Friday, July 29, 2005


Today it seems I get to be the guy on the plane flying from Mobile to Atlanta.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Crazy From the Heat

The skill that's necessary to live out of a hotel room in southern Mississippi in July is the ability to just go with the flow; basically to just abandon all self will and determination and allow yourself to be the guy in the rental car going to the job site, eating fast food for lunch and Ruby Tuesday's for dinner. Resisting the reality of who and where you are is what creates the tension and the yearning for things to be different, and it is those feelings that causes the frustration and suffering of life on the road.

It's not all bad. I've upgraded to a better hotel than last week. This week's car is a total piece of shit, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that it will be a different car next week. The high-speed internet connection is now fairly reliable, both at the job site and at the hotel. There's a nice running trail along the Gulf shore here in town.

It's not that there isn't a lot to keep me busy. The days are spent at the job site, and at night, there's catching up on the office and home emails, zazen, reading the stack of back-issue magazines that I brought with me, and, of course, blogging.
So, the key is to just accept whoever it is you are at the present moment. It doesn't matter if you're a bag lady or the guy in the hotel room off of I-10. You might find yourself living in the suburbs with a husband and three kids, or a U.S. Senator, or the guy behind the counter at a gas station convenience store. Today, I get to be this guy. Who knows what I get to be tomorrow?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


By midweek, I needed a change of pace from Pascagoula, so I got into my rent-a-car and drove over to Mobile.

Ah, Mobile, the home of Jimmy Buffet, Satchel Paige and Homerin' Hank Aaron; the site of the country's oldest Mardi Gras and the Battle of Mobile Bay ("damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"); the USS Alabama; the Azalea City, the Old South, the Deep South, the Gulf South.

Well, I missed the "Mardi Gras Parade in July" by one day. I won't go into detail on what I did find, but let's just say that I came back to Pascagoula with the phone number of a woman named "Star" written on toilet paper.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Happy 30,000!

At 6:33:58 this morning, as I was just getting out of bed and into the shower, someone in the Central Time Zone became the 30,000th visitor to Water Dissolves Water. Using their Firefox browser and their Windows XP operating system, they Googled up this picture of Jesus from my March 20th Palm Sunday post. As the image filled their insanely large 1600 x 1200 pixel monitor (they must like small icons), I wonder if the text was what the picture had led them to believe? I hope that I hadn't offended, although I don't mind if I had challenged them a little.

A few minutes earlier, a visitor from Belgium was the 29,999th visitor, and a few minutes later, an AOLer from Germany was the 30,001.

It was only last month that I got my 20,000th visitor, an East Coaster surfing for pictures of David Bowie, and last March that this blog hit the 10,000-visit level. So, to recap the history of Water Dissolves Water, the blog started in May 2004 and nobody read it all that year. In early 2005, I started getting some hits, reaching the 10,000 visit mark in June. But then readership fell off for a month or two, only to pick back up, and now I'm getting over 200 hits a day, and 10,000 in just a little over a month.
But who are these people, and why do they come here? The largest number of hits are still coming from Google image searches for Jimi Hendrix pictures, followed by Courtney Love. Next comes Google image searches for the painting "Private Dancer" by Jack Vettriano, and interestingly, next a picture of the Virgin Mary holding a t-rex. Those are my top 5 referrals, and all come from the U.S. These are followed by British Google searches for the Vettriano painting, then American searches for a sick Valentine's Day pic that I posted called "I Love You to Death," then The Creation of Adam, and Edith Vonnegut's Goddess. Next it's the Canadians looking for the Hendrix pics, then the Brits, then the Germans, French and Aussies, and so on.

So my strategy earlier this year to increase traffic by posting gratuitous pictures of Jimi Hendrix seems to have payed off. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Anyway, happy 30 thousand. See you at 50!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Birthday in Pascagoula

I flew back to Mobile en route to Pascagoula this morning - this wasn't my pilot although I can dream, can't I?

Actually, our plane sat on the runway for a half hour after boarding in order to get something or other "repaired." In order to maximize our discomfort while we waited, Delta turned off the air conditioning and let the plane bake in the 90 degree Georgia heat. The flight attendants suggested we shut the window shades to keep the plane cool (how about fixing the plane before we board, Delta?).

But eventually, we did leave the Atlanta airport, and flew into the much smaller Mobile terminal. But today's big story (at least for me), is it's my birthday. Fifty one big ones.

So just how old am I? Let's put it this way - I was four months old when the first Air Force One was inaugurated for President Eisenhower. I was born the same year as the Interstate Highway System, the polio vaccine, the four-minute mile and the Newport Jazz Festival. I was born the year of Brown v Board of Education, and the year before Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. I was born the year after Mt. Everest was first successfully climbed.

I was also born along with, and grew up besides, rock 'n' roll. I was alive when Elvis Presley recorded "That's All Right, Mama" and Ray Charles recorded "I Got a Woman."

I got a woman, she's so mean
She throws my shoes in the washing machine.
Beats me up when I'm nude,
Puts chewing gum in my food.

No, Ray didn't sing those words, I'm just goofing on you. But I was one year old when James Brown and the Famous Flames recorded "Please, Please, Please" at WIBB in Macon. I remember being 10 years old when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show (I remember the Ed Sullivan Show). It was only a few years after that when the music got all weird and psychedelic and, well, more interesting. I turned 18 the year Alice Cooper released the single "I'm 18," and graduated high school the same year he released "School's Out (Forever)."

I was in my early 20s when punk rock first emerged and remember feeling old for the first time in my life when I went to Spit, a Boston punk club on Landsdowne Street in the 70s, and stood out among the mostly 18-year-olds in the joint. But my tastes evolved along with the times, and one of the first things that I did when I moved to Atlanta in 1981 was to see Talking Heads in the Agora Ballroom, and my favorite club was the 688 on Spring Street. I remember seeing Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics there. WOW shot herself when I was 44; she was 48.

I was 5 years old the "Day the Music Died," 16 when Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died, 17 when Jim Morrison bit it, 23 when Lynyrd Skynyrd's plane went down (right here in Mississippi), and 25 when Sid Vicious o.d.'d. I was 26 and teaching high school when John Lennon was murdered, and had to explain the significance of this to teenagers whose whole lives were spent during his career. I was 27 and already knew who Bob Marley was when he died, which is more than a lot of people could say. Ditto Stevie Ray Vaughn, who died when I was 36 (in fact, when the news first came out that a plane went down coming from a blues festival, and the press didn't yet know if it was Stevie Ray or Eric Clapton who was on board, I was praying that it was Clapton and not Stevie who died. Eric, Stevie Ray Vaughn died for your sins, and you haven't recorded anything worth his sacrifice). Ditto Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who you probably still don't know (shame on you). I was 39 when Frank Zappa died and 40 when Kurt Cobain killed himself.

Signs that I'm getting old: I was 47 when Aaliyah died, and had no idea who she was or why I should care (still don't). Signs that I'm not that old: I'm only four years older than Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore.

And I'm still younger than Kim Basinger.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

"Western laziness consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues."
- Sogyal Rinpoche

"Simplifying our lives does not mean sinking into idleness, but on the contrary, getting rid of the most subtle aspect of laziness: the one which makes us take on thousands of less important activities."
- Matthieu Ricard

No problem here with western-style laziness - if you thought I did little yesterday, I cut that productivity in half today. At least yesterday I had the excuse of going in to the office in the afternoon. Today, I barely left the house.

Plenty of time to confront the real issues of life, like don't you hate it when you go to turn on a light and the bulb doesn't work, but you didn't get that last-moment pop signaling the end of the lightbulb's life? Did the lightbulb die in its sleep? Did someone else see the bulb pop but not bother to change it, figuring they'd leave it to you? It makes you feel, as you go looking for a replacement, like you were cheated out of the popping flashbulb experience.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, I had to go in to the office today and catch up on some paperwork, complete timesheets, expense reports and labor projections, and sync my email with the office server, since I return to Pascagoula on Monday. Kind of shot the day. . .Coming home after the office, I stopped and got my obligatory Eatzi's salad, and sort of squandered away the rest of Saturday. There's house- and yardwork crying to be done, but I just couldn't find the motivation. Maybe next weekend. . .There was supposed to be a 40th birthday party for my friend Mike C. tonight, but that got cancelled since the new deck on his house wasn't completed yet, so I wound up just staying home at night.
Sorry about this rather boring blog entry, but all work and no play seems to be making Shokai into a dull boy.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Left Pascagoula about 11 a.m. and drove the Hertz rent-a-car back to Mobile, passing Dee's Pecan Company on the way. Now, if that ain't country . . .

Ate a cheesesteak at the airport and had the window seat on the plane next to a pretty woman in a pinstripe business suit heading home to Denver with a Mobile snow-dome for her nine-year-old daughter.

Got back to Hotlanta (98 degrees) around 4:00 and almost immediately got stuck in in-town traffic. Quite a contrast to the last several days in Mississippi. But as Dorothy once said, "There's no place like the Interstate 75/85 Connector."

Oh, and at 11:06 tonight, mercury goes retrograde for another three weeks, and you know what that means . . .

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Last night, trying to make the best of things, I went out in my rent-a-car after work and drove around Pascagoula looking for an alternative to the Interstate culture of my hotel and environs. After some searching, I finally found the shore, but there was no beach - a road runs between some of the wealthier homes in town and the Gulf, but there was at least a nice bicycle/running trail along the road. I made a note to myself to go for a run after work today.

Which didn't happen. As it turns out, a huge thunderstorm came along right about 5:30 p.m. and washed out any ideas I might have had about running along the shore. Which was too bad, because after three days of hotel living, fast food and sedentary work, I could have used the exercise. That, and I really didn't see too much else in Pascagoula to hold my interest.

But all is not bad here. I'm actually starting to acclimate, both to the heat and humidity, and to the rhythm of my days. The wireless connection is now working in my room, so there's one thing. I can watch "Tripping the Rift" on t.v. - they show about four episodes a night. And I can always sit.

But there seems to be a conspiracy against waking me up in the morning. Tuesday night, I asked for a wakeup call, which of course, was never made the next morning. So last night, I programmed the little clock in my hotel room to get me up, and awoke this morning to find if flashing - the lights must have gone out at some point, and when I went into the bathroom, I found that they were still out in that half of my room. Although I did manage to make it to the job site on time both mornings, tonight I'm going to try the belt-and-suspenders approach of both asking for a wakeup call and setting the alarm.

And that's about all I have to show for my week here. The thunder's really booming outside right now, so maybe I'll have an exciting lightning story to tell later, but when all is said and done, I'm glad to be heading home tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


I'm back in Mississippi. Hurricane Emily decided to take on Mexico rather than the U.S., leaving the Gulf Coast unmolested, so I flew down this morning to continue the work I started here last month.

The flight was uneventful, although I just made it with mere minutes to spare (the airport parking lot was full, the security line was a mile long, etc.). The Hertz counter at Mobile was without cars, but after a short wait, they found one for me, and I drove over to the job site in Pascagoula.

I'm staying at a Best Western in some sort of franchise hell off of I-10. There's a whole development here of fast-food restaurants, chain hotels, and gas stations - there's no reason for this little metropolis to exist except for quick access to the Interstate. There're no homes, culture, soul, spirituality or scenic beauty here. The only values seem to be the current price of gasoline, and people's worth is measured by the fullness of their gas tank.

The big attraction in the area appears to be the casinos in nearby Biloxi. Signs along the interstate announce "Wayne Newton!," "Lee Underwood!," and "Cats!." When I think of Mississippi, I think of the land of William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, but I am offered Las Vegas and cheap slots.

Oh, well. I chose the Best Western because it advertised high-speed internet access, but it doesn't seem to be working in any of the rooms - I am typing this in the hotel's breakfast bar along with four or five other guests pecking away at their laptop's keyboards. Company loves misery . . .

Monday, July 18, 2005

Meanwhile . . . .

Over at the U.S. EPA, it was revealed that contracts awarded and out for bid will pay outside public-relations consultants up to $5 million over five years to ghostwrite articles for publication in scholarly journals and magazines, polish the EPA web site and organize focus groups on how to improve the Agency’s image.

The contracts seek help from public relations agencies to, among other things, “provide research, writing and editing of Office of Research and Development articles for publications in scholarly journals and magazines.” Donald Kennedy, the editor of Science magazine and a former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said that he found the idea of a public relations firm ghostwriting for government scientists appalling. "If we knew that it had been written by someone who was not a scientist and submitted as though it were the work of a scientist, we wouldn’t take it,” Mr. Kennedy said. “But it’s conceivable that we wouldn’t know, if it was carefully constructed.”

Meanwhile, over in Congress, an inquiry was initiated by Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas, who heads the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, after two Canadians with no expertise in climate change published papers and opinions challenging a previous study that meshed modern data with evidence of past temperature, like variations in tree rings. The result was a curve showing little variation for nearly 1,000 years and then a sharp upward hook in recent decades.

Scientists and Democratic lawmakers have criticized the inquiry. Now a Republican Representative, Sherwood Boehlert of New York, chairman of the House Science Committee, has joined the critics, sending a letter to Rep. Barton calling the investigation “misguided and illegitimate”. Rep. Boehlert noted that other recent analyses have supported the main conclusion of the study - that the climate’s warming since the late 20th century appears to be significantly outside the bounds of natural variability. Rep. Boehlert said the effort “raises the specter of politicians opening investigations against any scientist who reaches a conclusion that makes the political elite uncomfortable.”

Several scientists dealing with climate and other contentious issues expressed concerns about Rep. Barton’s apparent presumption that Congress might reveal truths that the scientific process cannot. That sentiment was echoed in a letter sent to Rep. Barton by Ralph J. Cicerone, the new president of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the country’s leading atmospheric chemists. Dr. Cicerone said a Congressional investigation “is probably not the best way to resolve a scientific issue, and a focus on individual scientists can be intimidating.”

Meanwhile, over at the White House, President Bush said today that if anyone in his administration committed a crime in connection with the public leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, the wife of administration critic Joseph Wilson, that person will “no longer work in my administration.” Mr. Bush had previously said in 2004 that he would fire anyone in his administration shown to have leaked information that exposed her identity. Today he added the qualifier that it would have be shown that a crime was committed.

The president did not respond directly to a reporter’s question on whether he disapproved of Rove’s telling a reporter that Ms. Plame worked for the CIA.

Time magazine’s Matthew Cooper said that the first he heard about Ms. Plame working for the CIA was a 2003 phone call with Karl Rove. But Rove has insisted (through lawyers) that he did not mention Ms. Plame by name, nor did he intend to “out” her. Cooper explains, “Did Rove leak Plame’s name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes.” Cooper recalled that Rove told him, “I've already said too much” after revealing that Ms. Plame was with the CIA.

Meanwhile, Democrats have called for Rove to be fired, on the basis that he violated a 1982 federal law that prohibits the deliberate exposure of the name of a CIA agent. “The statute does not require that the name be disclosed,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA. “It just says that you cannot intentionally disclose any information identifying a covert agent.”

Sunday, July 17, 2005

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened." -Sir Winston Churchill

Saturday, July 16, 2005

There's nothing much left to say, really, that hasn't already been said about Rovegate / Plamegate / Uraniumgate / Leakgate or whatever it is that we're calling this current scandal this week, except this - it's over. Not the scandal, but the so-called political capital Bush was so looking forward to spending. As this whole thing unravels, and the flimsy and ever-changing rationale for going to war is exposed for the conspiracy that it is, the administration will increasingly find itself more and more on the defensive, its former seemingly invincible position eroding away beneath it. So, no easy nomination of right-wing Supreme Court nominees, no Social Security reform, no broad support for Iraq, no repression of stem-cell research, no moratorium on greenhouse-gas reform.

Second-term presidencies are rarely fun. Nixon had Watergate, impending impeachment and ultimately resignation to deal with. Reagan had Contra-gate, and Clinton had Monica. Bush will ultimately have to accept Rove's resignation to save face from having to fire him, having already foolishly vowed to fire whoever released the name of a CIA operative to the press. But that shouldn't stop the questions about our "rationale" for invading a sovereign foreign nation - why was the administration so desperate for any excuse to invade Iraq that it manufactured the uranium-from-Africa story? Why was it so vindictive that it ratted out the wife of a critic of its stance?

If the Dems play their cards right, it sounds to me that there is a lot more ground for impeachment here than in lying about having sex with an intern.

Poor, dim-witted George Bush - how will you make it through the rest of your second term without Karl Rove?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Letter From Connecticut

From: Artemia Salina
Subject: Eminent Domain: Another Twist
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005 04:00:48

My home town is not what it used to be. The town where I grew up was a sleepy, laid-back little place located on the coast of Connecticut. A quiet mind-your-own-business-and-we'll-mind-ours kind of place. When you were a kid in my home town, you didn't wish for a mini-bike, you wished for a small skiff with a 5 horsepower outboard motor, and you built your forts out in the salt marsh amongst the blue herons and the fiddler crabs.

I've since moved away from my home town, but not so far as to lose touch with the goings-on there, and more recently, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded my home town with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. Yes, the New Yorkers decided that it would be quaint to live in a town like my home town and so began buying up residential real estate at fantastic prices. What was bought for $125,000 five years thence is sold for $400,000 presently. And as the locals were displaced the character of the town changed. Like an infestation of hummingbirds, the New Yorkers brought with them their traditions of squawking and bickering, and sticking their vindictive beaks into other's flowers.

Well anyway, that's not the problem. The REAL problem is the Kingdom Life Baptist Church. This church is like a virus in my home town, as far as I can tell. They've been around for about ten years, slowly and quietly buying up properties, usually neighborhood bars, which they have branded as evil, and have put in their place Christian book stores and the like, which are completely tax exempt. The church has petitioned the school system in my home town, worthless as it may be, to review all of the text materials and have editorship over it in order to rid said materials of Satanic References. The main man in the church is a charismatic and quite industrious type, with a diamond ring that will blind you from across a stadium when it catches the light. Did I mention that they have a stadium-sized church building? They do, and I've been in it. It looks like the set of the 700 Club, complete with cameras and dollies. Orchids and lilies frame the multiple big screen plasma TV monitors on either side of the set, allowing the audience to see themselves on TV (jus' lahk Jerry Springer!) when the cameras pan around. It's friggin' hideous. And you know, in thinking about it, I don't think I saw one measly CROSS in the whole place. Not ONE.

Anyway, with every property they buy up, my home town loses tax revenue, the burden of which is placed squarely on the shoulders of the residents. And the residents who feel it most are the lower income residents, i.e., the locals - my friends, not the rich New Yorkers. It's gotten to the point where my hometown's city hall has had to strategically buy property just to keep it out of the hands of the church, and the mayor seems to be distancing himself from the Reverend, which had promised a sort of faith-based urban renewal, so to speak. Quite the peccadillo.

Anyway, what with the recent Supreme Court decision which allows towns to take property from private owners and give it to developers in the name of economic development, I wonder if that could be done with Kingdom Life's holdings?

Any thoughts?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Working Too Hard

I was in the office until 8:30 p.m. tonight trying to complete a report due to a client tomorrow. Twelve and a half hour day.

I think I'm working too hard. Of course, that's just my opinion.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Trees are down all over the neighborhood due to Hurricane Dennis. As I drive around, my mind is aware of the fallen trees in a way that it never was when the tree was standing. Trees which my eyes certainly had perceived never really entered my consciousness until they fell and were considered of interst to my mind, which still ignores the other trees standing around their fallen neighbor.

Back during the June 18 Zen hike, our eyes took in countless appearances as we walked through the woods, from wildflowers to the trail ahead, but we immediately focused on the rattlesnake when we came across it on the path. The rattlesnake represented a form that could affect our continued existence, and therefore was perceived as "important," and our consciousness was then much more aware of the snake than of the wildflowers or the trail.

As I blogged back in my April 16 post, the Sanskrit word namarupa means name (namu) and form (rupa). Rupa refers to the things we know, namely the world of external objects, while namu refers to the means by which we know the things we know, namely the inside world. Division of reality into namarupa, therefore, is a division of reality into objective mind and subjective mind.

The Buddha began his analysis of subjective mind with sensation, or vedana. The word vedana is derived from vid, meaning "to know" or "to experience," and refers to our evaluation of form. Once one establishes the existence of form, sensation necessarily follows as the interface between namu and rupa, between inner mind and outer mind, although to call it an interface does not mean that it is separate.

Vedana looks at our experience as a process of evaluation. This is not the same as sensory input but rather the evaluation of that input, which the Buddha rarely described in any more detail than positive, negative or neutral. Suffering arises because of the mental habit of craving. Whenever an external object is experienced through the five physical senses or the sixth sense of mind, craving arises, and by exploring our minds, we find that between our experience of the external object and the mental reflex of craving is vedana, or sensation, our evaluation of the experience.

For the most part, our experiences are neutral, and therefore ignored. But certain experiences appear to satisfy a need or pose a danger ("there's a rattlesnake on the trail") and are classified accordingly. Therefore, sensation is not the passive collection of data from an outside world, but is the active sorting and grading of appearances and their transformation into objects according to categories supplied by our perception. Therefore, the immediate cause of the arising of craving is not something outside of us, but rather the sensations that occur within us.

In zazen, we allow all experiences to enter our consciousness without discrimination, be they positive, negative or neutral. In other words, we discard sensation, and perceive the world as it is, thusly, without classification of the experience. When this same mode of perception is turned inward, our true nature is revealed to us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Dennis: Menace 2 Society

Everything I post about Hurricane Dennis later turns out to be wrong.

Saturday, I reported that the thunderstorms that struck Atlanta that afternoon were the first impacts of the hurricane. Wrong. After the downpour stopped, the weather settled back down for 24 or so hours until Dennis actually did arrive Sunday night.

Late Sunday evening, I lost electricity, but on Monday morning I reported (from the office) that despite the power loss, the impact of the storm wasn't that great. Wrong. When I got home Monday night, the electricity was still out, and I realized by the backed up traffic on the side streets and the not-too-distant sounds of chain saws that some trees had fallen across the neighborhood roads. I walked around the corner and saw the tree above completely blocking off the adjacent street. Worse, it did major damage to a neighbor's house, as you can see.

The tree had survived Tropical Storms Arlene and Cindy this year. It survived last January's ice storm. Last year, it weathered Hurricanes Bonnie, Charlie, Jeanne and even big, bad Ivan. But Dennis did it in.

But trees had fallen not only around the corner, but all over the neighborhood. One had fallen right across Collier Road, a main artery in this neighborhood, completely disrupting traffic (including access to Piedmont Hospital). Another had fallen about a block away in another neighbor's yard (no damage to houses, fortunately). Crews were out trying to remove the branches and limbs so that the power company could come through the restore the lines (that's what I saw yesterday morning), but it was apparent that major tree damage had taken down a lot of power lines in the 'hood.

Traffic was terrible driving to the Zen Center (it had power). Coming home, after dark, I saw that other whole neighborhoods were without lights. Electricity was out all along LaVista Drive, and through the Briarcliff neighborhood. But when I got back home, though, my lights were back on - the tree around the corner had finally been cleared, and I guess that allowed Georgia Power to restore juice to at least my block.

Tonight, I went to a meeting of the community association where we discussed, among the other news and events in our neighborhood, all the details of the storm damage.

So, my post yesterday stating that Dennis was a near-miss understated the actual damage it had wrought. A man even died over in Decatur, an intown community, when a tree fell over his bedroom and crushed him as he slept Sunday night (I wonder if he knew what hit him).

Two tropical storms and one hurricane, and one currently brewing out in the Caribbean, all before the All-Star Game. It's gonna be a long, wet summer. Still have doubts about global warming?

Monday, July 11, 2005

A Near Miss

Well, it turns out that Hurricane Dennis missed Atlanta after all. Even though I had stocked up on milk and bread, reading materials and drinking water, for the 24 or so hours after the first rains came through on Saturday, Dennis was pretty much a non-event.

It was a near-miss. By the way, George Carlin hates that term - he says it should be "near-hit." If two planes came close together, it's a crisis because they nearly hit each other. Of course, it they do collide, (sympathetic voice) "Oh, and they nearly missed . . . "

Things got a little more interesting Sunday night. The rain started coming down harder and the winds picked up some, and around 12:30 a.m., I lost power. At least it waited until I was offline, and done watching television for the night. It's still out (I'm posting from the office) - I had to shower, shave and dress in the dark, and eat breakfast by the kitchen window. Of course, these are minor inconveniences compared to the folks in Florida who had to evacuate their homes, and are just returning now to flooding, storm damage and power outages.

Driving to work this morning, I saw a crew working on the power lines, so I expect that electricity will be restored by the time I get home. Otherwise, I'll be posting from here in the office again.

Postscript: The weather's taking a turn for the worse outside of my office; the rain's coming down in sheets and visibility's only a couple of hundred feet. The branches of the sycamore outside my window are whipping back and forth. Ironically, the best weather this morning was while I was getting up and driving to work.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Giant Step Backwards

Although Mumon has already covered this, I have to point out that the Roman Catholic Church, which has long been regarded as an ally on the theory of evolution, has now stated that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Vienna and the lead editor of the official 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, staked out his position in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Thursday, writing, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not."

Scientists and science teachers have reacted to the editorial with confusion, dismay and even anger. Some said they feared the cardinal's sentiments would widen the growing chasm between scientific understanding and religious ideology, particularly in light of human genome research and advances in DNA study, and may cause some religious scientists to question their faith.

Darwinian evolution is the foundation of modern biology. While researchers may debate details of how the mechanism of evolution plays out, there is no credible scientific challenge to the underlying theory.

"Ever since 1996," Cardinal Schönborn wrote, "when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was 'more than just a hypothesis,' defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith." The reference is to widely cited remarks by Pope John Paul II in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences noting that the scientific case for evolution was growing stronger, and that the theory was "more than a hypothesis." Cardinal Schönborn dismissed Pope John Paul's 1996 comments as "rather vague and unimportant," and complained that he saw no one discussing 1985 comments of John Paul's, which Cardinal Schönborn interprets as supporting intelligent design.

Pope John Paul II's 1996 decree that evolution was more than just a theory drew a wide variety of comments from creationists, including:

Disappointment: "It's sad that the leader of a large denomination would say that," said Ken Ham, director of Answers in Genesis, an evangelical ministry.

Determination: "Doesn't matter," sniffed Bill Hoesch of the Institute for Creation Research. "Scientists will still admit - when you get them alone - that evolution is wrong."

And even good old-fashioned Diatribe: "Why blame it on God?" said Hendrik Hanegraaf, host of the radio talk show "Bible Answer Man." "Evolution is a series of painfully cruel, inefficient mutations."

The cardinal's essay was submitted to the Times by a Virginia public relations firm, Creative Response Concepts, which also represents Seattle's Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute, one of the strongest advocates of teaching alternatives to evolution, promotes intelligent design, the idea that the variety and complexity of life on earth cannot be explained except through the intervention of a designer of some sort. Mark Ryland, a vice president of the institute, boasts that he had urged the cardinal to write the essay.