March 31, 2019

Latin Liturgy and my Love-Hate Relationship with Symbols

One minor motion at the Latin liturgy today transported me and lifted me, as it were.  Sometimes an action says a thousand words and there’s a beautiful economy in that effortless grace. 

The motion was during the Consecration when an altar server lifted the robe of the priest up just as the priest was lifting the chalice. I interpreted this symbol as showing that the priest, as Jesus, was lifting not just the bread and wine but himself. The priest, in persona Christi, seemed to be ascending to Heaven with the gift of His body and blood and there was great reassurance in the acceptableness of that sacrifice. 

I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with symbols. My practical side manifested itself in a strong affection for saying what you what to say plainly, don’t hide behind a symbol. If Melville meant the white whale to mean God, then he should’ve been transparent and said so.  

The irony is that I’m a word-lover, a logophile, and words are symbols.  And I’ve always been fond of math and statistics, again symbols.  But this anti-symbol manifesto showed itself early in a craving for non-fiction and poetry, the latter for the words and not the symbols or “plot”. 

A Dominican priest recently mentioned that the genius of the book of Genesis is that you can tell a child the story of Adam and Eve and then get something from it, while at the same time professors in universities spill mountains of ink to this day on the meaning.  

He said the genre is symbolic truth, which is not well understood today: “Which is more accurate, symbol truth or historical truth?” And then answered his question with another, “which is more accurate, 2+2=4 or ‘it was German aggression that started World War 1”?  “Yes, 2 + 2 = 4 are symbols and more accurate than the historical statement.”

Early on I didn’t like symbols in part because of the Wizard of Oz.  The troupe go to all this trouble to find the wizard, and he turns out to be a humbug, ordinary person underneath all the glitz and glitter. 

But Christianity turns that completely upside down.  We find that beneath the bread and wine, as humbug as those are, there is Christ himself.  We find that within our humdrum neighbor and within our humdrum selves, there is Christ himself.  Whereas the Wizard of Oz the symbol turns out to be a disappointing reality, with God the symbol turns out to be the reality, and to be a reality merely too rich for us to comprehend. 

So symbols hide things and reveal things.  As a kid having a safe made by my grandfather was a thing of wonderment because it could conceal secrets. Similarly I loved the faux library doors that led to much greater libraries inside, like the Holy of Holies within the Temple. 

St. John Paul II quoted the book of Proverbs on the joy of seeking: 
There is thus no reason for competition of any kind between reason and faith: each contains the other, and each has its own scope for action. Again the Book of Proverbs points in this direction when it exclaims: “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Prov 25:2). In their respective worlds, God and the human being are set within a unique relationship. In God there lies the origin of all things, in him is found the fullness of the mystery, and in this his glory consists; to men and women there falls the task of exploring truth with their reason, and in this their nobility consists. The Psalmist adds one final piece to this mosaic when he says in prayer: “How deep to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I try to count them, they are more than the sand. If I come to the end, I am still with you” (139:17-18). The desire for knowledge is so great and it works in such a way that the human heart, despite its experience of insurmountable limitation, yearns for the infinite riches which lie beyond, knowing that there is to be found the satisfying answer to every question as yet unanswered.

March 30, 2019


I’ve always liked lines, demarcations, borders,  no trespassing zones, so now I want to go back and find the line crossed where things became untenable politically, when the polarization permanent-iscized. Certainly the election of Trump was the signal event at which there was no going back. November of 2016 might’ve marked the rubicon crossing. 

But ultimately I think the real killer was the period 1996-2003. Those momentous 7 years contained a one-two-three punch: Clinton got impeached by the House on the unlikeliest of unlikely events, namely physical proof of his lying under oath. Then Bush won in 2000 on the slimmest of margins via "hanging chads" in Florida. (Anecdotally, the 2000 election certainly radicalized Democrats at my workplace like Rick B. in a way I’d not seen before.) Bush didn’t have a chance to begin with given the election chaos, but then doubled down and threw gas on the fire by getting into an unnecessary war in Iraq on faulty pretenses (the phantom WMDs). I don’t think the republic ever recovered from the way Bush won and how he governed. It was "total war" at that point on the Dem side. 

 The Republicans,conciliatorily, offered meek and mild candidates in the form of a maverick and the Mormon, McCain and Romney, but Obama rammed Obamacare down our throats and crucified social conservatives. Republicans retaliated with the total war approach of Trump. Democrats retailiated withe collusion hoax...,

March 21, 2019

Bible Quote

"Of all the images which have been used to describe the English Bible, that which calls it a 'cathedral book' seems one of the most apt. It conveys the idea of a structure, great and ancient, the offspring of many minds which have in many ages striven to produce a home, a shrine, worthy to contain and honor that which was to them the best and the noblest of all possible visions. One thinks of the multiplicity of effort which has gone into the making of such a church as Canterbury. The building has been laid out on a venerated site and on ancient foundations; as it has progressed, these foundations have been discovered to be inadequate; new ideas of beauty have dawned on the builder…But in spite of changes and accretions and refurbishing, the aim of the whole abides. Men are to gather under its roof to worship the God who has led them from a dim light up to that bright one which radiates from the presence of his Son.

Like one of our old cathedrals, then, is our English Bible. Side by side with what is of supreme beauty, it shows us sometimes what is to us merely curious; but in neither case – of the cathedral or the Bible – are we at liberty to treat the curious thing with an unkind contempt, for we have found it in the house of God. That which was dear and holy to the mind of Origen or Augustine deserves to be gently handled by us who, believe it, are very likely less clever, and quite certainly less good than they." - M.R. James

March 19, 2019

Suffering as Speech of Love?

Give Us This Day recently had a thought-provoking meditation on the gospel of the Transfiguration from Sr. Miriam Pollard:
...And the everlasting question of suffering refuses to die a respectful death.

I remember an essay by Bede Jarrett in which he warns the reader that what he says is extravagant and semi-heretical, and still he says that our suffering is the mirror or manifestation of something within God; that in God, in the depths of the mystery of the divine, is an extravagance of love that can only be expressed in pain.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

Is pain the flip side of that love, the inmost habitation of eternal desire, the urgent luminescence of that mountain encounter—the mount of glory and the mount of crucifixion?
I looked up the Dominican Bede Jarrett and while I couldn't locate that particular quote I did see this regarding the multiplicity of religious orders:
"It will, for instance, be granted that all admit the need of some austerity, some penance, as an instrument of training, and far more as the main language of love; and in this they do but repeat what even human lovers have endlessly discovered. Love finds words inadequate to hold all its deep meanings, and can only feel in sacrifice and in self-sacrifice a satisfactory outlet to its desires.

Suffering is the only full speech of love.

But how shall this suffering be selected ? What is reasonable and what merely fanatical, fantastic ? Or rather, what may not be selected in any passing mood ?

This the various religious Orders have settled each for themselves, holding much in common, yet holding much also in severalty ; for to each, as to some city state of ancient Greece, belongs its own spirit, its own education, its own music, its dress, its work, its plan of building, its schedule of daily duty, All these things are deliberately chosen in order to suit the needs of certain types of mind, and the whole assembly of them constitutes the particular asceticism of each Order."
And more from Bede:
"God sends us suffering because He loves us; we accept suffering because we love Him. Love is the only answer that can be made to suffering; it is the only explanation of suffering save that of the Christian Scientist who denies that suffering really exists.

The Christian alone teaches that suffering is to be embraced. The idea is based on the fatherhood of God for it supposes that the father only allows such suffering to come to each child as shall be for its own good... It is not, therefore, simply was a punishment that we should look on suffering, for such a view of it will add more troubles than it can answer. Suffering is also the very expression of love; almost the only language that adequately describes its feelings.

Love, then, which can alone explain suffering when it comes, can also alone give us the the strength to accept it joyfully, for life is only tolerable when it is permeated with love. There are hardships for everyone; do what we will we cannot escape them. Yet it is not the troubles of life, but the way we bear them, that makes life tolerable or not. To repine, complain, cry out, does but dig the point-head deeper into the flesh. The monk was contented in his cell, but the prisoner essayed night by night to escape: their conditions were the same, but their hopes and desires were different. The whole secret, then, of life is to adapt our desires to our conditions. Love puts into bondage as many victims as hate; but those whom love’s chains bind are glad of their lot. We are told, indeed, that God punishes with suffering all workers of iniquity; but those also whom God loves He chastens; and for ourselves who y, fitfully indeed yet honestly, to love, we can feel sure that it is only the strength of His embrace that we feel. Love, then, alone will help us to understand life and its sorrows.

Of course, the full realization of this is the attitude of the saints; for them seem to have achieved that same state of soul to which St. Paul confessed that he had reached: ‘For which cause I take pleasure in my infirmities.’...Our Lord found it perfectly compatible to shrink from suffering and yet to be resigned to the will of God, so the combination of union with the Father and anxiety about suffering is not necessarily impossible.

Sorrow, caused by Love and can be made tolerable only by Love. For it is the Crucified who alone explains the Crucifixion."

Spent some time researching a familiar line from Morning Prayer, Is 45:17.  It feels like a broken promise:

"But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation, you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting."

There are a myriad of ways around it, beginning with different translations, some of which say basically, “you won’t permanently be disgraced or put to shame.”

You could also spiritualize it, as applying to the residents of Heaven or the Church’s final destination.  You could look at it as applicable to Christ only.

Even better, the NABRE and a non-Catholic commentary has it in quotes, as in quoting the nations.  The nations (presumably not inerrant) are exaggerating, saying, “gosh, we were wrong and you’ll never be disgraced.”

March 18, 2019

I Don't Get It, Part MDCCCXXII

Opened day with a little Moanin’ Joe. Trumpian tweets are their daily content provider. You don’t need producers on that show since it produces itself, or rather Trump orchestrates it remotely.

Sunday political talk shows have likewise declined. A good example of this is to hear Chris Wallace of Fox News hammer an administration official yesterday asking why Trump doesn’t make a speech against Islamaphobia given the news that an evil Australian killed people in New Zealand. You can’t make that shiza up. Wallace must be crazy for urging a crazy man to make a speech that he believes will magically take the crazy out of crazy people. Maybe next Chris will ask why Trump doesn't do a rain dance to help out with California droughts.

There’s the oft told lament of the nationalization of the news, such that people don’t care about their local scene but focus on things they have much less direct control over, namely the president. Now there’s the internationalization of news such that people are focusing not even on crime in our country but crime on the other side of the world.

The Sunday political shows have gone the same way of dullness as the nightly comics if for different reasons: for the Sunday shows, the soundbyte politics is regurgitated from what’s already been said on Twitter more incisively, and for the comics what used to be humor has been outsourced in favor of political outrage.

March 17, 2019

Papal Elections Have Consequences (even in small midwestern dioceses)

The Columbus Dispatch is going after the yet-to-be-installed bishop (Robert J. Brennan) of Columbus already. I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt given Brennan already has one strike against him (being appointed by Francis).

But the Dispatch seemed a tad overeager in the latest piece, saying he contradicted himself when he said he had nothing to do with abuse cases back in his old diocese whereupon it was learned he had talked to victims of abuse.  The paper considered that involvement, while he figured that wasn’t official involvement but pretty much business as usual given the level of abuse in that diocese.  I lean towards his side on that question.

But there are other reasons I’m uneasy. Just five years after ordination he was appointed secretary to the bishop, which certainly seems a good career move if you’re ambitious to be bishop. And there’s no better barometer on whether you should be bishop than if you don’t want to be one.

Reading between the lines, one can see that the appointment to a bigger assignment for Brennan was a fait accompli given the timing of the Francis pontificate and former Bishop Campbell turning 75 during it. Certainly didn’t help that the new U.S. apostolic nuncio appointed by Francis in 2016 - who has a decisive impact on who gets recommended to the pope - advocates for illegal immigrants and joined demonstrations and meetings with Texas-Mexico border bishops. You can’t get a better fit for that nuncio than Brennan, who took it upon himself to learn Spanish to better minister to legals and illegals in New York. In the Francis era it's surely more useful to know Spanish than theology.  On the other hand, Brennan was made auxiliary bishop by Pope Benedict (although I suspect mere auxiliary bishops get scant attention from the pope).

So color me not super excited/enthused by the prospect of the bishop fund drive this year.

March 10, 2019

Cruise Trip Log

Up by 7am for this travel day and grateful for the (rare) multiple hours before a flight. 2:40 flight so don’t uber till 12:40. Started packing at 8:30; by 8:45 headed out with dogs for a last walk, then off to pet kennel (faulty GPS directions annoying, coupled with navigation difficulties on the new car). Finally got there and Max was all in, loved the idea, while Maris wanted to head back home.

More packing, short elliptical workout and shower and - voila! - by 11:40 all done and ready. All the overhead accomplished (meanwhile Doug and Jean have already been in Fort Lauderdale for hours!). But I wasn’t keen on getting there early - it’s surprisingly difficult to pack, get dogs dropped off, etc.. on a work day before an early getaway day. Or so I like to think. Nice to have shower, food and java in me. Ready to rest!

So Doug and Jean got there early and drank and partied and played badminton all day and too tired to come over to the mermaid show (actual live “mermaids” - females with fins - swimming in a tank at a restaurant at our hotel). If you’re too tired for mermaids, you’re too tired for life. Seems very Vegas-y. And in fact, this hotel has hosted stars like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Marilyn Monroe, and, during the 1960s, the New York Yankees during their spring trainings. Hostess said bar is identical to how it was orginally. Doug had gotten ripped off by not staying at our nice hotel. Some fly-by-night intermediary website cancelled his reservation.

A woman came around at The Wreck Bar to round up signatures of everyone in the bar in order to appear on TV. We were planning on leaving since we just finished eating but were tempted to stick around for the sheer spectacle of it. Only in Florida! We signed the waiver, and I tried to get Doug and Jean to come but understandably they exhausted from their trip - Phyllis had gotten up at 5am the past two mornings. It was kind of funny to see Jeannie teasing Doug in her texts about his lack of energy despite being four years younger than her. Funny because Doug is usually the one with all the late night energy teasing Jean or me. But 50 aint’ 30, that’s for sure.

The (un)reality TV show is centered around female wrestlers, WWE. They didn’t look like wrestlers, that’s for sure, being dressed up, wearing TV pancake makeup, and looking more svelte and than bulked - more Housewives of L.A. than Hulk Hogan. For awhile I couldn’t understand what professional wrestlers had to do with a mermaid show (were they going to be mermaids for the night?) but it became obvious when around 9:15 we suddenly had the four “characters” (wrestlers) waltz in and take the table in front of us followed by a couple camera men, a lighting man and a boom mike.

Steph thought it anticlimactic and it was but then television always is. I looked at the earnest camera man who had been there since 8pm, an intelligent looking guy, and I kept thinking that he was thinking: “I studied photography for this?!”. Felt bad for him.

He always getting me in the shot which annoyed me because I couldn’t gape at the spectacle and had to pretend disinterest. Around 9:30 the mermaid show began and it was certainly different, although at the same time it was pretty much what you’d expect - sort of synchronized underwater ballet performed by bikini-topped women with legs wrapped in sheaves of fin. Think Ethel Merman meets Daryl Hannah in Splash. They held their breath for quite some time and we were told ( I was skeptical) they could hear everything in the bar and that we should offer encouragement and cheers.

Had two delicious Cigar City Jai Alai IPAs at dinner. It was chaos as it was and I had to seek out the waitress since they weren’t taking orders or dropping off checks due to the filming.

Day 2

Full day on cruise, 10:30am on! Ship is Independence of the Seas, which is our first time sailing although seems very similar as our typical one (Liberty). All these names sound alike (i.e...Freedom, Independence, Liberty...). Uber was smooth and ran into Doug and Phyllis in line for boat! What a coincidence! Doug was bringing extra wine and needed me there so without that fortunate meeting he would’ve lost at least one bottle. He snuck in with us platinum members though he’s only gold status.

Headed up for a 10:30 feast at wind jammer. Earliest by far we’ve ever boarded a ship. Lunch slowed as we waited for Jean and bill to join. Bill humorously went up multiple times to buffets and meticulously looked over every fragment of food. Around 1:15 we hit our cabin followed by sunbathing topside. I ran for 25 mins before beer o’clock with Doug and Phyllis. 3:45 muster, ugh.

Post-muster = Heaven! Peace beyond all understanding is gently moving out of port, the wind low, the water a lullaby, the sun a caress. Very contemplative. Funny to go on a cruise with 4500 people and feel a blissful rest akin to being on a deserted island - that is, the island of a private balcony.

It feels almost mystical - the shellacked waves beating a path directly towards our cabin, (we facing the western side of the ship presently). A bountiful reap of sun, seemingly magnified by the waters. I have a great hunger to read and a great hunger to just soak in the scenery.

It’s the best cruising gets, the calm period just outside of port, before the fierce ocean winds make the balcony loud with howling wind.

Today Doug and Jean, who prefer late dinners, are eating after the 7:15 comedian show. We’re doing solo dinner at 5:45. Don’t want indigestion before bed like yesterday. But tomorrow, formal night, we’ll go with their timing so we can all be together.

Dinner wasn’t exactly my thing. Our “private dining” experience consisted of a table separated from the next one by three inches. It’s basically one long table separated into segments by a tiny amount of space which allows the fiction of “privacy” without any of what privacy is actually for. Very jesuitical. The folks next to you can more easily hear you talking than your spouse who is sitting across the table (rather than three inches away from you on your side).

So we had a woman sitting next to us was solo since her husband didn’t want to get dressed up to go to the dining even though there was no requirement to dress up at all (I wore shorts and flip-flops). She was a talker and talk she did, telling us her life story, which at least is an improvement on small talk. Had a joint on Bob Marley grave tour and could barely make it up the hill. The odd thing is she and her husband are retired and yet they made little income during their lifetime such that she receives only $660 a month in social security and he $1800 a month. This translates to about $30k a year. And yet they cruise frequently, just the two of them, and only book the very expensive junior suite because the bathroom is bigger. They are doing a back-to-back cruise this time, staying on the boat for another 5-day cruise after this 4-day cruise is done. They also go to the restaurants you have to pay for (instead of pre-paid). So guessing they probably came into some money via inheritance.

Afterward we went to the comedy/variety show, just a 45 minute introduction that was mostly fluff except for the short 15 minute comedian part. He was pretty funny and I would like to have gone to his full show but it was at 11:15, way too late.

Day 3

Surprised to learn Royal is now charging $10 for breakfast room service, boo. That did seem too good to be true. Their business model seems to be to keep the rate as low as possible and then nickel and dime you. I guess no such thing as a free breakfast, even on a prepaid plan! We went ahead and did it anyway since one of our huge delights is eating breakfast on our balcony while overlooking the ocean (from 6 stories up).

It was delicious, and it’s such a cool thing for me since I’m always bringing food home when at home, so it’s great to have someone deliver to me. Since you can order any amount of food for the same price, I had a ham and cheese omelette, cereal, a donut, bacon milk, coffee, orange juice! A kingly breakfast.

In fact, a cruise is arguably the closest thing a commoner can experience to mimic living as a king: unlimited food, servants cooking and cleaning for you, commanding view of the sea, and “jesters” entertaining you. Basically frictionless living.

Surprised how easygoing the wind is this trip. Usually it’s a wind tunnel. Not sure if because boat only going to one place (Cozumel) and so is going slow, or if the weather is just cooperating. Regardless it’s been a joy to be on balcony so far. Wondrous hours on balcony until duty called in the form of exercise at gym. Saw Jean in there hard at work! Made plans to meet at Windjammer post-workout, so we had a second big meal at 12:30! Then up to 12th floor for some sun time. The rest joined me a half-hour later and Doug wanted to do something active (of course) so I went with him and Bill to a “flowrider” where you boogie board against a strong current in a pool. We started waiting in line but then went on a tube ride instead. You go down this water tube and that was a good adrenalin flush. Doug of course thought it was nothing, a baby run.

Then at 4 o’clock we had a free-throw shooting contest. Eighteen contestants (Doug bowed out saying he couldn’t shoot) so Bill and I toed the line. The top 6 or 7 would advance. I made 3 of 8 and Bill made 2 of 8 and you needed to make 4 to make the finals so we were out, boo. It was nice to shoot some hoops though and it was worth it for that and to burn a couple calories. Feel like I’m 20 again when dribbling the basketball.

Later Steph caught me trying to smoke cigar on the balcony so I was banished to the Siberia of the pool smoking area where a movie was playing at 150 decibels. From one of my books, written by a cardinal of the Church: “Noise has no moderation, like a ship without a captain on a raging sea, whereas silence is a paradise, like a limitless ocean.”

Nice formal dinner. Bill wore a tie and Doug a suit and tie but I went casual as was my plan. The food was better tonight, an amazingly good steak.

Day 4

Today was the big day, the Cozumel day. We docked around 7am and got a late breakfast served after packing and readying for Mexico. Jean and Bill were surprisingly early for them, arriving at 9:40am versus the 9:30 agreed upon time but more daunting was that Jean, who had booked this excursion didn’t have a starting time. So we were flying blind even though we did have a destination: Marti’s Sporting Goods. It wasn’t easy getting there as three of our party of six got separated from the other three when a Mexican policeman blocked our access to the sidewalk. I yelled “Bill!” but he heard too late and we headed through a maze of stores before rejoining the others. Well, except for Doug who had gone looking for us, so we waited for him for awhile. Apparently the policeman wanted to make sure that we walked by the stores instead of just going the direct route to get to the main street.

Finally we arrive at Marti’s but there’s no sign that this is where we should be until a Mexican dude named Jared shows up. It seems as though our timing couldn’t be better as he showed up just when we did. He said we should’ve gotten a confirmation email with the time but Jean couldn’t find it; later he said that she had made the reservation for Feb. 2nd instead of March 2nd and that he had showed up more or less as a lark in case someone showed up. He found the $90 deposit and Bill and I paid our part and voila, we were on the tour. Jean and given us her ID/Password last night to check her email (since she didn’t buy the Wifi package on board) for time of event, but website said “invalid password”. Then today she couldn’t log onto her PayPal due again to failed password.

Our first stop was a local tequila joint (Tequilera Reyes) handled adeptly by a practiced salesperson who gave us a short history of tequila and later gave us many, many tastes. I’d say I had at least ten half-shots. It worked its magic and all of us were amazed how smooth and un-tequila-like these drinks were. So much so that Billy paid $239 for the top of the line 18-year aged bottle. Wow. I bought a $99 minimum sipping quality, a seven-year aged, and Doug and Phyllis bought a couple amaretto bottles.

Next stop was an authentic Mexican bar (Los Mangales), that, by virtue of it being 11:30am, was almost empty. We came in and, cue the music, someone put on some loud Mexicano music - and we had very, very spicy chicken wings and Dos Equis beers. The wings, chips and six beers and the total came to...drumroll... $10. Wow. That’s the price of one drink on board ship.

We traveled to the unpopulated eastern side of the island by van while drinking copious amounts of a cooler full of beer, cans of Kloster Light, which tasted the same as Bud Light. Open container is allowed in Mexico, in a car or on foot. As Jean said, why are why not living in Mexico where the weather is good and you have the freedom to drink outside in public! America, land of the semi-free.

Next up was Coconuts, a colorful thatched bar that offered stunning views of the Caribbean on a picture-perfect (literally picture perfet) sunny day. The bar was festooned with t-shirts from colleges and schools all over the U.S. including, surprisingly, one from Aaron’s Lasalle high school. OSU was naturally represented but no Miami. There were also a lot of women’s underwear and the staff brought out albums of gals who had visited and showed their boobs for a free margarita.

Coconuts offered very strong margaritas. Just ask Steph! I had a brew instead.

Our next bar was a little mom & pop shack along the ocean. Doug and Phyllis got in a tiny hammock for pictures. We got free shots there as well. Steph gave me hers of course.

And our final stop was where we could eat a free lunch (well, included in the price) and afterward snorkel. Doug, Bill, Jean and I went in and fed the fish some tortillas. There were a good number of fish but mostly all big-bodied silver fish, only one pretty blue “Nemo”.

The van headed back at the dock where I found a unique coffee beaded rosary (using actual coffee beans) for Mom. Back to the ship around 4:30 our wallets much lighter but much fun was had. Even Steph, despite (because of?) the over indulgence.

Smoked a cigar briefly with Doug and Phyllis at teeming swimming pool with painfully loud music on. Since Steph strictly enforces no cigar smoking on balcony, I’m left with smoking only in auditory hell (up on 11 with the vulgar 150-decibel music). Jean and Bill did their own thing for dinner so just Doug, Phyllis and us in the dining hall.

Day 5

Breakfast and coffee was scheduled to be delivered at 7:30 but 8 o’clock went by and then 8:30 and then 9 and so I went down to pick up coffee to wait some more. So much for my kingship! Short-lived indeed. So goes the kingship of all earhtly kings. We eventually gave up and ate at windjammer.

Thought of water on the sea and how it’s odd that no matter where you are sitting on the boat the sun forms a line directly to you. The optics of this is (sort of) explained on Wikipedia: “This is due to the fact that when sunlight falls on the ocean's surface, it's reflected in all directions, but you see the illuminated line due to the light rays that are specifically entering your eyes.”

Feels sort like of a metaphor for God since although he’s shining on everybody at the same time, it feels like, when you’re praying he’s shining directly on you? Like how he’s simultaneously communicating with everyone but it feels individualized.

Surprised how much warmer the temps on this cruise are compared to January or early February trips. Could be due to weather luck or maybe a month difference really matters in Caribbean. The ocean view reminds me of a large farmer’s field of corn: sun undulating on the royal blue of the waters or the dark green of silken stalks. Both endless, flat vista. Uncluttered and clean-swept. Moving canvas of blue.

The odd thing is that land is the exception rather than the rule on this earth and yet it feels the reverse given how we all se land about 99% of the time. Similarly, even if there’s life somewhere else in the universe, life is the huge exception rather than the rule. Just ask the folks on Mars or Pluto.

Jonah Goldberg the other day mentioned how the oceans are mostly barren deserts but if you throw a concrete brick it will “create” life, an ecosystem, because amoebas and algae can form on the brick because it gives them something to hold on to. From there little fish nibble at the new food source, then larger fish and so on till you have a burgeoning reef. This is why environmentalists approve of used oil rigs being simply knocked down and allowed to drift to the ocean floor. Sometimes it takes a derrick to raise a village.

For some reason the old Dionne Warwick song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” came to mind and so I played it on my iPhone. The irony is that the dreamy escape from busy L.A. to then backwater San Jose is dated now that San Jose is the center of Silicon Valley. “Fame and fortune is a magnet / It can pull you far away from home.” Wise words spiritually as well.

Spent nice time on deck, perfect temp with slight breeze, but at 3pm comes deafening music time. Gives me an earache and I’m pretty far from the source of the music. Later, wonderous balcony, beautifully quiet and quietly beautiful.

I see cruising as a semi-nature vacation - like camping but with a steadier supply of food. Ha.

At dinner, Jean wanted to rally and beat fatigue by drinking a combo of hard liquor and Red Bull. She had two of them, despite having never drank a Red Bull before! Bold!

Doug ended up $250 at the casino which made me think, dang I should’ve gone with him. I didn’t think anyone actually won money there. And he did it mostly by playing that most easygoing of card games, blackjack.

Day 6

Silky smooth roll from boat - breakfast at 7:45, left by 8:25 and at hotel less than an hour later. My latest reads: “Alienated America” by Tim Carney and a Florida novel called “Trap Line” by Carl Hiaasen. Cool to read about fishing boats while in Florida on (and now off) a ship.

Poor Doug and Jean trapped in airport Hell.

Here at B Ocean Resort, generous sun, absurdly blue sky, and the Florida chic of pastel blue buildings and orange pool umbrellas. German-speaking couple in front of us. Burnt from sun yesterday, so satisfied with some shade in the slight breeze. The infinity pool idea is something of a mirage since you face the pool not the ocean. Pool bodies here adhere strictly to age: the older, the fatter, perhaps proving that slimness is less a personal virtue than a byproduct of youth.

Lady at pool reading book “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober”. Which is the much anticipated sequel to: “The Expected Joy of Being Drunk”.

Water here is clear and the two-tone hues fetching. Sand is like quicksand so running was a heck of an effort. Spring break so lots of college kids. Not ideal week to be here! Guy at counter said every hotel in Lauderdale booked up.

Hotel playing loud music (of course) but at least it’s 80s tunes. Some I haven’t heard since the 80s. Feels downright time-warpish. Young girls with bodies shy of the perfections to come, like green-ish bananas.

We briefly visited the second pool till 5:30 and then headed on bikes (available as part of resort fee here) towards a Winn-Dixie 2 miles away. We got a little over a half mile up the road before turning around. Too much traffic on roads and too much foot traffic on sidewalk. Plus there was a big uphill stretch Steph wasn’t keen to do. So we headed back and found a small market on the other side of us and I picked up snacks and beer.

Ordered room service at 7 and by 7:30 had delicious blackened fish sandwiches with frees and salad. From 8-10pm we watched a Office marathon. Surprising how well the shows held up. Seems like a couple of those episodes we may’ve even missed. It was Season 3, episodes 22-25, before it jumped the shark.

Day 7

I think this is the most southerly beach we’ve stayed in Florida ever (don’t think we actually stayed in Key West). New Smyrna Beach is a whopping 230 miles north and the waters and sand are correspondingly very different, Fort Myers on the other side of Florida is about 50 miles north. The temperature difference is surprising. For Sanibel in January and February the average temps are mid 50s to mid 70s... here the averages are low 60s to high 70s. Whopper-sized temperature difference between here and Columbus: 77 versus 13. I suspect that’s the biggest differential ever seen while on a vacation.

Teen next to me says, “Holy shit.” Young people here unwittingly offer homage to the tradition they’ve inherited in a thousand ways but perhaps most obviously by language. All words and phrases short of neologisms are handed down from their elders.

More crowded already at 9:30 as yesterday at 10:30 and worse they’re playing music that sound like dying quail. And so in go my AirPods.

Great “turn-about” line in Cardinal Sarah’s book about silence: “Love is always humble, silent, ...on is knees before its beloved... Jesus was on his knees, washing his apostles feet.” Wow, another sign of my missing Christ’s love for me, of a mutual devotion. (Actually, his is much more intense.) I reflexively think it’s a one way street given the mismatch in lovableness.

Saw a ship seemingly going up on the beach. It encouraged me to walk to where it had “beached”; turns out there’s a sharp right turn on the beach separated by giant boulders. The ship was labeled Maersk, a huge Danish international container shipping company and the largest by fleet size.

Steph not happy with this place given the ugly brown sand that doesn’t pack down, the loud spring breakers, the expense, the location (on busy road with cop cars sirens constantly blaring to catch bad college kids), and the fact that an attendant tried to deny us a beach chair at 4:40 because he was packing up before 5pm “chair closing”.

But we had our 20 minutes on the beach. Then we stayed for awhile on beach towels as I smoked a cigar. Back to the pool as it had chilled at windy beach, and we let the sun go down while on uber-comfy loungers there...


March 08, 2019

Why So Many Illegals? Thank Bill Clinton

Interesting backstory to why Mexican illegal immigration took over over past couple decades from Eric Scheske's podcast:
"When I grew up in this town there were like two Mexican families and then by the next summer they're all over the place. What happened?  I heard this from Benedict Groeschel.  He pointed out to me, and I've verified it since, that it was Bill Clinton who caused the problem. For generations, at least 50-100 years, Mexicans had come up from Mexico to work in the agriculture industry and they relied on that money, busted their humps in United States for six months, went back and hung out and took it easy for six months in winters in Mexico.  They came and went and it was quite peaceful.  Labor unions pressured Clinton administration in 1990s to shut down that program and reduce number of workers to come across the border to increase union wages. It didn't work, we needed the workers and people here didn't want those jobs and all that happened was they had to sneak across the border in order to do the jobs their families had been doing for generations.

But once they snuck over they didn't want to sneak back the next year, it would be far too risky, so they just stayed here. That's where the problem came from.  That's the primary cause of this Mexican population that we have, that Clinton just basically shut down the work visa program.  That was bad enough, but then we as a country one up'd that.  Mexicans who stayed ended up getting other jobs, in factories and other places, but when you hire someone they have to fill out an IRS form that has the social security number.  The IRS would reject it because the Mexican had just made one up. So the Mexican would make up a new number and the IRS would say nothing. At that point the IRS and federal government knew that factory had an illegal alien working there.  And they did nothing - and do you know why they did nothing?  Two reasons: one, we needed the workers and the unions got their victory on paper only.  But two, more importantly, the Democrats shining gem in their history, what they think is their shining gem, Social Security, was broken.  And they knew it was broken as baby boomers began to retire, so they bring in all these Mexicans, you accept their bogus SSNs and deduct 7.6% of their salary for Social Security, you put them into the system to bolster your broken system and you know the Mexicans then cannot draw the money later because they gave a bogus SSN.  It's quite insidious, these Mexicans are not wealthy people, you are basically depriving the poor of their wages."