Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day... and Futility?

My wife, Kathy, & I went to a Memorial Day ceremony at the local Veterans Cemetery. We talked about it a few days ago, she had the day off and either of us could have come up with 100 reasons to not go. We did not take any of our cameras, although many were present. We simply chose to honor in our own way. Perhaps next year we'll do it in a different way. After all, today there was an orchestra, a bag piper, Patriot Riders, speeches, and maybe even a partridge in a pear tree.

We were tired. The weather was questionable. The sun was in our eyes. It might be crowded.  I won't even try to fill out the other 96 reasons. Those we honor frequently had no choice in the matter, and were probably much more inconvenienced and sacrificed far beyond my having to get out of bed as a gesture of remembrance.  Having said that, I won't be camping or having a barbecue this weekend. Unlike some, I do not view it as another 3-day weekend and an excuse to party.

I served 20 years in the United States Air Force, and I am proud of that fact. The local Veterans cemetery is beginning to be filled with those who served, and perhaps I shall join them some day.

Some of them died on the field of battle.  Some of them came home and died in manners that will ultimately claim us all.  Injury, disease or old age... we shall all be claimed. Life is a terminal illness. We all become scarred by the trauma of life. We live, we love, we lose, if we are cursed or blessed with enough time in this realm.

I do sometimes wonder if we, the survivors of the folly know as "war", are worthy of the blood sacrifice they paid.  This was not my first remembrance ceremony, and frankly, I hate these times. They rip my guts out. I hate the sound of "Taps." I have difficulty retaining my composure.  I have participated at Margraten in the Netherlands, and have visited the cemeteries at Omaha Beach and Luxembourg.  I hate funerals in general, but believe in honoring and paying respect to the departed. But military cemeteries... well, if you want to analyze it, many "residents" are murder victims who died without choice, and they generally lie near where they fell.

I have the privilege of choosing where I finally lie.  Many, if given the choice, would prefer to walk among us, to love their wives and family members, to see their children grow, prosper, and live their full lives.

I am frequently struck by the futility of war. I think of the waste, the want, the tragedy and loss. Cities built brick by brick, by masons and carpenters, laid to waste by an airplane or artillery piece with a pile of explosives. The energy expended by construction, that could be better spent by curing disease, or finding a new method of adhesive, or... you name it.

Why do we allow this insanity to prevail in our sundry affairs? I am not blaming the fallen, but should not we, the standing, endeavor to prevent this?

We have reached international accords to ban chemical and biological weapons, and some agreement on nuclear non-proliferation.  Is it not outside of the realm so say that perhaps war is immoral?

Of course, every people has the right to self-preservation, to get up the next day and eat another Pop-Tart. But is not avoiding war the best manner to preserve our way of life? In what manner shall we propagate that message?

Or what method shall you continue?  Do you wish to further war?

Is it not better to remember those who have died, and to prevent further sacrifice?

To take from Abraham Lincoln:

" a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Today, my wife and I walked among the headstones.  We passed a place where a young lady, dressed nicely was kneeling along side a headstone.  There were two toddlers with her.

I wanted to know her story, I wanted to hear what she had to say. I assume it was her husband whose grave she knelt by.  I did not ask, I did not want to intrude into that moment. But I wanted to know the story, for what better way to be immortalized than to be remembered by others?

I left her and her toddlers. I wonder what story is to be told. I wonder what story will never be written. I wonder....

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mental Health Control

Once again, a person who was a couple of French fries short of a Happy Meal has gone on a rampage and taken the lives of innocents, and injured many others. Looking at my posts, overall, I suppose one might know how serious I am by the lack of photos & graphics.  There are none to be found in this post.

(I'm actually tending to find better reporting overseas than via USA mainstream media, on this and other issues.)

Notice I did not say "shooting rampage."  There were guns involved, and the carnage could have been worse.  But if you read the stories that have been posted, he started with a knife and stabbed 3 of his roommates to death.

He also used his BMW to ram & run over some bicyclists.  He did shoot some sorority members, who were apparently the targets of his rage.

People who want to kill will find a way...

Is it perhaps his misplaced anger, social awkwardness, and sense of entitlement (I have $300 sunglasses and a BMW... you should sleep with me!) that is an issue to think about? He was angry, apparently still a virgin, and the target of his rage was attractive females.

I guess sometimes masturbation just doesn't cut it.

Let's blame them. Heaven forbid that a young lady have standards and not want to date, much less sleep with, a self-absorbed, entitled, mentally ill psychopath.

Well, first of all, there are women out there who will sleep with anyone. I guess he was just a little TOO selective or couldn't find the right gal or even a prostitute. But if you're a dorky, self-entitled prick (My dad was an associate director on "The Hunger Games"), yes, your odds of getting laid diminish.

But the issue that the "lame-stream" media is not addressing is mental health.  They go straight for gun control, because it fits their agenda.

Elliot Rodger Refused His Psychiatric Medicines

Now, I'm venturing into muddy waters.  I am not a lawyer, so I may be shooting from the hip. I may be inaccurate. But I am not a reporter for any media outlet. This is my personal blog, and if you EVER find anything inaccurate, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.  I write my opinions, many of which are based upon media reporting.  My only bias is liberty. But I *will* post corrections to any factual errors I may propagate, and I will flag them as such.

I ask, however, what is the nature of our health system, both physical and mental? I am a believer in liberty, but should a person who is a threat to themselves and others be entitled to unfettered access to firearms?

Trust me, I speak from personal experience.  My father had mental issues.  He attempted suicide via my .410 bore shotgun.  Twice.  It is a single shot, break-action.  He had to reload and shoot himself again. After several surgeries and procedures, he finally wound up a paraplegic in a wheel chair, and became an even angrier man, apparently. He blamed everyone else for his misfortune, including his doctors.  I still have that shotgun.  I'm not really sure why. He bought it for me in my youth, he bastardized it, but I have not let it go.

Ultimately, he gunned down my mother. He apparently bought a .357 magnum through the papers, or perhaps a "swap shop" radio show.  After killing her, he rolled around in his wheel chair, brandishing a weapon on a public highway. He was taken down by cops, rightly so, and some of them were friends with whom I went to school.  I still have a piece of that police tape from the crime scene.  My siblings & I told the State Police to melt down the .357.  You can tell me I don't know what I'm talking about, but you've got an uphill battle to convince me otherwise.

Now, here we get further into the lawyer and legal-ese.  I do not know what can be further done to keep firearms out of the hands of mentally ill persons. Perhaps I am misinformed, but even after the age of 13 (I think that was the age), I was not entitled to my own daughter's health information without consent.

Frankly, I don't really care when you had your last pap smear, prostate exam, or colonoscopy. Perhaps there is a small percentage of the population that gets off on that kind of stuff, but I'm not among them; I'm not even talking about making that information freely available.

But should not a mental health professional, or medical doctor, or ... someone... be able to check a magic box that flags a person as questionable to purchase a firearm?  Or own one?  I think it should automatically trigger a review... but our system is not set up to allow that... yet.  I'm not a huge fan of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) but if it somehow helps people get care they were otherwise flapping in the wind with... I might become a convert.

Getting back to Santa Barbara, I do not know all the particulars of this case, apparently this person purchased his firearms legally. So did Seung-Hui Cho (The VA Tech shooter), Jared Loughner (Tuscon, shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with others) and James Holmes (Aurora, CO).  I may be wrong...

But call me crazy. (pun intended)  Should there not be a method for a mental health professional to check a box on a form or computer submission to say "DANGER WILL ROBINSON!" and flag that person for further review? Should we not be looking at the Privacy laws and how they are implemented?

Think about it, firearms are already illegal in so many instances, in so many places.  Within one mile of my house there are 3 schools, a post office, and a city court.  All of them are "gun free zones."

Ironically, I pay for my Constitutional Right to carry a weapon. I hope you feel safer, because it certainly keeps me from bringing a weapon into ANY of those aforementioned places...

Sarcasm intended.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Theocratic States of America

Say or think what you will about atheists.

Call us kitten-eating, devil-worshiping, child-raping heathens.  It won't make it true.

I have long held that atheists are a heavily discriminated against group in the USA.

Atheist Discrimination (My July 22, 2013 post)

Atheist Presidential Candidate ?  (YEAH.. RIGHT!)

When I'm making my political arguments, I normally focus on the Constitution of the United States.  It only makes one mention of religion, in the 1st Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Silly me.  I have been remiss and have not researched the 50 individual STATE Constitutions. While meandering about the web, I stumbled across this site which goes into that aspect:

Denying office to non-believers (If you don't want to go there, I'm quoting below.)

And they are MUCH more egregious in trampling the rights of non-believing citizens:


Article 19, Section 1 (Denial of Office, Denial as Witness):
No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.


Article 36 (Denial as Witness):
...nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come.

Article 37 (Denial of Office):
That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution.


Article 14, Section 265 (Denial of Office):
No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.

North Carolina

Article 6, Section 8 (Denial of Office):
The following persons shall be disqualified for office:
First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.


Article 1, Section 4 (Denial of Office):
No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

(This section specifies that someone who acknowledges God cannot be denied office; conversely, anyone who does deny God can be, rather than shall be, denied office. The restriction is not as concrete as other denials of office.)

South Carolina

Article 6, Section 2 (Denial of Office):
No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.


Article 9, Section 2 (Denial of Office):
No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.

(Note that Article 9, Section 1 denies office to any "minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination.")


Article 1, Section 4 (Denial of Office):
No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.


Now, I have not fact-checked the site, so please let me know if anything is incorrect. At this point I don't have the time or inclination to research the legal-ese of 50 separate Constitutions.

Would these clauses and prohibitions be more or less palatable if they specifically referred to people of Jewish faith?  Or Muslim?  Catholic vs Protestant? And, although it's a logical leap, what of skin color or ethnicity?

But I further ask, would you rather have a pretend or part-time Christian as your elected offical... or a person of no faith, such as myself?  One who is honest enough to stand up and say "I don't believe" but apply and interpret the law with no religious bias?

The fact is that each state CAN do as it wishes, the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution applies to the authority of the Congress. Of course, if any atheist ever does get on the ballot and is elected in one of these states, I can't wait to see the court battles when someone tries to deny them their office!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mount St. Helens 34th Anniversary

Mount St. Helens (37,000 BCE - ????)

May 18, 1980

Today, May 18th, 2014, is the 34th anniversary of the massive eruption of Mount St. Helens here in the Cascade Range of Washington.  My wife & I visited the area of the mountain on May 3rd, but the weather was not cooperative and the closest observation points were not yet open for the season. (We're just going to have to go back again soon and hope for better viewing.)

I was briefly a Geology major in college, so I probably know a little more about it than the average citizen on the street. Washington State is a fascinating area geologically.  We have the obvious in the form of volcanoes in the Cascades, but also the sublime:  The Juan de Fuca subduction zone off the coast, which someday is likely to generate an earthquake and tsunami on the scale of Indonesia (2004) or Japan (2011). We also have the flood basalts which erupted from a fissure in the Hell's Canyon area millions of years ago and left molten rock to solidify thousands of feet thick across the area.  There is also the evidence of the Missoula Floods from the last ice age, during which the flow of water exceeded all the world's rivers combined, leaving the channeled scab lands across Eastern Washington.

But today, I think of Mount St. Helens, and there are many stories I could tell you about her.

I love the romanticism of the Native legend, which tells of two sons of the Chief of the gods fighting over a maiden who could not decide between them.  Their fighting brought devastation to the land, so the Chief of the gods struck them all down; they became Mount Hood & Mount Adams, she became Mount St. Helens or Loowit, the most beautiful of the trio. That's a brief version, there are more details, but that's not the story I'm telling.

Native American Story (Wikipedia, but you can find versions of this on other sites as well.)

I could tell you the stories told by early explorers who saw her erupt in the early to mid-1800s:

European Exploration

I could tell you how modern geology explains her formation:

Ancestral Mount St. Helens

(I'm leaning on Wikipedia here, shamelessly.)

I could tell you about the eruption, about the largest landslide ever witnessed in human history that started it all, during which the north flank of the mountain collapsed and "uncorked" the volcano.

I could tell you of the 7,000+ big game animals such as deer, bear, and elk that died, or the millions of fish killed in ash-choked streams.

I could tell you of the damage, of the timber lost from the blast, over 200 homes, miles of roadway and bridges by the resultant lahars (mudflows) and the recovery efforts to clear millions of tons of volcanic ash.

But these are all readily available via Google or your favorite search engine.

Slightly harder to find are the stories of the 57 victims. There may have been more, some survivors saw others camping near them who have never been accounted for. Perhaps they made it out... perhaps they did not.

But there are 57 known victims. Only 3 were were within the exclusionary "Red Zone" and 3 more (miners) in the adjacent "Blue Zone" In the Red Zone, one was a USGS Volcanologist (David Johnston) who was making observations and measurements as scientists tried to predict what would happen.  Another was Harry R. Truman (no relation to the President of similar name) who ran a lodge on the adjacent Spirit Lake. He was 84 and refused to evacuate.  I don't recall who the third was at the moment.  The remaining 51 were in "safe" areas.  Families, couples, friends. Camping, hiking, fishing, and they all died unpleasantly. Burned, choked, suffocated, swept away or buried, some to never be found.

As I researched these facts, I learned of a family that was heading into the area as they and their kids recorded their conversations on cassette tape. The family was found. They did not survive, but their cassette did. It records typical vacation banter between kids & parents.

The saddest story had a photograph, for a picture is worth 1000 words. It was a photo, taken from the air, of a young boy who had been camping with his father and brother.  He was lying dead in the back of a pickup truck.  I have not included the photo, nor is it contained in any of these links.  It is, however, out there if you search for it. I found it by accident. You have been warned.

Day Andrew Karr's Story

Mt. St. Helens' Victims Remembered (2 pages; read them both.)

All Victims (summary)

As you can see, all of these stories are out there, from the science to the personal.  I will not re-tell them in detail.

Instead, I am going to tell you a story that has not happened, and has not been written yet. Well, that's not entirely true. You can find some references on science websites.  I'm going to show you a glimpse into Mount St. Helens' future, mostly with pictures.

First, yes, a little of the past. To acquaint you with the scale of the eruption, as well as the havoc & dramatic change Mother Nature can wreak with a simple hiccup or sneeze.

This is Mount St. Helens on May 17th, 1980. She was 9,677 ft in elevation the day
before the eruption. (Photo taken from the direction of present day Johnston Ridge observatory.)

This is taken from the same location 2 years later (May 19th, 1982).
She is now 8,365 ft in elevation, and the crater is about 1 mile wide.

This was taken sometime before the eruption, a mountain paradise. (Note the boats on Spirit Lake)
She was nicknamed "Mount Fuji of North America" after the famous symmetrical peak in Japan.

This is the same general view, looking over the timber-clogged Spirit Lake on May 19th, 1982.

Harry R. Truman's lodge is somewhere beneath this lake.  Spirit Lake no longer exists as it did prior to the eruption. It is believed that the waters of the lake were forced up against adjacent ridges by the explosion and landslide. The bottom of the lake is now higher than the surface of the old lake.

Harry and his 16 cats are somewhere down there.  Most say he would have wanted to die if he saw what became of "his" lodge, mountain, and lake.  In one video I watched, he didn't think the mountain had enough in it to kill him.  I wonder if he would have left had he known what was truly going to happen?  He was a man against a mountain, and the mountain won.  Although one of the ridges is now called "Harry's Ridge." A more fitting epitaph could not be written.

Harry Truman interview:

Another angle of before & after, Spirit Lake in the foreground.

I've shown you some selected "before" and "after" photos to illustrate the difference and the destructive power of what Mother Nature and the earth can do.  Before and after...

I don't have the exact date for this photo, but the crater is a
gaping hole, and the landscape is nearly as desolate as the moon.
It is probably between 1980 and 1982 because there is no visible lava dome.

Now let me show you AFTER the after.

Earth destroys.  Earth creates. It matters not what scars mankind places upon her. We think ourselves omnipotent, but all she has to do is burp, hiccup, or sneeze and our massive works are instantly erased.  We think in terms of years, decades, perhaps centuries, even millennia.  Earth works in Eons. We see the destruction she wrought, the death, the devastation.  But she was simply building a new mountain.

If you peek into those May 19th, 1982 photos, you'll see a "mini-mountain" in the crater.  That's called a lava dome. Like toothpaste in a tube, Earth squeezes new material to the surface. Sometimes she blasts it away and begins again. But slowly... the lava dome is building.

(Not sure of the date.)
Sep 29, 2004
Sep 12, 2006

 As you can see, the crater is slowly filling itself in again, from below.

Not unlike another place in the world. This is a map of the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia/Siberia. I draw your attention to "Bezymianny."

Like Mount St. Helens, Bezymianny is a stratovolcano formed over a subduction zone. In 1955 & 56, it erupted in a manner very much like Mount St. Helens:  A lateral explosion which took away a large mass of the mountain and left a horseshoe shaped crater.

Look familiar?

Bezymianny has been busy during the nearly 60 years since her big eruption. Perhaps more active than Mount St. Helens, perhaps more persistent, but then again, she has had almost double the time.

Bezymianny crater & lava dome

Bezymianny, side view

So, the question is, will Mount St. Helens rebuild herself?  Will Loowit replace her crown?

I think she will. She may throw the occasional tantrum and partially start over. But she will persevere. It may take 50 - 100 years... it make take centuries, millennia, or eons. Most of us will not likely see it, but someday this old girl will be a young maiden courting her princes again.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Last month, my son turned 21 years old.

By prior arrangement, I took him out to a bar in my town for his first "legal" beer. We ended up having two pitchers between us, talking, and playing a few games of pool.

Several years ago, I did the same thing for his older sister, the only difference being that I took her to every bar in our small town. (Both of them!)

In each instance, I was pleased and honored to spend time with my kids before they went out and did whatever someone does these days when they turn "legal."

Of course, I am not so naive as to presume that my kids never had a drink beforehand (in fact I KNOW they did) hence the term "first legal drink."

I look forward to enjoying time with my daughter & son into the future, and when applicable, having a beer, some wine, or a mixed drink with them. It's nice to be able to treat them like adults now. They'll always be my kids, and I'll always be their dad, but I don't want to be running their lives for them. I figure if they want my advice, they'll ask for it.

Personally, I turned "legal" in 1984 on my 18th birthday, eight months before I went away to USAF boot camp. That was the drinking age in VA at the time. And afterward, I had privileges on military bases, and then in ND where I was stationed. There was some sort of DoD exemption if the base was within 50(?) miles of another jurisdiction where the age was lower; the idea being that we didn't want our troops driving there, getting hammered and then trying to make it back to base. In that particular instance, it was Canada.  So I've been of 100% legal age since 18.

For some reason, it occurred to me that I never once shared a drink with my dad.

Oh, I did find his stashes.  Beer & whiskey for a troubled teen, but as George Thorogood so eloquently said, "When I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself."

I won't go into my family's entire sordid past; my father was abusive to his family and we did not get along during my teen years. Yet somehow, after my departure to the USAF, we reached a de facto peace treaty, almost as if nothing had ever happened.

Despite our differences, once I turned 18, he could have said "Hey, let's have a beer and talk."  He never did.  I got married (way too young) just after High School. Not once a "Congratulations! Wanna have a drink and talk?"  Had a daughter, etc... all the times I drove thousands of miles back to VA to visit, not once... well, you get the idea. All the way up until I was almost 32 years old.  And ya know, leave the alcohol out of the equation for a second... he never once wanted to talk about what went wrong or was wrong. He just blamed everyone else.

I suppose the bad stuff never really evaporated, he never apologized, and I didn't really yearn for that bond. I tolerated him because he was with my mother.

I really don't lament that lack of bond, I was just noting how different my relationship with my own son & daughter are. Granted, we've had our rocky times, but overall, I think we're doing OK.

I guess if there is one thing I regret about not having that drink with my father, it is this:  Right now, I'm pretty sure I could drink his ass under the table. Dubious bragging rights, I know. But it would give me great personal satisfaction to put a bottle of bourbon between us, drink and drink some more, then watch as he fell out of his wheel chair.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Appreciating the Moment (Coyote Symphony)

In the wee hours of May 10th, I posted this on Facebook.  Several have given me feedback that they liked what I had to say, so I thought I'd incorporate this into my blog. I feel it's a more permanent archive anyway, so pardon the duplicate if you've already seen this:



2 AM, I'm still awake. I walked down to the mailbox to put in a letter. As I walked back up the driveway to the house, I heard coyotes yipping and yowling somewhere nearby. The air was cool and I felt the breeze blow by me. I went in the house to turn off my music and the porch light, and in that short interval, the coyotes shut up. Somewhere in the distance, on the main line, a train horn sounded across the wind.

Have you ever stopped to look at your personal rainbow? Or your personal sunrise or sunset? Because that is what each is. They all are transitory and if you don't stop to appreciate... *poof* they are gone. No one else will see them exactly the same as you. 1/4 mile changes perspective and lighting... or obliterates.

That is the way it was with my coyotes & I just now. Most sensible people are asleep at this hour, or they are oblivious and don't care. Perhaps a few others out there heard them too, some louder, some softer. But I doubt anyone else heard them exactly like I just did.

That was my personal coyote symphony, however brief, and it made me grateful to be me, right there, right then.