November 30, 2008

The A-B-C's

My grand daughter Hailee. What a ham.

video

November 29, 2008

The Abby of Gesthemani


Charlene and I drove down to the Abby of Gesthemani today to shop in their visitor center and walk around the grounds of the Abby, which was founded in 1848. Gesthemani is located about fifty miles south of Louisville, just south of Bardstown.

As you arrive at Gethsemani you can feel the peace and holiness of the area. Gethsemani is where Thomas Merton (his given name at the Abby was Friar Louis Merton) lived and wrote his many works.

Gethsemani supports itself (as all Trappist Monasteries do) by their own work. They make fruitcake, fudge, and cheeses. The fruitcake is out of this world delicious. They sell all their goods world wide through the Gesthemani Farms websight.























































Grave of
Thomas
Merton



















































November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Pics



We took
a walk
before
the feast




















Deep
fried
turkey
goodness






Ben
the
maniac
carver





Center-
piece
by
Hailee

November 26, 2008

Templates

Don't ask me why I change templates so much on my blog. There's never a template good enough. Blogspot offers not very much to choose from and I guess I'll have to go outside to look at some of what whoever offers something different. There's a blue million of 'em for free. So if it changes again....deal with it.

Strange Overtones

WFPK have been playing alot of this lately. David Byrne and Brian Eno's "Strange Overtones". I like it. Hope you do to.

A Coffee Snob

I’ve been a coffee snob for over twenty years now. Warning: Good coffee is like premium bourbon, once you try it, all the rest is swill. If you want a good cup of coffee, here’s how to make it. First buy the non-electric Melitta coffee brewer. Any decent gourmet shop should carry it. If not, Melitta.com has them. Melitta recently started making an electric coffee maker. Do not buy this. Coffee will taste the same as all the rest made with an electric coffee makers. I think that it’s because the water is heated by an electric element which gives coffee a kind of slight metallic after taste. The manual Melitta is simply a coffee pot and a cone filter holder that rests on top of the coffee pot. Place the filter in the cone and put the water on to boil.

While the water is coming to a boil let me tell you about the coffee. Buy whole bean coffee and grind it as you need it. It makes a huge difference to make coffee with fresh grounds and I always grind the beans to a literal dust consistency. As far as brand of coffee to buy, that’s up to what you prefer. We buy our coffee from the local Fresh Market. They used to carry Tip Of The Andes coffee, a delicate heavenly brew, but they don’t carry it anymore for whatever reason. I’ve found Tip Of The Andes online. Currently we usually buy the Fresh Market Blend which has a nice balance of light and dark beans.

Ok, the water is just starting to boil. Don’t boil it to death. Put the coffee pot on a stove burner on low. Put seven or eight scoops of coffee dust in the filter and slowly pour the water over it until it reaches near the top of the cone. After the first few sips of the coffee you’re magically transformed into a coffee snob and you might not ever go back to Mrs. Olsen and her swill again.

November 25, 2008

Synopsis

Life passes at a breakneck rate.
Brisk as text messages.
Time only for the executive summary.
The Dummies’ Guide.
The abridged audio download.

The Dow-Jones average.
The brief diversion
of the Breaking News.
The quick synopsis.
The cursory look.

The no-frills stats.
The FAQs.
Reading on a need-to-know basis.
The World at a Glance
in the commuter freesheet.

History a volley of bullet points.

by Dennis O’Driscoll

November 21, 2008

Layla

Eric Clapton wrote the song "Layla" when a band member of Derek and The Dominos in 1970. The band made only one album, "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs." When the album was released in December 1970, it was a critical and commercial flop. "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs" has continued to be noticed by critics and has been named one of the best albums of all time. This is certainly one of my favorites.

Ramblings

Walking down the hallway towards the elevator, my footsteps clicked on the floor like echoes of the treadmill I was on last night. I didn’t lift free weights and didn’t use the weight machines. I walked at a brisk pace for forty minutes while watching the console tick off the time. At three point seven mph, I take exactly two steps per second. Most times I feel like I could walk all night, occasionally it’s a push to squeak out one mile. The treadmills are lined up like soldiers in front of the ceiling to floor windows which sweat with condensate. It’s cold outside and the gym is packed with most people plugged into their mp3 players, insulated in each of their own musical preferences. Music used to be a shared event among friends, but this is a thing of the past, except at concerts.

The best concert I remember attending was when Crosby, Stills, and Nash blew into Lexington’s Rupp Arena around 1977. It was a sell-out and the crowd was mellow. I remember that Stephen Stills said something like this was one of the best crowds they had ever performed in front of. The crowd and the band were in synch and as I recall they did three or four encores. As huge as Rupp Arena is, it felt cozy that night. Walking back to our apartment we came to the corner of High and Stone streets. The street signs were missing as usual. As fast as city government could replace them, they would be ripped off the post by some student. Those were the signs of the times, so to speak. I once went to a party close to campus and in the living room, hung on the wall, was the corner of High and Stone. The last concert I went to was to see Chris Whitley around ’02.


This guy at work has a Apple iPhone and there is a free application you can download called Shazam. You hold the iPhone up to a speaker and it can identify the artist, the song, and the CD title within ten seconds. It’s pretty slick. He said he’s been trying to stump it but hasn’t been successful yet. I can’t decide what I want for Christmas, a blue ray player or an iPhone. Charlene will probably give me clothes but I’m still a little kid at heart when it comes to Christmas gifts. My grandmother would buy us underwear.

My sister Janet and her room-mate had a costume party on Halloween; It may have been 1977 also. I rented a gorilla outfit and rode to the party on the back of a motorcycle. We were coming up to the local McDonalds which at the time were selling banana milkshakes. Of course I told Tim to stop and I went in and order a banana shake in full gorilla regalia.

Tim Donovan was a high school friend who moved to Louisville from Chicago. His father would beat him from time to time. He would confide with us and show us his bruises whenever it happened. He died in a motorcycle accident in Bowling Green, KY. Some believed it wasn’t an accident but suicide which, sadly, I think it was.

video

November 20, 2008

Cotton Mather

The singer sounds eerily like John Lennon, in fact this song sounds like a Beatles song. This is the group Cotton Mather with "My Before And After".

November 19, 2008

Tagged By Sydney

I was tagged yesterday by fellow blogger and friend, Sydney (A New Yorker in Houston), to give some personal information about myself. I told her it wouldn’t make for sparkling reading but since she shared some things about her life, I feel compelled to share some fluff about moi.

Back in the seventies I was a tennis playing fool and for a few years was a linesman for the Louisville Tennis Classic which was held every hot steamy August. I got to meet Ilie Năstase, Jimmy Connors, Vitas Gerulaitis, Guillermo Vilas, and Authur Ashe. One day Authur Ashe was waiting for his practice partner. I asked if he wanted to hit a few while he was waiting. He agreed, so we knocked the ball around for about twenty minutes. He wasn’t a half bad player. I still play on occasion. My best shot is the slice backhand which confounds the average player. My drop shot has aged nicely.

I had a mild heart attack back in February ’05 and had a couple of stents place in my ticker which has since re-occluded. I take a hand full of pills every day. Heart bypass surgery might be in my future, hopefully the very distant future. My father survived a heart attack running down a drop shot.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done was earn my Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification. Through blood, sweat, and tears I got ’er done. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I attend, am Deacon and Stewardship Chairman of Simpsonville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This is one of the friendliest churches in Kentucky, or at least this is what we hear from visitors. I still have an occasional adult beverage and have been known to cuss like a sailor.

One of my biggest passions is music. When I was a little kid, I used to listen to my parents classical music albums on their big honking stereo console. Remember those? They were so big they looked like a sideboard that might have belonged to Cornelius Vanderbilt. I listened to music that was encoded onto wax platters where the sounds were picked up on a needled tone arm which glided across the platter. No ones or zeroes were involved. The crackle and pop sounds gave me the warm fuzzies. I was introduced to jazz by a roomie of mine at U of K, who played drums in the UK jazz band. Joe Ringold was his name and he had four orange crates of nothing but jazz.

I used to be a hippie. Peace man. I have no tattoos.

My older sister, Janet, passed away in June of ’07 after a long battle with melanoma. She was fifty-three years old, which is my present age. At her visitation, it was like all the ghosts of the past were there. It’s too bad that the only time you see friends you haven’t seen in forever is at a funeral visitation. Ever since her death I think more about the shortness of life and reminisce about the past. I figure I’ll snap out of it any day now.

My field is Information Systems and I work for Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation (KHESLC). KHESLC is a quasi-governmental state organization, whatever that means. Our Vice President can’t explain it either. I work in the Network Services Branch. When ask what I did for a living, I told my cardiologist that I was a network analyst. He asked if that involved watching a lot of TV. I thought he was trying to be funny but he was dead serious.

November 18, 2008

Some Bob and Ray

"Low Jumping"


"Whooping Crane Expert"


"The Paperclip Factory"

November 15, 2008

Adventures In Groceryland

Charlene and I went to Kroger today and I usually don't mind going, being the helpful husband I am. It seems that people are more rude now than ever. I always man the shopping cart and am always mindful of the people around us, trying to stay out of way of everyone and say things like "excuse me", "go ahead", and "thank-you". You see fewer smiles given away nowadays. it seems most people are oblivious or could care less, leaving carts unmanned in the center of the aisle for you to play bumper cars with or being obviously impatient with people in front of them with the rolling of eyes or exagerated sighs. I'm not giving into the frustrations though and will keep trying to be my civil self. Though there are still friendly people, it seems to me the ratio of friendly/impolite is getting smaller than say... twenty years ago.

Twenty-one years ago the Kroger we went to today opened for their first day of business in Middletown. Charlene and I were dating then and we went to the grand opening that day. That was when Middletown was much smaller than it is today but the opening still generated alot of traffic of both cars and people. Most everyday is like that now. Is it that the greater the crowds, the more impersonal it gets and this breeds the rudeness in people? Charlene, who grew up in Middletown, will sometimes say "Who are all these people and where did they come from?"

Maybe in another twenty years I'll be saying things in the grocery like "get the hell outta my way", "bite me", and "I was here first dammit". I hope not.

Volcano

Any music I buy I feel the need to find my favorite song on the CD. This is "Volcano" from Beck's Modern Guilt. It's got a funeral dirge beat but I like it, don't ask me why.



Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.
- Albert Camus

"Volcano"

I've been walking on
These streets so long
I don't know
Where they're
Calling me anymore
But I think
I must have seen a ghost
I don't know
If it's my illusions
That keep me alive
I don't know what I see
Was it all an illusion?
Or a mirage gone bad?
I'm tired of evil
And all the things
That I don't know

And I've been drifting
On this wave so long
I don't know
If it's already
Crashed on the shore
And I've been riding
On this train so long
I can't tell
If it's you or me
Who is driving us
Into the ground

I don't know
If I'm sane
But there's a ghost
In my heart
That's trying
To see in the dark
I'm tired of people
Who only want
To be pleased
But I still want
To please you

And I heard
Of that Japanese girl
Who jumped
Into The Volcano
Was she trying
To make it back
Back into the womb
Of the world?

I've been drinking
All these tears so long
All I've got left
Is the taste of salt
In my mouth

I don't know
Where I've been
But I know
Where I'm going
To that volcano
I don't want
To fall in though
So I want my bones
On the firing line

November 13, 2008

Wilko

I was watching Soundstage on PBS one night and the band was Wilco, one of my favorites. It was in Hi Def and was one of the best concerts I've ever seen, and I wasn't even there! I found one song they did at that performance on youtube. This is Wilco's "Handshake Drugs". A very inventive band.

Modern Guilt

This is the title cut of Beck’s latest CD “Modern Guilt”. This release has references to global warming and pollution. May he should have titled it “Collective Guilt”. The first time I listened to this song I thought it would be good to play on Halloween.

video

Modern Guilt

I feel uptight when I walk in the city
I feel so cold when I’m at home
Feels like everything’s starting to hit me
I lost my bearings ten minutes ago
Modern guilt, I’m stranded with nothing
Modern guilt, I’m under lock and key
Misapprehension is turning in convention
Don’t know what I’ve done but I feel ashamed
Standing outside the glass on the sidewalk
These people talk about impossible things
And I’m falling out of the conversation
Like a pawn piece in a human shield
Modern guilt is all in our hands
Modern guilt won’t get me to bed
Say what you will smoke your last cigarette
Don’t know what I’ve done but I feel afraid

November 12, 2008

Ben's Belated, UK vs GA, and Charlene's Luncheon





















I happened to be off work the day Charlene hosted a women's luncheon. I took these pics beforehand. When the time came I was banned from home. I got revenge by eating a Wendy's baconator. After that I went browsing for music to buy. I got Beck's latest CD "Modern Guilt". I'll post some music from it later.

November 7, 2008

Fruitcake, The Magic 8-Ball, And Thomas Merton

The other day we received the Gethsemani Farms catalogue in the mail and this always reminds me to order my favorite luscious bourbon fruitcake that is the best on the whole planet. I know many people don’t care for it and when I was younger, I thought it was the most disgusting food you could put in your mouth. I have since, however, developed a taste for it.

Charlene told me not to order it yet and that it would be a fun drive to Trappist, KY and buy fruitcake from their shop right there at the monastery. I wondered how the monks, who take a vow of silence, would communicate with the visitors. Are the monks required to carry a Magic 8-Ball with them?

Q. “Is your fruitcake considered the best?” (The monk turns the 8-Ball towards the visitor)
A. ‘It is decidedly so’
Q. “Do you find peace of mind living here as a monk?”
A. ‘Reply hazy, try again’
Q. “Do you find it frustrating communicating in this way?”
A. ‘Concentrate and ask again’


The Gethsemi Monastery is fifty miles south of Louisville and was home to Thomas Merton, the famed author of “Seven Story Mountain”. There is a plaque in downtown Louisville where he often visited and where he had a spiritual epiphany while watching the pedestrians at the corner of Fourth and Walnut Street (which is now Mohammad Ali Blvd.)

From Thomas Merton's private journal, March 19, 1958:

Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream — the dream of separateness, of the “special” vocation to be different. My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of men or put me is a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race — and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!

Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being a man! As if the sorrows of our condition could really matter, once we begin to realize who and what we are — as if we could ever begin to realize it on earth.

It is not a question of proving to myself that I either dislike or like the women one sees on the street. The fact of having a vow of chastity does not oblige one to argument on this point — no special question arises. I am keenly conscious, not of their beauty (I hardly think I saw anyone really beautiful by special standards) but of their humanity, their woman-ness. But what incomprehensible beauty is there, what secret beauty that would perhaps be inaccessible to me if I were not dedicated to a different way of life. It [is] as though by chastity I had come to be married to what is most pure in all the women of the world and to taste and sense the secret beauty of their girl’s hearts as they walked in the sunlight — each one secret and good and lovely in the sight of God — never touched by anyone, nor by me, nor by anyone, as good as and even more beautiful than the light itself. For the woman-ness that is in each of them is a once original and inexhaustibly fruitful bringing the image of God into the world. In this each one is Wisdom and Sophia and Our Lady — (my delights are to be with the children of men!).

November 4, 2008

The Special Needs Pumpkin

This is a pic of the pumpkin I carved for Halloween that Charlene thought looked like a special needs pumpkin. After looking at this pic I thought it looked kinda like John McCain.

Election Day Walk

After we voted and ran some errands, Charlene, Abby, Tristan, and I walked for the first time, the new two mile hiking path through Anchorage. It's impressive. Here are some pics.