Summer Has Broken

Yes, here in Kentucky it unofficially ended the same time as it did last year, at the end of August. It was in the low 80s yesterday, and only got up to 77 today.

At work the week ended on a pleasant note, in part because everyone is looking forward to the Labor Day weekend. I have always wondered if goofing off for a day, with shopping, picnics, etc., was really a proper way to celebrate work, but what the heck. Originally I was going to go out of town somewhere, inasmuch as I haven’t been out of the Lexington area since we went to Bardstown in mid-July, but that doesn’t look likely now.

This evening I was driving on Man-o-war Blvd, to visit a friend in a nursing home who’s recuperating from knee surgery. I didn’t make it because the car started having engine trouble, and I promptly headed back in the direction of home. The “Service Engine Soon” light came on, the engine got hotter than usual when I stopped for traffic lights, and it didn’t accelerate much when I put my foot on the gas pedal. The Wal-Mart mechanics who changed my oil weren’t qualified to work on this problem, and it was so late that all I could do was visit an auto parts store before going home. The store didn’t have the equipment to tell what was wrong, so they guessed that it was a failed water pump or fan, and referred me to a mechanic who can fix cars as old as mine. Of course I’ll be heading there first thing tomorrow morning. Pray that it doesn’t take long to fix, or cost an outrageous amount.

The strangest news I heard today is that Hooter’s, the restaurant chain notorious for its large-breasted waitresses in orange shorts, is planning to open a restaurant in Dubai, of all places! I know the UAE’s commercial center is growing by leaps and bounds (the sheikh of Dubai sent his agent here a year ago to spend millions on horses), and it will probably do all right even if only foreign workers go in there, but with the puritanical reputation of every state on the shores of the Persian Gulf, you have to wonder about this. If there’s going to be a Hooter’s anywhere in the Middle East, I would expect to see it in Beirut; before the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, Beirut had a reputation as the kind of place where you could get anything that wasn’t available in the rest of the Arab world. Either this is a really bad marketing decision, or it’s a sign that we’re winning the War On Terror (from a cultural standpoint, anyway). I still remember the time around 1990 when Leive’s father applied to work at a Hooter’s, and I had some trouble explaining to him why he wasn’t accepted! Mind you, this was a few years before the franchise was accused of sex discrimination, which caused them to respond with billboards like these:

From my household to yours, happy Labor Day.

Employee Appreciation Day!

Yesterday was the annual company picnic, Employee Appreciation Day, or EAD as the acronym-obsessed government and military like to call it. Overall it turned out better this year than last year. For reasons I no longer remember (the big August 2006 thunderstorm?), last year’s EAD was postponed to October, and the weather didn’t cooperate; it was 50 degrees and raining, compared with 89 and sunny this time. Furthermore, this year we had a 50s theme, coupled with a show of classic cars and motorcycles, ranging from the 1920s to 1970s; I don’t recall any sort of theme last year. 275 prizes were given away, and I only recognized two co-worker’s names from the list of winners, so I’m wondering if some of the winners came from out-of-state offices; we have a big company and a big facility, but I didn’t realize they were THAT big!

Chick-Fil-A still had a display (they provided the food last year), but this year the food came from the Montgomery County Cattlemen’s Association. Their hamburgers were good, the hotdogs were better (the biggest ballpark franks I ever saw), with cole slaw, baked beans, fruits, drinks and cookies. An hour after eating, I went back down because I heard the boss of our apartment was in the dunking booth. He wasn’t, so I gave their other attraction, the bungee run, a try. I don’t think I put the harness on correctly, because when the bungee cord yanked, I ended up flat on my back, and couldn’t get up until I got the harness off. It would have made a funny picture if anyone else from my department had been there with a camera. Good for laughs, like the time I fell into a rice field in the Philippines, which mainly gave the local kids some free entertainment. They got a picture of one of my co-workers on the bungee run, and the illustrators turned it into something suitable for one of those motivational posters on striving for success (imagine the opening running scene from “Chariots of Fire,” LOL).

A thunderstorm blew in on Wednesday evening, so I had to delay writing this blog entry until now. Yesterday the high was 93, but today and for the foreseeable future, the daily highs will be in the 80s. Was that storm the unofficial end of summer in Kentucky? I don’t want to jinx the weatherman, as I seem to have done the other times I said “the worst of the heat is over.”

Sondra Baras in Lexington

Last night, Sondra Oster Baras, the Israeli director of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, came to visit; according to her, this is her third time in Lexington, so I got to see her every time she was here. The meeting was held in an upper meeting room, in a bank in the southwest corner of town.

She briefly told her life story and talked about the settlements in Judea & Samaria; that part of her lecture I was familiar with from last year’s appearances. She also explained why last week’s CNN special was biased. I heard somewhere that CNN really means “Certainly Not the News!” and it looks like they lived up to that name. Finally she explained why Israel can’t seem to get some decent politicians in their government. You’ve probably heard that President Bush’s approval ratings have been in the 30s, according to opinion polls taken this year, and the 110th Congress is even less popular, with 18% of the public thinking it’s doing a good job. Well, Ehud Olmert has got to be the most corrupt and least competent prime minister Israel ever had, and are you ready for this? His approval rating is just 3%. You heard me right, three percent. However, he and his associates have job security as long as Israeli politics is fragmented into dozens of parties, so that anybody who stands a chance of doing a better job has little chance of getting elected. Where’s the Messiah when you need Him?

I had trouble getting the camera to work, because it was still set to record videos, rather than still pictures, but this screen shot of Sondra and I will do. She also let me know that she spoke to Jon Klein in Florida earlier in the day, presumably to get ready for the trip to Israel they’re planning this fall.


In two weeks Lexington is going to have another very special guest, one I haven’t met before. This time it will be Walid Shoebat, a former Palestinian terrorist who’s now a Christian. Last year I gave my pastor a ten-minute video of his testimony that I downloaded in Florida, so we might plan to go in a group. He’s going to be making three appearances, so the main decision will be which one to go to; I’ll keep you posted.

What do Snow, Jessica Alba, and Comair Flight 5191 Have in Common?

They all make headlines on a slow news day.

At least once every week in August, the thermometer has pushed close to 100 degrees, or even reached it. Whenever that happened, I thought “This is the hottest day of the year. After this it will be downhill from here.” No such luck: we’d get another day just like it later. I quit making such predictions last week, so while it has only been 85-89 for the past two days, and we’re no longer hotter than places to the south like Florida, I’m going to wait at least until after Labor Day before I declare that high summer has ended.

The end is in sight, though. Over the weekend snow was sighted! Not here, and not somewhere south of the equator (I know, August in the southern hemisphere is supposed to feel like February in the northern hemisphere). In was in the Colorado Rockies, at an elevation of 13,000+ feet. Keep the faith, everyone, Old Man Winter hasn’t left us for good!

Speaking of the southern hemisphere, at church this past weekend we got to meet Martin Jacobson, a missionary from Patagonia, the remote part of Argentina that can be called “the Wild South.” The pictures he showed us included some taken at a monument to Allen Gardiner, the first missionary to the Tierra Del Fuego Indians, at Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world. He runs a school called the Patagonian Bible Institute, located 1,000 miles south of Buenos Aires, and 1,000 miles north of Ushuaia. While I’m sure Patagonia is safer for Christians than the other places I’ve seen missionaries from, like Tajikistan, it’s so remote that even I only know a little about the area. Talk about taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth; Mr. Jacobson reached one of those ends!

Now file this next one under evidence that August is a slow month for news: some mathematicians at Cambridge University have proven with their equations that actress Jessica Alba walks with a perfect “wiggle.” This isn’t really a surprise, as Jessica has been a top contender in “sexiest woman alive” contests for the past five years. Who says math can’t be fun? Some say these mathematicians have too much time on their hands; it looks to me like they really have an eye for figures!

Jessica Alba Has the perfect Wiggle, Study Says

Finally, today marks the first anniversary of the Comair Flight 5191 disaster at our own Bluegrass Airport. Yes, a year has gone by already. For those who didn’t get the e-mail I sent out the day after the crash, here is what I wrote then, for friends and relatives who might be concerned for my safety:

By now, you’ve probably heard that a Comair jet crashed immediately after taking off from the Lexington airport; of the 47 passengers and 3 crew members, only the copilot survived. Yes, that is just on the other side of Lexington from my apartment. In fact, it’s too close for comfort; both my wife and I were on planes like that one, just two weeks ago. Bluegrass airport is much smaller than the airports of cities like Orlando, Atlanta and Chicago, so most of the airliners going in and out are those 48-passenger express planes. When I talked to my wife this morning, she decided she doesn’t want to fly again, when she’s ready to move here. Let the record show that it’s not always good when your hometown makes headlines nationwide!

I was not too far away at lunchtime, so I went over for a closer look. The main road west of the airport is Highway 60, Versailles Road. When heading out of town, first you go past the airport on the left, then the Keeneland racetrack on the right, and then on the left are the hills where the crash happened. On the side of one hill facing the highway, somebody with a riding mower had some fun a few months ago, and cut out a giant peace sign in the bluegrass that’s still visible. Evidently the plane crashed on the far side of that hill, because the video on Fox News shows ambulances and other vehicles going over the same hill on a dirt road. When I was there, I saw a couple of trucks towing three porta-potties over the hill, so they must be expecting the investigation to take a long time; on the radio they said it will probably take three days to remove and identify all the bodies. At the top of the hill was a barn, and a group of horses stood there, looking puzzled at all the activity on their normally peaceful farm (this is horse country, remember). And that’s all I saw, but I got closer than the reporters; they and the camera crews were forced to camp in a parking lot at the race track.

What I’m wondering is how Al Jazeera got the story so quickly, and why they’re running it. One of the first things I heard this morning is that the authorities don’t believe the crash was an act of terrorism. Is some terrorist group claiming responsibility for this tragedy?
Unquote: It’s time to go, next time I’ll tell you how the meeting with Sondra Baras of CFOIC went.

When Trash becomes Treasure

Ever scrape old gum off a desk, or the underside of a chair? Ugh! There are yuckier things around than ABC (already been chewed) gum, but I don’t think that made you any more eager to clean it up. I remember a news story from 1991 where Singapore outlawed gum altogether, because the Singaporean authorities were tired of removing it from their subways.

I’m mentioning this because you never know what the archaeologists are going to dig up. Now we’re hearing from the BBC that they found a 5,000-year-old piece of gum in western Finland, with teeth marks still in it! Actually it’s birch bark tar (gum as we know it was invented by the American Indians, using a New World plant called chicle), but apparently it works the same way.

Read about it here:

Student dig unearths ancient gum

This reminds me of something else I tried to point out in my history papers; today’s archaeologists are more likely to study ancient trash than treasure. “Archaeologists” of the nineteenth century, like Giovanni Belzoni and Heinrich Schliemann, can hardly be called that by today’s standards; they were treasure hunters first, as you can tell by how much they destroyed to bring back the valuable stuff. And it’s the glamorous discoveries that get everyone’s attention, like Tutankhamun’s tomb, the army of statues buried with the first Chinese emperor, or the gold and silver that is currently turning up at Thracian sites in Bulgaria. However, these days archaeologists learn more about everyday life by digging through midden-mounds or trash heaps. This way they can tell what our ancestors ate, what they made, and so on. For example, we learned that Easter Island suffered an environmental disaster about 500 years ago, by identifying the pollen grains found at ancient campsites, and by looking at the most common bones in trash heaps (first dolphins and fish, then rats, and finally human bones).

We also need to keep in mind that the rich discoveries are nothing more than a snapshot, a time capsule created by the elite of ancient times to show us what they wanted others to see. Thus we can’t always expect to see reality in a rich temple or tomb. Last June, for example, when the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut was identified, it turned out that she was obese, in her fifties, and afflicted with diabetes and cancer; the slim and graceful figure of her that we see in statues and paintings could only be accurate if they portrayed how she looked around the beginning of her career. Along that line, I’m afraid that future generations will see Hollywood productions as a realistic portrayal of our lives. A thousand years from now, some future archaeologists might find a set of DVDs from the TV show “Sex and the City,” and think that was the typical lifestyle of the late 20th-early 21st century, when for most of us videotapes of “The Honeymooners” would be more accurate. Or they might come across episodes from one of the shows produced by the defunct WB Network, one of those programs where the entire cast was required to be young and beautiful (e.g., “One Tree Hill,” “The Gilmore Girls,” “Smallville”), and think we really looked like that!

I’ll finish with a cartoon from an unexpected source, “Mother Goose and Grimm,” that pokes fun at Egyptian art. See you on Monday!


The War On Terror by Numbers

I suppose body counts aren’t the best way to measure who is winning in a conflict. In the first “Warworld” novel by Jerry Pournelle, wars of attrition were described as being the least elegant way to win, like using a paint-by-numbers kit to make a copy of the Mona Lisa. And when we concentrate on the numbers of killed, wounded, missing and captured, warfare becomes a modern-day form of potlatching, that custom among Pacific coast Indians where they flaunted their wealth by showing how much they could destroy or waste. Still, until we can agree on a point system for clever strategies, the element of surprise, and just plain courage, it will have to remain the best way to keep score. Anybody want to guess on how many points General MacArthur earned for his daring landing at Inchon? Or what score did Washington get for sneaking across the half-frozen Delaware River at night, to ambush the Hessians on Christmas?

That is one reason why I’ve been mad at the mainstream media’s coverage of the current war. In my essay “Couch Potato Warriors“, I pointed out that they routinely let us know how many of our boys were lost in war zones like Iraq, but won’t tell us how many enemies were killed. Nor do they keep the losses in perspective, as tragic as they are. I’ve also been mad with how the White House doesn’t want to respond to the absurd charges being hurled against the president and his staff, like the big fuss over President Bush’s statement that Saddam Hussein had sent agents to Africa to buy uranium. So far no evidence of those agents has turned up in Niger, the country where they were most likely to go. At the time I wondered out loud how much of a public relations/foreign policy disaster it would have been, if we learned that Saddam’s agents had gone to Chad instead? And if the war had really been over oil, wouldn’t we have just taken it by now? Never mind the WMDs, judging from gas prices at the pump, it doesn’t look like we found much oil in Iraq either!

Well, just as it took a few years to come up with a successful pacification strategy for Iraq (the current “surge”), now the current administration is finally fighting back with the facts. In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 22th, President Bush said that an average of 1,500 terrorists are killed or captured in Iraq, for each month of 2007. Because the surge was announced in January, I assume we weren’t bagging as many before then. Here’s a YouTube video of the excerpt:

Of course, part of the problem is that as with the war in Vietnam, we’re dealing with an enemy that doesn’t wear uniforms, nor does it march under a flag very often (When they do show a flag, it’s a poor excuse for a banner. Ever see the one Hezbollah uses, which features an AK-47 rifle on a yellow field? Yuck.). Therefore it’s hard to tell the terrorists from the civilians, especially when they’re dead; this is why the number of civilian casualties always appears to be inflated. According to Wikipedia, our best guess at the enemy dead in Iraq ranges from 12,077 to 13,292. Figures for Afghanistan are even harder to come by, since that country, like all of Central Asia, is still a frontier zone (I once heard Central Asia called “the Wild East”). It looks like between 10,000 and 20,000 members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been killed there.

For casualties on our side, the latest Defense Department estimate is 3,722 for Iraq, 424 for Afghanistan. Total = 4,146. While every death or maiming is a tragedy for us, keep in mind that we suffered about the same number of deaths in the American Revolution, when US population was 1 percent of what it is now, so if Al Qaeda is going to hit us as hard as King George III did, it will have to cause more than 400,000 American casualties. No wonder they want nukes!

Okay, so over the past six years we have lost 4,146, while they have lost anywhere from 22,077 to 33,292. And this is only for Afghanistan and Iraq; I’m not including other war zones like Israel, Chechnya, the southern Philippines, Thailand, or Somalia. All things considered, it looks like for every American they kill, we are killing 5 to 8 “insurgents.” Not a bad ratio, if we can keep it up.

The Islamist leaders promise 72 houris (virgins) in Paradise for every martyr who dies for Allah, so by hitting the calculator again, I find that Allah has had to give away between 1,589,544 and 2,397,024 virgins so far, in order to keep that promise. Any idea when he’ll run out? This 2005 article from The Knish, a Jewish version of The Onion, shows a headline we’re likely to see when that happens (LOL).

Finally, to our brave men and women in uniform, pay no heed to our media, and don’t forget to take this!

A Better Picture Of Leive, and Sondra Baras on CNN Update

Leive is learning how to use search engines (Google at least), so she may be surfing the Web on her own before long. She found out where her sister in Indiana goes to church, for a start (her name appeared in an obituary for their father, on the church website). You may have heard this old saying about fishing, modernized:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to surf the Web, and he won’t bother you for weeks.” (LOL)

All kidding aside, we put her name into Google and found the articles written in newspapers outside Lexington of the pro-family demonstration in Frankfort, last July 30. They posted a picture of her that didn’t just show her mouth & chin, with the following caption:


“Leive Kimball bowed her head in prayer at yesterday’s rally against benefits for domestic partners of university employees. (Photos by James Crisp/Associated Press)”

Louisville Courier-Journal (from somewhere in the suburbs of Cincinnati)

Regarding the Sondra Baras interview on CNN last Tuesday, it’s just as well I didn’t see anything but the videos on their website. If I had, it would have made me mad, not glad. According to Sondra, the part about her was all right, but overall the documentaries about conservative Judaism, Christianity and Islam were a hatchet job on all believers who take those religions seriously. Here’s the letter she composed to CNN about the Judaism episode:

Dear Jen,

Well, I saw it last night. Your portrayal of me was fair. My only comment is that I never said I had a calling from G-d to do what I do. I don’t have that kind of direct line, although many of my Christian friends believe they do. What I said is that it was my calling — meant in a far more secular way. I also said that it is something I believe G-d wants me to be doing.

However, all that is minor compared to what I believe is the incredibly slanted presentation you made. There have been exactly 4 Jewish terrorist incidents or attempted incidents and you devoted half of the program to them, discussing each one in detail. The people who support these are a fringe minority and roundly condemned by 98% of the settlement movement. People like Chanan Porat and myself are the representative, and yet you gave far more time to Yehuda Etzion and David HaIvri and the others who support this position. If you gave similar time to every single Arab terrorist attack, the show would go on for days if not years. Is that fair?

There is a great difference between believing that what you are doing is right and just according to your faith and taking that faith to crusader proportions, which we absolutely won’t do.

Also, the legality of the settlements issue was so incredibly biased. Eugene Rostow, Undersecretary of State wrote a seminal article defending their legality in the 80’s, as did the Israeli Supreme Court — yet not a mention was made of that perspective. This is not just about the conflict between Torah law and democracy and international law. International law itself can be seen from two different perspectives and that is exactly how Menachem Begin saw it. And, as a former attorney myself, that is exactly how I see it. Why was that not discussed?

And since when is Gershon Gorenberg the international expert on all of this? He comes from a clearly biased position, and yet he was placed in the position of the reasoned intellectual on the issue. As were the other “experts” and historians you quoted. Why did you not quote a single legal or historical expert on the other side? If you needed help finding some, I would have been glad to help.

Jen, I am disappointed in you and the others. But I am not surprised. Please pass this on to Andy and Jody and anyone else involved. I just do not have their e-mail addresses with me — I am currently in Los Angeles, CA. I plan on writing a detailed letter evaluating and analyzing the program when I get back to Israel and will send it to you as well as to others. If you’d like to discuss this in person, I am available on my cellphone.

However, all that being said, I am glad I participated if only to ensure that at least a small part of the program included sane commentary. How sad that this is how we need to see CNN.



Sondra Baras

Christian Friends of Israeli Communities

Director of the Israeli Office

You can also read CAMERA’s review of the show here:

God’s Jewish Warriors – CNN’s Abomination

Back to School, and a Few Wedding Pictures

Most of the schools in Lexington officially started their fall semesters last week, and classes began at the University of Kentucky yesterday. Among other things, that means the big yellow school busses are back. I am astonished at how many interfere with my morning commute, inasmuch as I’m in the country for most of the trip between home and work. Yesterday I left home five minutes earlier than usual, but still I was right on time at the office; and I thought the daily traffic jams at the front gate were annoying. Maybe it’s time to start going in through the back gate again; that worked until we moved to our current building last April.

When I was a teacher at Valencia Community College, we would have a faculty orientation around the third week of August. Those were a lot of fun, with excellent food, interesting people and some useful freebies, like the red bookbag I’ve been using since 2001, so I always looked forward to going to them. VCC has probably had the orientation session for this year already, and it just occurred to me that when it came and went last year, I probably didn’t even notice. That goes to show how much has happened in my life, in the nearly sixteen months since I wrote my resignation e-mail.

I still haven’t gotten around to posting those wedding pictures Leive brought back; when I do, they will probably have their own page. In the meantime, check out what my pastor did with some of them; this page has been up since Monday.

King/Bendoy Wedding Photos

Get an Afterlife, Beijing

A update of sorts to last week’s article about religious tolerance, “For I Have Tasted the Fruit.” China’s latest attempt to undermine the culture of Tibet has to be the silliest yet; they have passed a law outlawing the reincarnation of Buddhist monks without the Chinese government’s permission. Now pray tell, how are godless atheists, who aren’t supposed to believe in reincarnation or any other sort of afterlife, going to enforce that law? How will they keep a particular lama from coming back, or cause an approved lama to return for another turn at life?

No doubt this is directed at the Dalai Lama. Mongolia had a similar high-ranking monk, the eighth Jebtsundamba Khutughtu (Bogd Khan for short), a hundred years ago. Considered a living Buddha, he proclaimed himself emperor of Mongolia in 1911 when the previous ruler, the last emperor of China, was thrown out. Ten years later the Russian Civil War spilled over into Mongolia and the Communists took over. They left Bogd Khan alone until he died in 1924, then declared that there would be no more reincarnations, and that was that for theocracy.

The Dalai Lama is getting up there in years, and I always figured that when he dies, the Chinese communists would act like the Mongolians, and simply say he isn’t coming back anymore; he went to Nirvana for good, or something like that. Now the Dalai Lama is claiming he won’t be reborn in Tibet as long as it is under Chinese rule, leading to the possibility that Tibetans abroad will point to one of their kids and claim His Holiness has reincarnated among them. There have been many succession struggles over the course of history, usually some fight to determine who will be the next king of a country, but this could be one of the strangest. It reminds me of “Last Enemy,” a short story by science fiction writer H. Beam Piper, about a planet that has a civil war over the issue of whether reincarnated spirits can choose who they’ll come back as.

Here’s the story for your review:

China Regulates Buddhist Reincarnation

Christiane Amanpour Is On to Folks Like Me

Previously I wrote about meeting Sondra Baras, one of the leaders of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, on more than one occasion, and how she is visiting Lexington again next Monday. This morning, I followed a link in one of her e-mails to Apparently they interviewed her earlier this week, and on the webpage was a video, narrated by CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, about the growing friendship between Zionist Jews and Evangelical Christians. It began by showing Ms. Baras visiting a church in Melbourne, FL, that looked a lot like the church I attended for 25 years. And lo and behold, I recognized an old friend of the family in the congregation–Andy Benedict! No wonder the Benedict family chose that church, when they moved to Brevard County last year. I wonder if they introduced the Friday night service over there, with the candles and talit, that so much resembles ours? Friends and family, check it out:

Christians, Jews in Holy Land Alliance