Wednesday, January 31, 2007


A Tour of Jaffa

Jaffa is a delightful old town on the south side of Tel Aviv. (You could see the lighthouse of Jaffa way off in the distance in the earlier picture taken from my hotel window as the tallest building on the right side of the horizon.) Jaffa was practically a ruin after then war for independence here. So the city of Tel Aviv decided to revive Jaffa by making it an artist's retreat. The artists, sensitive souls that they were, didn't tamper with the old Ottoman architecture and narrow, pre-automobile streets.
It had been raining for the past few days here in Israel. So I was really afraid that I'd come 6,000 miles without being able to do any touring at all. Wouldn't that be a shame? The old town is filled with narrow but picturesque streets all of stone. Every little nook and cranny seemed to be crammed with an art gallery or a performance studio.

Jaffa was once a major agricultural center for the region, producing some of the best citrus ever to come from these parts. One of the artists here created a really neat installation honoring Jaffa's famous oranges by planting a full grown adult orange tree in a special container and hanging it. I thought it was really pretty, personally.

I'd seen Jaffa once before, thanks to a tour from my Israeli friends Itzik and Lilac Ben-Gan. But that was an evening tour. Lots of bars and restaurants were open during the evening hours, but none of the art galleries or boutiques were open. So I'm very glad that I got to come back during the day to see what a pretty place it is. Oh, and you can see the hotel I've been staying in just to the left of my fat noggin.


Monday, January 29, 2007



Maybe I'm just getting old, but long trips seem to just be harder on me both physically and emotionally.

However, I have to say that notes like this one from my little Anna Lynn fill me with joy. It reads... "I love you. Your awase in my heart!" And the exclamation even has a little heart where the dot goes.



Saturday, January 27, 2007


In Israel

Tel Aviv is located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It's climate is lovely. Today, it's cool and foggy in the morning (probably 45 degrees Fahrenheit), but a balmy and sunny 71 degrees in the afternoon.

The Israelis are working hard to change the rocky and barren terrain into something much greener. Everywhere you go, there are new forests - many of them less than 20 yrs old. The introduction of new trees improves the environment in a variety of ways. For example, each tree stores 30-40 gallons of water in its trunk and branches. That added water is perspired gradually and, thus, each tree ever so slightly increases the local water table. Similarly, trees drop leaves or needles which add badly needed organic matter to the rocky soil. In fact, I'm not sure if I'd call it soil at all. It's more like gravel.
The city itself is very European and secular. I was initially surprised by how secular the city was until I was reminded that most of the deeply religious people lived in and around Jerusalem, about a 2 hr drive east of here.
I have much work to do, so I fear that I won't get in hardly touring while I'm here. However, I hope to get the chance to see more of Israel. Since I went to Jerusalem last time I was here, I'm trying to decide between a trip down to the Dead Sea area and Massada or a trip up to the Sea of Galilea and the Nazareth area. Either one would be a treat.
Stay well!


Saturday, January 20, 2007



What is the deal with all of the spam lately? Usually, my spam blocker will catch a couple dozen in a single week with zero spam getting through to my regular work email account. But lately, I've been getting 3-6 spams per week into my regular email account and scores (as in 60-100) spam to my spam filter.

It's enough to drive a sane person outta their mind!



Thursday, January 18, 2007


Does the dad even matter?

Sometimes I struggle with the question of do I really matter or make a difference in the world...

While self-doubt is nothing new under the sun, here are some statistics that I didn't know until recently:

• 90% of runaway children are from fatherless homes
• 71% of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes
• 85% of youth in prison are from fatherless homes
• 90% of inmates on death row are from fatherless homes

It seems like most societal ills, from crime to drug use to teen pregnancy, have a correlation with fatherlessness. So the next time I feel like I don’t matter, I'm encouraged to take a look around the dining room table. Sometimes just being there is everything.



Monday, January 15, 2007


Saturday in the Park

I had the opportunity to take the kids to the zoo. The winter weather was as good as it gets this time of year and the animals, though some stayed inside due to the cold, were in good spirits.

As Dylan shows here, the meercats were a lot of fun. Dylan especially enjoyed them - with ketchup.

The highlight of the trip was the Lorakeet Landing. The pretty birds are always a lot of fun and were climbing all over the kids. The zoo charges a buck for the "nectar" to feed the birds. The birds then go crazy for the sugar water and will drink it from your hands.
We also got a chance to see the new Red River Hog exhibit. The hogs, to me, are some of the ugliest creatures on the planet. The kids however loved 'em. The other really fun exhibit, imo, was the gibbons. There was one really cute gibbon that was asleep in the bushes really close to us.

My favorite part of the day was the zoo playground. The playground at the zoo is top tier and gave the kids lots of fun playtime to burn off some energy that built up to cabin fever levels over the previous week.

It was a fun day for all of us. We all enjoyed the time we spent together.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007


New Japanese Game Show

To say that liabilities laws are different in Japan is an understatement!

Check out this new game show in Japan ---




...The real reason why the kids can't sleep in my bed any more...

What parent can deny their kids a little snuggle time in their bed, right? They just want to love on you is all. Plus, they fuss. They huff. They bat their adorably long eyelashes at you and make puppy eyes. It gets really hard to say no when they do that.

However, nature provides more subtle ways to urge you to get them out of your bed and into their own. For starters, they get big. As they get bigger, they get heavier while simultaneously thinking they are neither big nor heavy. And of course, they still think they're so tiny that they can lay any which way on your bed without it impacting anyone.

My usual routine is to read the girls a story or two in my bed. Then, once they're asleep, I carry them up to their own beds. So I walked into my bedroom the other night after letting the girls snuggle into my bed for a while and saw this:

This was my was wake-up call to get those girls into their own beds. Look how big they're getting! And needless to say, I don't have to tell you that those feet had often ended up in my own face. Jeesh!



Thursday, January 04, 2007


Response: Did Jesus Exist?

OK - so here's a tough challenge that my friend, Infidelis Maximus, poses on his religion blog ( on October 7th in an entry titled "Why Errors in the Bible Matter": Prove that Jesus Christ exists.

When you boil this challenge down to "proof" that might be acceptable in a modern US court room, you've got big problems. There's no direct evidence of Jesus of Galilee. All the evidence that we have of Jesus was created after the fact. The earliest known texts discussing Jesus, such as the Gospel of Thomas, were written no less than 15-20 years after the crucification of Jesus. Mark came a bit later, around 30 AD, then Matthew (45 AD), and Luke (50-55 AD). All three of these share a common source (called "quell" by the scholars or Q for short) and structure. Because these are so similar, they are called the "synoptic gospels". John, which is so entirely different from the other gospels that it is called the "logos gospel" (logos being the Greek word for "word"), also came much, much later. Incidentally, it is the least flattering toward Jews in general and is also the only gospel written after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Non-Christian sources are also very light in terms of court room evidence. The contemporary historian Flavius Josephus wrote a lot about Christ and Christians. But his writings were entirely in the second-hand, such as my paraphrase of "I've heard a lot about this Jesus of Galilee, a worker of many miracles, and his followers are still very active in and around Galilee." That's hardly a smoking gun. What about other Roman sources? After all, the Romans were scrupulous record keepers. Unfortunately, they also used paper, most of which burned during the barbarian invasions. So there's no record of Christ's crucificion beyond a few blanket entries from the general time period that say things like "14,000 Judean rebels crucified". Nor is there even a record of the census called for by Augustus Caesar described at the beginning of the Nativity story in Luke. But does that mean that Jesus does not exist?

I'm not a forensic scientist nor am I a scholar. But I believe that there's a good analogy for proof of Jesus' existance. Here's the analogy - in constructing climatic records, scientists are only able to go back (at best) a couple centuries to examine actual hand-written records about the climate of a given time and place. But scientists are able to tell very definitively what the weather patterns were in certain areas centuries and even millenium in the past. How so? By examining a variety of other, non-written sources. For example, scientists can examine the rings of trees for evidence of forest fires, plus whether it was a wet or dry year. Scientists can also turn to rodent midden's that were buried and forgotten. Rats, mice, and other critters pack away food collected in about a 100 foot radius from their dens and, along with the food, lots of pollen from the vegetation of the area. Scientists can see, for example, whether pollen was present from trees at the time the midden was stocked to determine if a now desert and arid region once supported a forest. The midden can then be carbon-dated to correlate the vegetation of the region with the weather at the time the midden was stocked.

Similarly, we don't actually have to see physical evidence of Jesus himself to have a relatively strong assurance that he existed. For example, there are much stronger church records about the existence of James, brother of Jesus, and pre-eminent leader of the Christians in Jerusalem. Paul, in his epistles, mentions James and the poverty stricken Christians of Jerusalem a number of times. James is also mentioned in other early church records from the likes of Clement, Origen, and Ireneus. Ok, so - there's some proof that a guy claiming to be Jesus brother exists. But what else?

I think another very strong testamony to the existence of Jesus is the behavior of the Apostles after Jesus' crucifiction. Once again, we don't have court room evidence of Jesus himself. But we do have ample documentation of the lives of the people he touched. One question that puzzles me is this - why would the Apostles endure terrible torture and horrific deaths for someone who didn't exist? For example, Peter was crucified upside down because he requested it, saying that he wasn't worthy to be crucified in the same way as his Lord. Paul, thanks to his Roman citizenship, didn't have to endure a slow, torturous death and was instead granted a quick beheading. (Those merciful Romans!)

Every other apostle, with the exception of John, were also martyred for their faith. Even John, who claimed that his long life was due to Jesus' greater affection for him than for the other Apostles, upheld Christ and the gospel until his death amongst the other Believers at the church in Antioch.

So, in summary, I think of the lives and behavior of the Apostles as that of people who'd experienced someone very special - someone so special that their lives were forever changed. To continue the analogy, I don't know about a forest fire occuring at a specific time in a primeval forest. But what if the tree rings indicate an enormous outpouring of soot and carbon at a single date in the past? Hmmmm... Certainly looks like a forest fire to me.

Now, that brings me to what is a much more difficult question in my mind, that is - did the Apostles (along with Paul) get it right? Did Jesus' message get corrupted, altered, or expanded? Should Jesus more accurately be described as an Old Testament-style prophet for the Jews rather than a spiritual messiah for all races? Jesus certainly comes from the prophetic tradition and he was, above all other things, a righteous and conscientious Jew who was concerned for other Jews. And, in either case (prophet or messiah), what is his message to me today?

Food for thought...



Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Mommy, can we keep a kitten?

These poor kids don't know what they're in for! I guess the rain water forced them out of their den...


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