Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some Stuff: Good, bad and wet...

Trillum, one of my favorite spring wildflowers
Good news.  This week, in preparation for meeting with my endocrinologist, I had a series of blood test.  If you remember, back in February, my A1C (which tells what your blood sugar has been over a three month period, was off the charts at 15.4.  On Tuesday, it was 5.9!  Of course, this has required a lot of constant monitoring and pricking of fingers and adjusting insulin needs.  (In February I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.)

Last Friday, I went hiking with a fellow blogger.  I found this little mushroom and thought I'd share a picture (especially for Ed Abbey).  The ought to be more fungus growing as much rain as we've been getting.

Today was my annual trip to see the Detroit Tigers play.  They were up against the Boston Red Sox.  It rained almost all the way to Detroit, then it cleared up.  When the game began, it was even warm in the sun.  But that lasted until the fifth inning when the rain returned.  It poured.  I had on a rain coat and opened an umbrella for my pants, that I held between my knees.  At the bottom of the eighth, they called a rain delay and later called the game, which is just as well as the Tigers were down 14-1.

Most everyone had left the stands!
I have always suspected a lot of folks use my book reviews for book report...  Anytime someone Googles for a "book report" of one of my reviews (which happens many times a day), that's what I expect is happening..   That said, I not seen anyone as honest and desperate as this guy or gal.  I had fun "playing with him" as we chatted back and forth in the comment section for my review of the book, Lay that Trumpet in Our Hands.

Beka. said...
I have a question! How can i put this in a essay?
sage said...
Beka, what do you mean?
Beka. said...
I need to write a essay on this book. I need help,please.
Beka. said...
I have to write a 5 paragraph essay on this book I NEED YOUR HELP!
sage said...
Beka, have you read the book?
Beka. said...
I am writing a essay on this book and i need help please!
Beka. said...
haha. no... That is why i need your help!
Beka. said...
no that is whyy i need your help!
sage said...
Beka, read the book! Do the work! Don't steal it, you'll get caught. BTW, who are you?
Sunday, May 01, 2011 11:30:00 PM

Just remember, the weekend begins tomorrow.  Have a good one.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Speaking of Trains

I know I haven’t been around much lately.  Blogger had problems last week and ever since, I’ve been running at 90 miles an hour.   Time is getting short (and I’m not talking about the potential of being raptured later today).  On June 1st, I go on sabbatical and there is so much to do!  Then, on June 4th, I am flying to Jakarta, where I’ll begin my exploration of the world via trains and other slow modes of transportation.  I’ll start out exploring Java via train (the line from Jakarta to Yogyakarta is supposed to be incredible).  Then it will be on to Singapore and taking the train (and bus) through Malaysia and Thailand, on through Cambodia (bus and boat) to Vietnam where I will head north on train, to China and then on through Mongolia and Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.  Travel back to the US will be on Holland American lines.   I’ll be out of the country until mid-September.    During my absence, my posting will be spotty at best.  But I do plan to return with many more stories to tell…

The post card is from the early 1950s.  I will not be taking a train across Canada, but I had the card in my stamp collection and decided to post a photo of it. 

Friday, May 13, 2011


What happened?  I had this posted this two days ago.  Yesterday, I was having problems with blogger and couldn't post any comments.  This morning I notice this post was missing (along with its comments).  It was in the "edit stage" (without photos).  It's like Blogger went back three days...  I lost the post and the comments on this post (and I think I lost a couple of comments from other posts).  So here, I am posting this again!

Robin Lee Graham with Derek L. T. Gill, Dove (Harpers, 1972, HarpersPerennial edition, 1991), 199 pages plus 32 inserted pages of photos.

I first read about Robin Lee Graham in National Geographic. As a kid, in the late 60s and early 70s, his story of sailing around the world excited my imagination and opened my mind to the possibilities that had previously not existed. Recently, in reading Unsinkable, the story of Abby Sunderland attempt to sail solo and no-stop around the world, I thought about Graham’s story and was reminded that in addition to the three National Geographic articles, he’d written a book. I ordered a used copy from Amazon and, a few days after it arrived, I finished reading it. Had I not been so busy, I’d finished it the day it arrived. I was quickly drawn into the narrative and many of the photos I remembered from those old dog-eared magazines.

At the age of 16, Robin Lee Graham set out to sail around the world in a 24 foot sloop named “Dove.” It was 1965. Five years later, with the world having changed, he returns, becoming the youngest person at the time to sail solo around the world. His itinerary reflects some of the world’s changes. Originally he planned to go through the Suez Canal, but it was closed after the 1967 war and Graham found himself heading around the horn of Africa, where he witnessed firsthand the impact of apartheid. Yet, he also has fond memories of South Africa and its people. It is there he and Patti (an American he’d met in the South Seas) marries. As he ends the journey, Patti is the pregnant and the book ends after the birth of their first child.

This book is intensely personal. Graham writes about the loneliness he feels and his struggle to leave port after having enjoyed time on the land. It is the encounter with different cultures that makes this book so fascinating (and sets it apart from Unsinkable). Like Sunderland, Graham grew up on boats and had sailed with his family to the South Seas when he was younger. Graham also writes lovingly about Patti (after meeting her) and is excited about their upcoming child. In many ways, the book is highly idealistic, which was a lot like middle-class America in 1965. The world was filled with possibilities! Graham sets out to sail the world with pocket change and without the benefit of a radio or electronic communications (In South Africa, he installs a two-way radio). He navigates with a sextant. He finds he has to stay up on lookout at night, especially in shipping lanes, and goes for days without much rest. He relies of his own ability to make repairs. And he reads! When he gets back, he notes that although he’d missed much of high school, he could ace any class on geography or literature but he might need help in mathematics (which is doubtful as he was able to do the calculations required to navigate without electronics).

One thing I didn’t remember from the National Geographic articles was Graham’s religious conversions (maybe it wasn't there). He begins reading the Bible in the Galapagos Islands and after coming back to the States he and Patti (he’d earlier described them both as pagans) become a part of a church. His conversion wasn’t instant or rapid, but a slow process. In his journey, Graham had learned that he didn’t need a lot to be happy. He learned to appreciate how unique and wonderful people are around the world. And he learned to appreciate God’s creation.

In a way this book seems way too idealistic, but reading it gives me hope and reminds me of a time before I was so cynical! It also reminds me of how fresh and exciting young love can be, for as much as this is a book about sailing around the world, it’s also a love story between Graham and Patti. I recommend it.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

1962: Sage is the cute guy on the left.

It was the summer of hell for my mother.  I barely remember it and I’m not sure I have all the details exactly right.  I know some of my memories are from what my mother later told me, but there are a few snippets that I recall.  I was five years old.  My brother would have turned four that July and in August, my sister would have turned three.  My father was away, in Baltimore, training for a new job that would eventually take us away from our family’s ancestral lands in the Sandhills of North Carolina.  We were living between Pinehurst and Carthage, next to my great-grandparents, on land that had been settled my umpteenth great-grandfather McKenzie over 200 years earlier.     Dad would come home occasionally on the train, and we’d pick him up at the station in Southern Pines.  On Sunday night, we’d take him back to the station and he’d get a sleeper and ride through the night, getting back to Baltimore in time for work the next morning.  But mostly, Dad wasn’t home that summer. Mom was alone (we’ll she also had her grandmother, but she was also taking care of her along with the three children she had to deal with.  And then pestilence struck.

I don’t remember who got sick first, but before the summer was out all three of us would have a bout of the chicken pox, the measles and the mumps.  I especially remember my brother with the mumps.  My sister and I only had them on one side, but the glands on both sides of my brother were inflamed and for a while he walked around looking like someone had over-inflated his head.   With us all sick, we had to find ways to occupy ourselves as we were essentially quarantined.  One day, I found several sticks of lipstick that my mother had thrown out.  Even then I was into recycling and suggested to my siblings that we all become Indians.   While my mother was cooking, the three of us drew designs on our faces, using the lipstick as war paint.   Lightning bolts ran down our cheeks and wavy lines went across our foreheads.  We were proud of our new status as we danced around in the backyard, ready to go on the warpath.  When Mom looked out from the kitchen window, she wasn’t amused.  She immediately ran out, all upset that we’d gotten into her make-up.  “Don’t worry, Mom,” I assured her, “this is stuff you’ve thrown away.”  A look of horror came over her face as she explained why those tubes of lipstick were in the trash.  She’d accidently knocked them into the toilet bowl.  At that point, we too were horrified and my mother immediately marched us into the bathroom and into the tub where we were properly disinfected.

“Cleanliness is godliness,” my mother believed.  She always packed Lysol on trips and wouldn’t allow us to use the hotel bathroom until after she disinfected everything.  She was big on disinfecting.  But then, she was just trying to keep her family safe.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  I know you no longer talk on the phone, and don't recognize us, but you raised us well.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Four Corners of the Sky

Michael Malone, The Four Corners of the Sky (Napersville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2009), 547 pages

Flying has always been in Annie Peregrine’s blood. As a child, her father called her a “flyer” and “gave” her and old plane he’d won in a card game. She is now a top-notch Navy pilot who is teaching at Annapolis and is scheduled to fly an experimental aircraft with the hope of breaking a speed record. Taking some time off before the test flight, she heads back to North Carolina to back to the Peregrine home back in North Carolina to reconnect with family and friends. She was raised by her Aunt Sam and her “Uncle” Clark. They aren't married (they’re not even lovers, as her aunt is a lesbian), but they both raised Annie after her father abandoned her at the age of seven. Annie’s life is in turmoil (She is trying to obtain a divorce from her cheating husband), but she has no idea just how bad things will become before they improve. On her drive back to North Carolina, she receives a call from a police detective from Miami, looking for her father (she hasn't talked to him since she was a young girl). Over the next few days, her life goes into a tailspin as she learns her father is dying and has a need for her to fly the airplane that he’d given her to St. Louis. Fearing this might be her last chance to learn about her mother, she heads off, flying in stormy weather. From there, it’s off to Miami and even to Cuba, all in the hunt for her mother, her father and an old Spanish treasure that was taken from a sunken galleon. At the end of the book, her life is back together. She’s divorced and has remarried; she has learned about her true mother and has a new found respect for her father (you’ll have to read the book to learn the details). She even learns that her best friend is also her cousin and this woman (who is a psychiatrist) life is back together as she has lost enough weight to once again dress in a size eight.

This is a complex story. There is the African-American Vietnam-vet, who’d lost his legs when his fighter crashed into the China Sea. Legless, he runs an airport and teaches Annie to fly. Clark is also a Vietnam Veteran. Her neighbor, Trevor, works for the FBI. Her ex-husband, who was also a Navy pilot, is now the president of the family Jet business. She and her husband both fought in the Gulf War. Her father’s side kick is a Jewish refugee from Cuba and another con-artist. Her family has a long history, going back to the Civil War. As the story unfolds, we learn of family secrets going back several generations, which provides clues as to why things are the way they are. And then there are the lines from movies (and Shakespeare) that get sprinkled throughout the book.

Although I liked the book, I found it long and dragging at points. It seems that Malone could have tightened up the story a bit. I was a little disappointed that this book wasn't very funny. Having read Malone’s earlier novel, Handling Sin, which is hilarious, I was looking for some good belly laughs. Instead, I found this book to be a bit “soap operatic,” which shouldn't be surprising as Malone (who is now a professor at Duke) has made a career writing script for soap operas. I also found the plot to be similar to Handling Sin. In both books, a father has abandoned the family and then sends off his abandoned child (in Handling Sin, the main character is a man) on a wild goose chase that has a tie to past wars (in Handling Sin, it was the Civil War, in The Four Corners of the Sky, it’s the Spanish American War). There are also other similarities in the way the books are wrapped up with everything restored to a “new normal.” Both of these books are like a Shakespearean comedy, where the world gets turned upside down only to be restored and everyone to live “happily ever-after.”

If you haven’t read Malone, I would encourage you to first check out is earlier novel, Handling Sin (the link is to my review). It is one of the funniest books I’ve read. As for this book, it’s okay, but not great.

Folks, life is real busy right now.  I may be late getting around to check on your blogs.

Monday, May 02, 2011

On Bin Laden's Death

As an American, I went to bed happy last night after learning of the death of Osama Bin Laden, a man capable of great evil, and one who had brought much suffering into the world.  Yet I felt a tinge of guilt at the jubilation I and others were feeling, and have spent much of the past 18 hours wondering about what an appropriate Christian response to Bin Laden’s death should be.  How should those of us who attempt to follow the man from Galilee, who teaches us to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors, handle the death of an enemy who has been responsible for so much evil in the world?  Should we rally and jump for joy, or should we be more subdued and ponder the deeper mysteries of life and death?   I think the latter is more appropriate.

In the Book of Proverbs, we’re advised not to gloat over the demise of our enemies.  Such behavior is not pleasing to our God (Proverbs 24:17-18).  King David had an opportunity to gloat over the death of his enemy, King Saul, whose death opened the way for David to assume the throne.  But David grieved for Saul and his sons (2 Samuel 1).  Death should always remind us of our humanity.  Although God has created us with remarkable abilities, we are not God, and once life is gone we cannot restore it.  At the time of death, we should be humbled.  Bin Laden was obviously endowed by his Creator with great talents which could have been used in ways to have alleviated suffering in the world.  Instead of using his talents in such a manner, Bin Laden used his talents to build a network of hate and evil.  We should grieve over a life wasted and which caused such much pain.   But we should also remember that Bin Laden, although an evil man, is not the author of evil.  Just because he is dead doesn’t mean that the world is going to all of a sudden become a harmonious place.  Evil is still present.  We all will still face temptations and, until this age ends, we will still have to deal with evil people.  And although few of us are capable of the evil of a man like Bin Laden, none of us are completely sinless. 

At a time such as this, we should humble ourselves before God and one another, confessing our own sins and the sins of the human race.   We should thank God for those who were brave enough to carry out this mission, but we should not celebrate over their accomplishment.  Instead, we should continue to pray, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer, for God’s will to be done and God’s kingdom to come.  And finally, we should challenge evil, not just with the sword, but with acts of charity and kindness, demonstrating grace.