dimanche, avril 29, 2007

My trip to Washington DC is over. I arrived back home Thursday afternoon, in time to eat a late lunch with Lisa and pick the boys up from school. With that done I went home and took a nap. I had been up since 2:30 AM and need some rest.

My plane from Houston to DC ran late. At the last minute they had to switch planes because the plane we were to take had ingested a bird on landing and that engine was running was running hot. The plane switch put us about an hour late taking off. The flight was a good one. I sat next to a retired Air Force pilot who was going to Maryland to visit his daughter’s family which included grandchildren.

I arrived at Baltimore/Washington airport after 10:30, by the time I got my bag and found a shuttle to the hotel it was 11:30. The shuttle ride took almost two hours, but it was interesting. One of person on the shuttle was a soldier returning to Walter Reed Army Hospital. He was a young soldier, a member of the Missouri National Guard, who had been wounded in Iraq by a road side bomb.

The soldier had been a Walter Reed for four months and it looked as though he was going to be there for a long time to come. He still had pins and other objects protruding out of the lower part of one leg. His second leg and his arms were terribly scarred. The solder was in good spirits and spoke a good deal and answered our questions as we meandered through the streets of DC.

After dropping the soldier at Walter Reed I was taken to my hotel, the Marriott at Wardman Park. By the time I had checked in, gotten to my room and showered, it was after 1:30 AM. I set a wakeup call for 6:30 and dragged myself into bed. I crawled from bed, still very tired. I decided to walk down to the bottom of the hill the Marriott was situated on to find breakfast. The front of the hotel was beautifully landscaped. There were thousands of tulips planted and they were all in full bloom. What a beautiful sight. It brightened my day to walk among them.

After a quick breakfast, I took the longer route back to the hotel, so that I could enjoy the flowers some more. Then it was time to start work. Our union business began at eight. Our local union sent Bruce G. and me here on union business. Bruce had taken George, his 13 year old son, with him to this event. We spent some time going over union issues, then we caught the metro and went to the House and Senate office buildings to meet with Louisiana representatives and senators (mostly with a member of their staff.

I got separated from Bruce and his son after we had met with a member of Senator Landrieu’s office. We had to meeting with the union at 4:30, and I had a little time to kill, so I ran (literally) down Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues to the National Archive Building. I had promised myself that I would make every effort to see the Constitution on this trip to DC. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are all housed in the National Archives.

I was AWED to be in the presence of these great documents. Wow. I was overawed to be so close and to see with my own eyes these great items of American liberty. I’ve read them and loved them; I have studied them and have read so much about them the men who gave them to us. It was, for me, the fulfilment of a dream.

There was another bonus. At the archives is an ancient copy of the Magna Carta, it is a great, great grandfather to our documents of political liberty. Our own liberty is a direct heir of the principles that were established at Runnymede, when King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215.

After paying homage to the great documents, I returned to Capitol Hill for our union rally. I found Bruce and George there. When all was over we headed back to the Marriott. Before climbing hill to the hotel, we stopped for a beer at one of the restaurants near by.

Not far from the hotel are a number of ethnic restaurants. After I cleaned up I ventured out once more and decided to have my supper at a Thai restaurant. My waitress was a young lady who had recently emigrated from Thailand. I differed to her in choosing my food. The main course was a spice seafood dish that contained scallops, muscles, calamari and shrimp and other items. My portion was sizable and it tasted very good. I washed it all down with a couple of bottles of Singha which is a Thai beer. It has potent 6% alcohol content. I found it to have an interesting flavour that went well with the spicy Thai food. After supper I was overly full, but my only plan was to go to my room and finish the, The Stuarts: A Study in English Kinship (the book I had picked for this trip).

Next morning we meet again at 8 AM. The union business finished about 1 PM. Bruce, George and I then took the Metro to Arlington. At Arlington National Cemetery Bruce and George took the bus tour, which I did last year, but I decided to walk. The grounds of Arlington are very pretty and serene. I made my way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched the changing of the guard. It is a solemn and sober sceptical that every American should experience.

After the Changing of the Guard I strolled over to Arlington House. George Washington Parke Custis choose a beautiful place to build this house. The view from the front porch is, even today, spectacular. The house is being renovated and all the furniture is gone, but you can still walk through it. I asked the park ranger what part of the house was it that Robert E. Lee made his decision to turn down the position as head of Union forces, and instead stand with his home state of Virginia in the then quickly approaching War of Northern Aggression, which is commonly referred to as the American Civil War.

After Arlington we visited the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II Memorials all of which are very nice. From the WWII Memorial we walked to the Washington Monument, which is impressive. Earlier we had also visited the shrine built to Lincoln.

After visiting the Washington Monument we caught the Metro back to Washington. Bruce and I had a beer at the hotel bar and then we parted company once more. I went down the hill to an Indian Restaurant. I decided on a lamb dish cooked with a lot of curry. It was very spice and very good. I had a 22 oz Taj Mahal, which is an Indian beer.

Deo Vindice,

samedi, avril 21, 2007

My post vacation week has been a good one for me. I, again, made it up to Longville earlier in the week; I also paid a visit on my grandfather and Mrs. Ester.

Sadly, most of the visit with Pawpaw and Ester was spent watching CNN and the then breaking story of the massacre at Virginia Tech. It’s hard for me to imagine how one person can do so much evil to fellow human beings. It is hard to imagine, but man has proven time and again that he can easily find the will to do evil to his fellow man. History and modern times are both replete with instances of human on human evil and cruelty.

On Tuesday evening a number of friends came over. We had a manly gathering on our front porch for discussion of current events, theology and whatever other subject made its way onto the radar screen. Pastor Mark, MK, Josh P. and I sat around a fire, snacked on cheese (smoked Gouda and Pepper Jack). MK and Josh both brought wine with them. We consumed two bottles of wine, ate most of the cheese, there were a few cigars smoked and a couple of other drinks consumed during our visit. It was a good time.

Three of the four present (MK, Josh, me) are former Roman Catholics, with majority Roman Catholic extended families. Pastor Mark was raised Lutheran. Today we all are strongly influenced by John Calvin and attend Presbyterian Churches. Josh is a Calvinistic Baptist. MK is a deacon at Bethel PCA ; I’m a former deacon there and Pastor Mark serves at Covenant PCA in Sulphur.

The last part of the week has been more difficult. I started graveyard shift on Wednesday night and Lisa went to New Orleans to help Yska with her daughter’s wedding. I spoke with her a little while ago and the wedding is over and they are at the reception. Because of my work and Lisa being gone, the boys are spending the weekend with Rhonda.

We have had good food here at work this week. On Wednesday Lisa brought us a goodly amount of boiled crawfish. They were leftover from a crawfish boil that Christian’s employer had put on that evening. When Lisa delivered them to the refinery they were still hot. They were big and boiled to perfection. Last night the refinery had a Shrimp boil at the Burton Coliseum. They did not forget those of us who had to work and we all got a platter of large well seasoned boiled shrimp.

Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day and Lisa is returning from New Orleans. I always miss her when either of us has to travel, which I will do Monday. I work off at 6 AM and have to catch a flight out of town for 1:30 PM. I’m going to Washington DC on union business. It is only for a few days so I should be back home on Thursday.


dimanche, avril 15, 2007

My vacation week is over (but I don't go back to work until Wednesday). It was a slow week. Mostly I did little jobs around the house.

Wednesday the boys and I went to Longville. Fishing was our main objective, but after a few hours and Sandy’s pond without a nibble, we decided to go my parents.

The weather was better and we did some more practice shooting with the .22 revolver and the CZ. My youngest was the only one interested. I worked with him and let him do most of the shooting. About mid afternoon we returned to my sister’s place and found a couple of the boy’s cousins were swimming at the pond.

So instead of fishing the boys joined their cousins swimming in the pond and I played fetch with Oakly. She loves playing fetch in water. Swimming sapped the energy out of both the dog and the boys, so I had a nice quiet drive home that evening.

Thursday night we attended a pre-Ireland supper at Archie’s Restaurant. The food was very good and there was plenty of wine. There were almost 20 of the Ireland party there. Woody gave out packets for everyone, so that we could have a bit more information about the trip. (NOTE: The gorgeous blond in the black dress on the right is my lovely wife. We will have been married for 24 years this Sept. :-)

Lisa helped her friend Iska with one of her projects most of the week. So she and Iska took a break and went out to D’Angelo’s Pizzaria Friday night and I stayed home with the boys.

Saturday morning Lisa had to work, and I spent much of my morning watching C-Span. The Iraqi ambassador to the US, Samir Sumaida’ie, was speaking at the Center for Strategic And International Studies. I found what he said to be extremely and forthright. I don’t think he soft peddled things. It was well worth watching.

I don’t see things in Iraq getting better anytime soon (decade or two). I hope I am wrong. I was not in favour of our intervention into Iraq and told my friend Tommy Keller that we would be bringing young Americans home in body bags for 50 years if we did intervene.

I have found it interesting that many of my pro-invasion friends now want to leave. I would like to see us get out but we have stirred up a hornet’s nest and I think it would be morally reprehensible (not to mention cowardly) to leave before a self-sustaining Iraqi government is established.

I don’t think Iraq was worth one American life, but we went in and now we have to finish what we started (IMHO). I think President Bush is crazy if he really believes that a “democracy” can be established there. We need a workable, mildly pro-Western, functioning government there and not some neo-con fantasy about democracy.

That is my commentary, we now return more mundane daily life.

The boys and I went with Morgan and Danny to the Railroad Festival in Dequincy. First we went to Danny’s parents home. This was my first time to me my daughter’s future in-laws. I knew that Morgan held them in high regard. They were very personable and I enjoyed meeting and conversing with them. Danny’s dad and I have a number of things in common. We have both enjoyed the hobby of making homemade wine and beer (this alone was a very good sign that this is a man of character). After leaving the Allain’s we were off to the fair. The boys rode on as many rides as I could afford and then they ate festival food. We then headed home.

We had an invitation from the Duncan’s to join them on their family Pizza night. Pastor Mark and Peggy had invited us over for Pizza before, but this was the first time that we could actually make it. I had assumed that we would be eating Pizza Hut or some other take out version of Pizza, but instead Peggy makes Pizza from Scratch. Mark said that it had been a tradition in their house for most of the marriage to have home made pizza on most Saturday evenings, and they often have guests (despite the fact that they have seven children of their own).

We enjoyed very good pizza. Peggy had made four types of Pizza, form cheese Pizza to Pizza with the works. They provided a good wine (a shiraz) and the conversation was very good as well.

This morning, Lisa woke early and prepared a roast for Sunday dinner. We attended Bethel; Pastor Steve preached from Jonah, and will be preaching through the book in the coming weeks.

Here is a picture of the bookshelves Lisa had built for me for my birthday. They don’t hold all my books, but they do hold most of them. We are going to install a ladder like the one you see on libraries as soon as finances allow.


lundi, avril 09, 2007

I am on vacation and the boys are out of school for Easter Holiday. We will spend most of that time around the house, but I do plan to take the boys fishing at least on day this week.

I worked off graveyard shift on Wednesday morning. That afternoon I drove to Lake Charles to a NRA event. Wayne LaPierre was in town, as was another high-ranking NRA representative. They were joined by Senator David Vitter and Rep. Bobby Jindal, all four men spoke to the audience and they showed a video about the seizure of guns from law abiding citizens. The message was “It can happen here! And did!” followed by and “this is what we have done to fix it so it does not happen again. It was interesting.

Saturday the little boys, Oakly (our Lab) and I went to Longville. I took my SKS and a couple of pistols to do a little shooting, but it was very cold (in South Louisiana) for April. We did shoot some pistols, but it started sleeting while we were outside and so we did not shoot for long.

My youngest son got a little practice with my .22 revolver.

I shot my CZ-52 and my dad shot the CZ and his snub-nose .38. We would have done some more shooting, but the weather was nasty, so we went back in doors and visited.

Sunday we went to Church, Woody and Elisabeth came to church as well. Our new pastor’s sermon had great content and his delivery was pretty good also. After church we came home for to a Resurrection Day feast.

Lisa had prepared a wonderful pot of chicken and sausage gumbo, I helped and made the potato salad. We had cold beer, garlic bread, apple pie and plenty of chocolate candies as well.

A number of Lisa’s family came over to sup with us. At dusk we built a fire in the fire pot of the front porch, and sat there to finish the day.

Coram Deo,

dimanche, avril 01, 2007

Lisa and the little boys are in Galveston. They went to visit our friends Duke and Donna. Duke is there for his job and Donna their children went to meet him for the weekend. They invited Lisa and the boys to join them as well.

Morgan was in Texas today also. She and several friends went to an Astros game. I assume Christian is at work right now.

I too am at work. I am working the “board job.” For the past four years I’ve been pumped up to top operator on my shift, and I’ve not worked the board in that time. I’ve been on a crash course to learn how to run the board on our new unit, it is just a little over a year old and I have never worked it before until I was bounced back.

I much prefer to work in my current position. The Top Operator position is a lot more responsibility for very little extra compensation. Patrick was on special assignment for the past four years and I had been moved up to fill his spot. At the end of last year our supervisor (area manager) decided to bounce Patrick back for a little while. He then offered to return him to the set up position, but Patrick decided that he liked our current 5-4 version of the 12 hour shift and so he elected to stay as top and not move back to set up job.

I can not express how happy I am that Patrick elected to stay on as top. Its good for him and me, but I heard our area manager was both disappointed and a bit upset at Patrick. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know Patrick did a very good job in the position he was in.

The latest book that I’ve read is What the Bible Teaches about Guidance by Peter Bloomfield. A co-worker asked me if I would read it so we could discuss its contents. I had never heard of the book or the author before and I have a full plate already when it comes to reading, but I said ok.

It is a great book and very practical. I recommend it very highly. Bloomfield is a Presbyterian minister in Australia. He writes well and his examples and illustrations are superb.

On the listening front, I should finish A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson very soon. This is a good work. Bryson is witty and informative, but he does seem to have a healthy bit of Yankee disdain for both Southern people and culture. Still, it is enjoyable even with that and the several secular sermons that he gives during the book. Bryson's book should get a PG-13 rating for its language.

I went to the parish library Saturday. While there I bought a (used) book on Irish folklore and I also picked up a couple more audio books. I chose Ann Coulter’s book Godless: The Church of Liberalism and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

I did listen to the first of the CD’s of Coulter’s book. What I’ve heard so far is interesting. Coulter has no problem calling a spade and spade. She has no problem going beyond that and referring to a spade as a damned shovel either. The book is witty and very irreverent. I wouldn't recommend it to someone interested in facts. It is written more like "pep rally literature." It seems obvious to me that her intent is to fire up the home team and infuriate the opposition. I think she has accomplished both those goals.

I laughed a lot. Her irreverence is funny and she does make some valid points, but this is not for the serious reader who wants greater understanding. Still it is not a long book and so I will continue listening. I am certain that I will enjoy the jabs that she’s throwing at the liberal elites who are in the media, Hollywood, and the Democratic party, even though her defence of the Republican Party may make me green around the gills from time to time.

Coulter does (so far) confuse true conservatism with the Republican Party. This is a gross distortion of reality. The Republican party is the party of neocons at best and this is not (IMHO) true conservatism. True conservatism is much closer to the libertarians than the modern Republican Party is today.

Her attacks on liberalism, while often overly simplistic and hyperbolic, do ring true at the core. However her equating conservatism with Republican Party is not accurate. Yes, the Republicans are more conservative than Democrates, and some of them are truely conservative, but this does not make the party conservative.

I have, at one time or another, belonged to each party. Today I belong to neither. When I was first able to vote, being a Louisiana conservative, I joined the Democratic Party, which was a conservative party long ago. In the 1980's I worked with a guy who had been a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, which nominated Jimmy Carter to be president. He had a copy of the Democratic Presidential Platform from that event. This excited me and I asked to borrow it. I read the Presidential Platform, returned it to its owner and then immediatly went the courthouse and changed my party affiliation to Republican.

I officially left the Republican Party two and a half years ago, disgusted by much of what the Republicans were doing, now that they had gained power in both houses of congress and the White House.