textual differences, being that they were poetry, and less exacting in language. This is seen in all the footnotes for alternate readings one finds in one's Bible when reading through the Psalms and other poetry. But it is encouraging to see how well preserved our documents are, with only occasional differences in a letter or word, even after 2,000 years. Indeed, when accounting for the larger size of the Bible against the Qur'an, the degree of textual variance is the same. (Actually, it's a little higher in the Qur'an, but not at a statistically relevant level.) It gives a degree of confidence in the Word of God.

I must confess a certain thrill, at seeing these documents which have played such a role in revealing to us our holy texts. To think of people reading over these texts 2,000 years ago, contemplating God's message, trying to understand what God had to say to them. The highest moment was coming to part of Exodus, and seeing the Tetragrammaton on display there in the center leaf, and at least in three other places in that fragment. The very name of God, too holy to be truly written, there, 2,000 years ago.

Monday, 4 December 2006

@ The Movies

I've just seen two amazing films which came in the mail on successive days. The first I saw four years ago, at the Seattle Arab Film Festival. Then I moved to Morocco for three years and learned some of the language and culture. I just now saw it through Blockbuster's DVD by Mail program- Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets.

As Hideous Kinky shows a truer portrayal of Morocco than any other movie I've seen, so Ali Zaoua shows the real Casablanca. Casablanca, Dar Baida, is not like the rest of Morocco. It's big, dirty, ugly, and gritty. What it has going for it is the people. Six million of them, with three million living in shanty towns, and the rest struggling to find work and live in poverty. Dar Baida has the potential, to live with and care for the poor. This is what this movie shows. It is about kids, sniffing glue, experiencing the horror of life on the streets, with mothers as prostitutes- all life so real it's difficult to take it in. It also shows some of the hope they have; some of it tied to that greatest of all football teams, Raja.

I was just overcome with nostalgia as I watched this. Here was not only my favorite team, but the Dareeja I had grown to know and love (sometimes not completely accurately translated), the schoolgirls in white frocks, the red taxi cabs, the beggars, the docks, the Twin Towers- it brought back many fond memories as I played it over and over again to catch every nuance. For anyone interested in Morocco, or living there, I would highly recommend it. And all those times when you wished for some medium of a story in Dareeja- here it is, complete with subtitles.

The second movie was one I've mentioned afore in late August. Late last month my dad's narration of the movie Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher showed on KQED. Frisbee is about the guy who comes the closest to being the founding father of the Jesus Movement. It was due to him that Calvary Chapel and Vineyard exist at all. He was there not only on the nights when the Spirit came down initially in those two churches, back when they were an Assembly of God and a Calvary respectively, but he was the impetus for their growth and the movement of the Spirit. He was the evangelist, healer, and exorcist of those churches- not Chuck Smith or John Wimbur, for all the good that they did do. He was there at Fuller Seminary the night Peter Wagner first realized about Signs and Wonders. This movie describes the power that flowed through Lonnie, which even the skeptics couldn't deny. People wary of charlatans were impressed at how the presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable when Lonnie was present.

But he's been erased from the histories of Calvary and Vineyard. As I realized how he was linked to these different pivotal moments in recent Spirit history, I tried to do a paper on him at one point when I was at Fuller. But I couldn't get Wimbur or Smith to return my calls, Lonnie the Baptizerdespite a rather high profile last name. The best I got was a note from Wimbur's son saying he was too busy. At the time I didn't realize the controversy I was stepping into.

What do you do when the founder of your church turns out to be gay? What do you do when the impetus of the growth of your movement struggles with bitterness and doesn't seem to care at all about working on a healthy relationship with his wife? What do you do when a man obviously filled with the Holy Spirit dies of AIDS? This is the story the movie addresses. David di Sabatino calls this a Biblical story, for it is the story of how God uses tragically flawed people to show His glory greater. He uses Deborah, Gideon, Sampson, Delilah, David, Peter... the list goes on and on, for not many of us were wise in the eyes of the world, or great, or glorious. That is the brilliance of Christianity, and of Christ's message. He uses the weak to confound the strong.

This movie speaks powerfully to me. When I was 13, living on the Big Island of Hawaii, I briefly met Lonnie, just before he died. He was leading a prayer time, and he laid hands on me, and the Spirit came down powerfully, perhaps for the first time for me, as Lonnie prophesied about events in my future.

I think of my Dad, and the things he's done for the Kingdom, with thousands coming to Christ through his work. But he's made mistakes at times, and like Lonnie, I am impressed at how he's been written out of histories as inconvenient.

I think of myself, and the struggles I have around evolution. I don't see it as an error, but rather a scarlet E. Seeing the power of God in it, affirming the science behind it, has closed doors to me in the Evangelical world, both in the past and the future. I think of how we all have ways we are the 100th sheep, and ostracized because we don't fit the mold- or ostracize others because they don't fit our box of who God would want. That's what this movie is about.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Test Day

The day of the test actually began early this morning, when my neighbors came home at 2, and 3:30, as they're wont to do, making a great deal of noise. Leaving me with about two hours of sleep by the time I was able to fall asleep again. So I was fighting fatigue throughout the Biology GRE. I plan to use that as the excuse.

It was hard. 200 questions. It's a bit frustrating, as it doesn't really test the skills I would need for the field I'm interested in. Happily, many marine bio programs don't require the Bio GRE.

We had to sign a document to not reveal what was on the test, so I'll have to write the test details in hidden text- highlight to reveal:

Are you kidding me? It's illegal to share GRE Test details!

But in general terms, I'm glad I reviewed the cellular info, as it helped significantly- but there were still a lot of questions I left blank. Studying more wouldn't really have helped. Studying more plant life definitely would have helped; I had forgotten to do that. My friend Anne would have done great on those questions. And the experimental questions were even more difficult- they required you to know experimental procedure, and the intimate biological details of each experiment. This required time to answer them, and I didn't pace myself well. But I aced the marine biology questions. Both of them.

The most intriguing moment was actually after the test was over. The two proctors told us to put pencils down, which we did. Then five seconds later, one of the proctors said loudly to a woman in front of her, "Put the pencil down now!" She was still busily marking ovals. And she kept right on doing it, as if she didn't hear the proctor. So the proctor repeated it, but shouting now. And the test taker continued. This went on about four or five times, as the test taker continued taking the test a full thirty seconds after the end. Finally the proctor is yelling at her right in front of her face, and the woman stops filling in the ovals, and the test is grabbed. I was shocked. It's the kind of thing I expect from high school students, not an adult working to get into graduate school. Here she spent time studying, and $130, all down the drain. And I'd guess there will be some sort of mark on her record for attempting to cheat.

The next GRE will be on Friday- the general. I'm not so concerned about the English portion, but I need to brush up on algebra and geometry this week. My Bio scores will come in in six weeks, at which point I'll see if I want to retake that test.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Thank You For Hearing Me

It's now been a year since my first post. And you listened. What started as a travelblog has evolved through a number of morphs. Originally discussing life in Morocco, the blog is now in the Beta edition, and rarely discusses travel, having moved to the struggle of re-adapting to life in America, and dwelling on the the impressiveness of God's work in life and His intricacy within evolution. Recent reviews started to be posted on the sidebar, as are other's blogs by nation of residence. And I started up my first regular feature, a natural history commentary of an article on the latest scientific developments, as detailed in World Science, which has become so regular it's now moved to a separate blog, Imagine...A Complex Creation. I'm trying to post the unusual and interesting here- what would be worth reading. But I have such a wide audience, it's hard to do. Tales of new advances in America might be interesting for my Moroccan readers, but fairly passe for the typical American.

It's been quite an eventful year since I began blogging. I had a dream fulfilled and visited Yemen. Then more dreams become reality: seeing the Pope, and visiting the land of the man who most inspires me, St. Francis. I had an experience of death and resurrection in a stroke on Easter Day. Lisa and I put on the multi-disciplinary 2nd Annual Science Fair and a week later with Joe and Elissa, the musical Oliver. As if that wasn't enough, I left my home and moved to the other side of the world, saying goodbye to close friends, dreams, and a substantial part of my life. I then realized God was calling me into a major paradigm shift in how I see myself and my future. Shortly thereafter I received the gift of kidney stones. And tomorrow I pursue the first concrete step in this new life, with the Biology GRE. Let no one say this has been a mundane year.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

On and On and On and On

I was lucky last night. It only took me two hours to get home from a temp assignment, on what is ordinarily a 45 minute commute.

The snow keeps falling, on and on and on and on. You can see from these pictures, in comparison to those two days ago, the snow was deeper last night. I'm using my full Alaska gear with the robber mask, as the wind chill makes it feel like 13 degrees Fahrenheit, or lower. Sometimes it's snow; sometimes it's just hail, accumulating in small pristine pebbles. By 11:30 at night, people were still trying to get home- most freeways and surface streets were at a standstill with a nice sheen of ice covering the roads and providing for multiple accidents. Schools are closed everywhere and power is out to 40,000 homes. The first Seahawks home game ever was played in the snow- a kick-off temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit. (We beat the Packers.) Towns hurt worst by the previous flooding are now seeing a couple feet of snow, in one evening. It is rare to see this much snow, this early in the year, and we tied the record for cold set in the storm of '95. But it's in keeping with the prediction that Global Warming will lead to more extreme weather, and hit the Northwest exceptionally hard. With this snowfall our precipitation this month in Seattle is 15.08"- just shy of the record of 15.33" in 1933.

This morning I turned on the news to learn that some people never made it home. They stayed up all night in convenience stores drinking coffee, and then left for their morning commute. Cars are abandoned all over Western Washington. I took the bus in to the same temp job. But we have cable cars, and that means they can't back up or turn right. Our cable car bus stalled because another cable car was stalled in front of us, and that one stalled because a diesel bus had slid and needed to be towed away. We all got out Look ma!  No traffic!and walked to another bus- I walked 1.2 miles on slippery black ice down the hill to my next transfer. On the way I took this picture. Notice anything strange? It's 726 in the morning. In Seattle, on the I-5. What's missing? Gridlock.

Many in the area just didn't even bother coming into work today.

But for all that, I haven't really experienced anything major. The combination of icy roads, power outages, and extreme cold have resulted in a few deaths from this storm as well. And the bad storm comes tomorrow evening.

Sunday, 26 November 2006


Just after a delightful first overseas phone conversation ended, it got suddenly cold. I sat and huddled at the busstop, in a jacket that was far too light for the temperature. And then it stopped raining. And started snowing!

Hey. It's never snowed where I live while I've been blogging. It makes me excited. And it's not that common here. And I love snow! You could stare at it as a whole and see it falling fast, plummeting to the ground. Or you could look closely, following individual flakes, and it goes through time dialation, seeming to take 5 seconds to fall 20 feet. As cars drove by they left whirling vortices in their wake, marked by the pattern of the falling flakes.

Here on Beacon Hill, 400 feet up, the snow is sticking, covering the roofs, cars, and grass. It's slippery, but delightful.

Friday, 24 November 2006

The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Here in Seattle, it's the day after Thanksgiving. And our balloons are smaller- about the size of a pomegranate. Thanksgiving Day itself was at a friend of my brother's, with the traditional Finnish Braid Bread. I made a double batch this time, so with half as much sugar as usual (only one cup for ten cups of flour), so it was slightly less sweet than usual.

Afterwards it was a rousing game of Gender Gap, where men try to answer questions about stereotypical women's interests, and women about men's. While I didn't know many answers about women, I knew pretty much none of the men's issues.

The following morning was the parade to welcome in the holiday season. Highlights included an actual Sasquatch sighting. (Here in the NorthWest, it's not that we believe in him. It's just that we know he's real.)

The band I liked the most was the bagpipes, one of my five favorite instruments. (Along with banjo, harpsichord, saxophone, and harp. I'm still waiting to hear a quintet with all five.)

They were followed by an exquisitely painted nutcracker and the Snow Queen. While there were plenty of tributes to the Santa Claus religion, there wasn't a single reference to Jesus, the whole point of the holiday the parade was supposedly initiating.

Everything finally wrapped up right below the Needle.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Catastrophic Collapse

This past Thursday evening a 210' crane inexplicably collapsed in the middle of the night in Bellevue, across the lake from Seattle. In the process it killed one person and seriously injured three, destroying 25 condos enough to condemn them and damaging a number of other buildings, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. The crane was being operated at the time- but the operator survived. The man killed was in his apartment at 730 when the crane crashed into it.
I called in this morning to report availability to my four temp agencies, which so far has been an exercise in futility. I just learned that one of those agencies, Apple One, was under the crane, and that office is now being housed in Seattle. No one was injured from Apple One. But I was in that office just a couple weeks prior for application and testing.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Visiting the Largest Church in the World

When I was very young, I knew there were Protestants, and they were the Christians. Later on I learned there were Catholics, and about the Reformation, and the glorious Martin Luther. It wasn't until I got to college that I learned that there was this third branch, the Orthodox. Soon I learned that they were actually two different groups with the same name, divided into Chalcedonian Orthodox (those who believed Jesus is one person, two natures), and Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox (the so-called Monophysites, like the majority of Egyptian Christians, believing Jesus is one person, one nature). It is said Protestants and Catholics have different answers; the Orthodox have different questions.

Then in grad school I found out that there were other groups: the Quakers with their non-sacramental theology and placement of the Holy Spirit above either the Bible or tradition deservedly were a separate branch; and then the Nestorians, who believe that Christ is two natures, and two people.

The Nestorians don't like that term, as common as it is in the West to describe them, as it has bad historical allusions, and isn't completely accurate, unless one's historical allusions are accurate, and in this matter, they often are not. So they prefer the term The Church of Theodore of Mopsuetia, which is far too cumbersome to write all the time. There is also the Assyrian Orthodox Church, not to be confused with the Syrian Orthodox Church, which is a Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Church. But it is often confusing to use those two terms. Other names include the Chaldean Syrian Church, or it's official name, The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. But they aren't Catholic, though there is a Chaldean Catholic Church, who is actually Roman Catholic.

The Roman Catholics of this rite are a result in a split from the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, after the church started having hereditary Patriarchs, uncle to nephew. Those that didn't agree with this became Roman Catholics; those that did stayed with the same church. That worked for 250 years, until those previously with the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East lost there Patriarch, and decided to accept the Roman Catholic one. Happily for the sake of confusion, a hundred years earlier the Roman Catholic group had decided to leave the Roman Pope and fully commit to their previous line of thinking- but keeping their own Patriarch. Now therefore the previous Roman Catholics are the official Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, and the previous members of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East are Roman Catholics, of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Again, happily, a shorthand for the name of this group is simply the incredibly accurate Church of the East.

This church has been in mutual anathema with the rest of the Church for some 1500 years. And this is why they don't like to be called Nestorians. Theodore of Mopsuetia responded to Apollinaris's claims that there was one nature in one person. (Like what is described by the Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox, but they say there is one nature in one person, and that nature has two natures.) Theodore said that there were two natures, and really stressed those to the point where it could easily be seen as saying there was two people. In fact, many followers of him did, a century after his death, so they were anathematized, as were some works Theodore wrote- but not Theodore himself, as you can't anathematize someone now dead.

Nestorius was an immediate disciple of Theodore. He went further than Theodore went in claiming two people within Christ- or less far than Theodore, depending on which scholar you read, and which of Nestorius' writings you read. Nestorius was anathematized, though it appears he fully accepted one person in Christ. A document unearthed only in the 1800's indicates that Nestorius was clearly not a Nestorian. It would seem now that there was a lot of politicking going on at the time, especially by one Cyril the not-so-Great, a lot of cultural supremacy wars, and a lot of confusion in different languages of Latin, Greek, and Syriac.

The church in the East that arose then claimed allegiance to Theodore of Mopsuetia, but in the West they were seen as following Nestorius. The Church of the East didn't want to be seen that way, but they had the unhappy misfortune to be under the Persian Empire, arch-rivals to the Roman/Byzantine Empire. This brought in issues of allegiance and cut off trade, including theological contact. A number of times the churches were close to healing the rift, only to have war and ethnic mistrust get in the way. The two churches spoke different languages, so it became confusing when the Church of the East said in Syriac that they didn't follow Nestorius, or even Theodore that much, but more Basil the Great, who said that there were two essences in one person. But that word essence would get translated with word for the oneness of the Trinity in Greek. And not only was there a language divide, but naturally a strong cultural divide, in how they viewed the world.

Thankfully, about ten years ago, the Roman Church and the Church of the East withdrew their mutual anathemas and came back into communion. (The Non-Chalcedonian Churches have yet to reconcile with the Church of the East.) Turns out everyone can now agree it was just a silly misunderstanding about language, and perhaps cultural emphasis on different aspects of Christ. Lest you think however that the issues at heart weren't important, the other 4 branches of Christianity think the Protestant divisions are squabbles over nothing compared to the unifying theological error of Protestantism.

It's a shame though that it took 1500 years so straighten out this little misunderstanding. Because the Church of the East was isolated during that time, and went it's own way. They are said to be The Martyr's Church, for more have died from their church than any other. And it is the blood of the martyrs that is the seed of the church. Constantly under oppression from a first Zorastrian and then Muslim government in Persia, they grew in theology, sustained themselves, and branched out. They planted themselves in India and by 635 in China. They were planted through as businessmen full of the Gospel, sharing about Christ through business contacts, all up and down the Silk Road, throughout Central Asia and down to the island of Suqutra. By 1200, despite repeated persecutions, the church was eight million strong and at one point the largest in the world. The majority of the Christian Church lived in Asia. Christianity was an Asian religion. We don't know about it because they were anathematized at the time, and therefore not considered Christian.

What happened to such a large church? (Consider for a moment that world population in 1000 AD was around 300 million.) There were repeated attacks by the Zorastrian Persians, and then Genghis Khan arrived, followed by Timur the Lame. (Actually because he was lame in one leg, but a conveniently ironic moniker nonetheless.) Timur killed millions in Persia, and it just so happened that millions of those killed were Assyrian Christians. Then the Muslims came into power- or more precisely the Mongols went Muslim (despite some intriguing historical possibilities that they almost decided for Christianity, a number of times). And the combined knell of all this decimated the Church of the East- the only truly Semitic church, attached to the roots of the Church, speaking Syriac as it's liturgy. Because of the mutual anathemas it had no other group to rely on, and it never recovered it's missiological fervor. Thus the Church lost out on winning a substantial part of the world and changing the course of history.

In WWI and WWII the church was further decimated, and this continued under the regimes of Saddam Hussein and George Bush II. Turns out the center of the ancient church, where most of it's members lived, had the unfortunate chance to be in Kurdistan. Today a scant 700,000 to 1 million remain there in Iraq- still bombed and attacked by Kurds, Shi'i, Sunni, and Americans. Most of those of the unique ethnicity remaining are actually part of the Chaldean Catholic Church, such as Tariq Aziz, former Foreign Minister to Saddam.

I had to share all of that before I could get to the good part. For there's one other way this church is unique. After all of this persecution and decimation (though in truth a good more than a mere tenth of the people), the center of the church left. The See of Babylon moved to safer place- Chicago.
The only church in apostolic succession with it's headquarters in America, or the New World for that matter, is the Church of the East. And they have only one parish in all of their church that is ethnically white- not Chaldean, Indian, or Chinese. (In 2003 it was amazingly discovered that one Assyrian Church remained in China, unable to communicate with it's Patriarch for 800 years.) That one parish church happens to be in my city.

What an opportunity- to be able to partake in this liturgy, in the only place in the world where I can understand it! I've been a couple times before, four years ago, and thought I'd visit again. The exterior is fairly nondescript in North Seattle. The service was relaxing if sparse. We began with 10, and ended with 20- although they said a good number were missing today. It was good to breath in incense again, after so long a liturgical pause. (The Eastern Churches say the Catholics have left tradition, and with good reason.) The liturgy was more similar to Coptic Orthodox services I've been to than the Greek Orthodox service I attended in Casablanca. There I found that much of liturgy is cultural- the Greeks sing Hellenic hymns; the Arabs, both Orthodox and Muslim, chant. This was chanting.

But in line with the philosophy of the Church of

the East, everything was done with respect forthe dominant culture. The entire liturgy was in English- most Orthodox churches will do a service in a liturgical language, or predominantly in English, as in the heavily missiological-focused Antiochian Orthodox. And there is a certain sence of mystery present. Non-Western churches prefer the term mystery to that of sacrament, a legal notion, and I agree with them. This was mystical, which I'm learning is the dependence on analogy. Their exhortation to worship declared, "In the tabernacles of the faithful Church we see as in a mystery the living Lamb of God, borne upon the exalted Altar and united with it in love. The people of the Lamb become one in spirit in the unconquerable Kingdom and will receive there a wondrous crown and an imperishable robe of glory as they draw near to the Father with the Son. He is the true head and we are his precious body."

This is poetry, come as liturgy. It was call and response, naturally, but more an entrance into the Holy of Holies, as the insence wafter our prayers to our Lord. Three scriptures were read, and the Kiss of Peace exchanged- the priest to the deacon, the deacon to us at the head of each role, clasping both hands with his, wishing peace to us, to which we respond, "To you and to your Nestorian Crossspirit." Much genuflecting and crossing, all with the focal point of the Nestorian cross above and the mystery of His flesh and blood below. No sermon- the presence of God was focused on. And then wonder of wonders! I waited for the congregation to go through the taking of the mystery, knowing that traditional churches only allow their members to partake. But I had forgotten- a deacon came up to me to say that as long as I had been baptized I could partake, regardless of church affiliation. And as Grace would have it, the repeatitions of the Lord's Prayer had encouraged me to pray through again forgiveness for key people that have hurt me, so that, for the first time in a year, I was able to partake in communion. (But they give you a rather large piece of bread, and then not enough time to swallow it before drinking of the global goblet.)

Afterwards there was coffee downstairs. Since I was offered, I couldn't refuse, so I figured I'd try it with some sugar. I started off with 5 tablespoons, and you know what? It tasted exactly like the Berber coffee I had in Merzuga- the only time I've ever liked coffee! I do believe I've found the way to enjoy coffee.

I spoke with the Father on duty and asked him some about his church- particularly on how he would describe it was different from other churches. Surprisingly, the nature of Christ, even in emphasis, he didn't feel was an issue at all- he felt that all of the churches in apostolic succession were in agreement on this. Rather he pointed to things like the nature of the liturgy, the huge number of martyrs and its unique history, and that priests, bishops, and patriarchs can be married. (Most of the Orthodox allow priests but not bishops to marry; the patriarch technically can marry in the Church of the East but in practice steps down if he does so.) After 1500 years of separation, it appears that now the rank and file of this church see themselves as one with the rest of the Church.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

An Amazing Trip to the Amazon

I wanted to visit Amazon today to see if they had any jobs available. It was 3:30, and getting dark, and I hoped to get out there before it was too cold. Amazon's only eight blocks away, so I figured I'd just walk it. Little did I know.

It was a heavy drizzle outside, as we're in the midst of our third storm right now, so I took my new umbrella. The difference in this storm is much higher winds- gusts up to 90 mph, coming from all directions at the top of Beacon Hill. About two blocks out of the house a gust came up in front of me, twisting the umbrella in my hands, reversing it inside-out. Fairly easy to fix, directing the umbrella against the wind. But then a few steps later, another gust of wind, again twisting the umbrella inside-out. And then buffeted by winds from the right, and then the left, and the umbrella was half-stripped of it's metal fittings, with the metal pulled apart. Another gust, and the metal supporting rod bent in two. I was left with a tattered remnant, holding it at an angle to shelter me the remainder of the walk, with the cloth shaking in the wind like an unfastened sail, occasionally keeping the rain off.

At Amazon I found out that job listings are online or on a phone jobline, so I headed back. But this time, into the rain, and without an umbrella. (The Amazon receptionist had been kind enough to put it into the trash for me.) And I discovered that not only was it raining, and windy, but incredibly cold. Cold like I experienced on a fishing trawler in Autumn in the Bering Sea. Within half a block my face felt frozen off, and I ducked into a busstop shelter to warm up my face, vigorously rubbing it with my hands. A woman was in there as well, waiting for the bus.

As I left, I heard her behind me, clicking her mouth, like a Moroccan guy trying to get a woman's attention. I turned around, and she was gesturing with her eyes, and continued clicking. I thought at first she was saying hello to a friend getting out of the car, but she continued, and walked over to me.

"Due Date?" she said. I couldn't understand her, and she had to repeat it a couple times. My first thought was something related to due diligence, and I couldn't figure out why she was wanting to make sure that it was done. Finally she was clear. "Do you wanna date?"

Ah! "No, I'm sorry, I'm a Christian. But thank you for asking." I'm really not sure...why I said thank you. It just felt like it was important to be polite.

It's not the first time this has occurred. In Dearborn, Michigan, a woman indicated with her hand that she needed a ride, as I was heading home. I picked her up, and told her I was just going to the South End, asking where she was going. She laid her hand on my leg and said, "Whereever you're going, honey." I immediately dropped her off and called my girlfriend to let her know what had happened.

I'm not sure why this happens to me. I must have a certain quality. I sometimes have very interesting days. Maybe it comes from all those years living in a brothel as a baby.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Enter the Bog

Today I finally made it out to the bog. Hylebos Wetlands is a bog, or a wetland filled with peat- plant life up to 15,000 years old. The accumulation of peat leads to sinkholes, like this 20' one. 20' deep sinkholeMost of the bogs in this area were mined for their peat, and so Hylebos is one of the few bogs remaining.

The bog reminded me of the refuge I visited with Stacy and her brother back in July- but wetter. As you approach you drive by some of the oldest buildings in the Puget Sound, log cabins going back to the 1880's.

My brother Kent and I walked through the dark woods after this recent storm, the air filled with dampness and life. Birds twittered all around us, though the only sign of animal life we saw was a splash in the pond. It is like from a movie dark and dreary, with moss creeping down around you, and overgrowth everywhere. We talked, and walked in silence, on boards with matting so that you don't slip, interspersed with flooded walkways from the recent storms.
Everywhere water is dripping, transpiring, filling the ground and rising up, alive. You can feel Upturned rootsthe age of the place. And even in the death, there is life. Trees as knowledgable as the Ents but taller, grow, age, and die, roots exposed, progressing through stages of rot, until finally they become the fertilized foundation of new saplings.

New saplings from rotting log.

Saturday, 11 November 2006

Homage to the Rain

I write this just after a brilliant white flash, simultaneous to a small click on my computer making me thank God for built-in transformers, followed by a near immediate peal of thunder (indicating close proximity), and then numerous car alarms. This just after claiming that NW storms are without thunder and lightning.

The storms continue. Today was actually a rather Snowfall on Olympics in the background.shocking day, in that it was mostly free of rain, although bitingly cold. Since my last report sadly now two have died from flooding, and the flooding's gotten worse, then better, then worse, then not so bad, and then really bad again. Rivers are 30 feet above floodstage, and just as they started to recede, we've got another storm, the third in a week, coming in tonight. Wind gusts predicted to be up to 60 mph. I guess it just started up. So far houses have washed down the river- and these are houses that were originally 70 feet away from the riverbank. Slopes are open, as we have gotten at least a couple feet of sticking snow in the last week. Many of the mountain passes are now closed if you don't have chains.

Yesterday I braved the storm for my first ever experience in a monorail. Well, minus Disneyland, of course. It just opened after a year. I'm not quite sure how, but there's only two tracks, less than a mile between Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, with two trains- and a year ago they collided. To celebrate their reopening, the first week is free on the monorail.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

O Happy Day!

Today I voted. In person. For the 1st time in 5 years (3 years in Morocco, the year before on the high seas in Alaska in November). Here's how dedicated I am to this proposition. Having lived overseas, and planning to return, I didn't have a permament address. So I cleared it with the Registrar of Voters here, and picked an address that I was staying at briefly. This had the happy side effect of allowing me to vote for Jim McDermott, one of the most liberal members of congress, a consistent friend of Arabs, consistently against the war, and an all around nice guy. (I've communicated with him before by email.) And then I waited for my absentee ballot, since I'd be going to Yemen and unable to vote.

And waited. And it never came to that address. So I tried again. And waited. And it never came. By this time I was not going to Yemen, so could vote in person, so called, and confirmed that I could vote in person. And then waited for that wonderous day, a day we shall call Today.

The nice thing is that Line 36 goes right by my house, and it turns out goes within half a mile of the polling place. So I hopped on the bus and wended my way. Close to the polling place, suddenly the streets began to receive 3 signs at every intersection. I don't know why. But they did. Which made it difficult to know if my stop, on 9th & Armour, had come or not. When I asked the driver, he hadn't heard of Armour. And then we were suddenly on 10th, and he said he wouldn't be returning to 9th. So I figured I'd missed my stop, and got out, to walk back to where it must have been.

It was a long walk, over the hill. But if I hadn't done it, I would have missed the moose.

And then, just as I had walked the entire length of the street, the same busdriver pulled up, after his 20 minute mandated rest stop, to say he'd made a mistake. 3 stops beyond me, there it was, Armour and 9th. I needed to catch the next bus, and go back from whence I'd come. Just wait there.

Which isn't too bad. Except for one other thing I haven't mentioned. Right now we're experiencing the Puget Sound's worst storm in decades. Seriously. Except with Global Warming, there' s likely to be more and more of them in the future. 25 rivers and climbing are flooded, some around 55 feet high. Some won't crest until later tonight. If you're from the MidWest, NorthWest storms are a little different. They're excellent female basketball players. They also are without thunder and lightning. I can't remember the last time I've heard it. There's not an intense downpour- more like a drizzle, alternating between light and heavy, that goes on, and on, and on, till the chill creeps into your bones and you grow mold all over your skin. This one's been going on for three days. Some polling places have closed, roads have been washed out, neighborhoods completely flooded, cars washed into houses, and people stranded, having to be rescued. Thankfully only one fatality so far. Yesterday there was a slump not far from where I live on Beacon Hill. Yesterday morning we had more rain between 9 and 9:05 then we had in the entire month of August. As of last night it was 10 inches in 2 days. It's so bad there's been a run on umbrellas, in a city where it's possitively hshuma to be spotted with an umbrella. That's what I was walking in. I'm really dedicated to the franchise.

After I took the bus back to the right stop, and got out and found my bearings, I realized I had to walk around an entire cemetary to get to the polling place. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong direction, and had to walk around the whole cemetary to get there. (There appeared to be long lines to vote in the cemetary as well.) Then I got to the polling place, on the 6th floor of a Seattle Pacific University dorm.

But they didn't have my name listed. Now keep in mind, I had confirmed 3 times online, as well as over the phone with the county registrar, that I existed, and at this polling place. But they had no listing. Except...there are two polling places, both on the same street, both without address numbers, 2 blocks from each other. I was at the other one.

At the correct polling station they did have me on the rolls. To see how I voted, you'll have to view the video. But naturally I increased taxes every chance I got.

And then I got on the bus to go home. No, just kidding. Of course, it wasn't that easy. The online recommendation was for a street that was very far away, very hard to find- in part because the bus stop was actually not at the intersection specified. And then I got there, and the bus was just pulling up, and I ran to catch it- but I of course couldn't get on, as the busdriver was on his 20 minute lunch break, so I had to wait outside. (If you'll recall, there's still a rain storm.)

Then, I got to go home. Where it's warm. And everyone knows your name.

So why is it a happy day? Rumsfield, the architect of violence, is stepping down. And surprisingly, most of the initatives went the way I voted- which considering my maverick personality, is quite rare indeed. I'm not so sure how I feel about being in the majority. But at least the iniative to restrict touching in strip clubs, which I voted for, does not seem to be passing...

But the main reason to be joyous- we won the House tonight! And then later the Senate! Which means setting the agenda: an increase in the minimum wage, an end to cut and spend, working to help the poor, enacting social justice policies, working to protect the environment, heading towards universal health care, preparing the U.S. for Global Warming, and overhauling our educational system. But one thing above all. The party that controls either house can start investigations into possible illegal acts from any other branch of government. Things like illegal wire taps, suppression of scientific research into Global Warming, secret overseas American prisons, domestic spying, detainment of foreign nationals, allocation of Iraqi contracts through the Spoils System, and detainment without warrant within these United States. Oh- and maybe advocating casus belli through deceit. More allegations of cover-ups than any recent administration.

You have to understand. I didn't vote for Clinton either time, as I found him too conservative. I'm not into sports that much- elections are my big sporting event. So, really, except for when I was 19 and 21 14 years ago, this is the first time my team has won. And that's why it's a most glorious, wonderous day.

Finally, I figured a work-around from the bug in the Blogger system that didn't allow tags to show up. This is important because I recognize that I have a rather diverse readership, and an equally diverse series of topics- meaning that not everyone who reads my blog is understandably necessarily interested in every post. Now you don't have to read it. Just go to the bottom of a new post and read the tags. (Sorry, I still haven't figured out how to get around the Blogger bug that puts the tags at the bottom.) They're a listing of the primary topics of that particular post. If you find it interesting, read on! If very interested in a particular topic, click on the topic, and you'll see all my posts relating to that particular item. If not at all interested, visit someone else's blog today :-)