Friday, April 12, 2013

Well, I've taken the leap and bought my own domain name, and a web hosting service.  So I'm moving my blog over there.  You can find my new blog here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Tree Shopping, 2012

DSC00238a by acraigwalker
It was a bit wet this year, but here is the crew that went to the Furrow Farm yesterday.


Delicious hot chocolate!
The stockings hung with care.


Expert tree decoration.

And a few videos of the experience:


Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Agony of Spinning

Friday morning I got up at 7:30, and remarked to my still sleeping wife "I'm going to go suffer for 45 minutes".  I was heading to a spinning class at Sunset Athletic Club.

For those who don't know what "spinning" is, it is an exercise class where you work out on a stationary bicycle, varying the resistance and pedaling pace according to the commands of the instructor, and with accompanying energetic music.  You'll do intervals, sustained "climbing", high RPM pedaling, in and out of the saddle--until the sweat is dripping onto the floor all around you.  When the instructor barks "30 more seconds, come on, push it!", the clock seems to stand still as you push hard and try to hang on for what seems like eternity.

Normally, I will ride a real bike in the real world, up into the hills near my house, for a fantastic and invigorating workout in the great outdoors.  But when it is wet or stormy outside, I head for SAC on Friday morning for my torture session.  One way or another, it seems I need to get my exercise "fix" in order to feel good about myself and enjoy the day.  Why else would I get up early just to go torture myself?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Perspective on 9/11

It has been over a decade since Sept. 11, 2001, an event that changed so much in our world.  I have read a number of books about the Middle East, Islam, al-Qaeda, and the war against terrorism.  I'm currently reading "Manhunt:  The Ten Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad", by Peter Bergen.  It has caused me to reflect on bin Laden's imprint on our world and upon history.

Those of us in the West would be inclined to view the tragedy of 9/11 as not unlike that of Pearl Harbor in 1941.  The Japanese experienced a profound victory, but at the cost of awakening a giant that ultimately destroyed their war machine and brought down their government.  We brought down the Taliban in Afghanistan, the safe haven for al-Qaeda and militant Islam.  We dismantled and neutralized al-Qaeda, eventually finding and killing bin Laden himself, as well as many of his lieutenants.

Bin Laden didn't achieve his stated objectives in his war on the United States and the 9/11 attacks, namely the removal of American troops from Muslim lands, the fall of American puppet states in various Arab countries, and the destruction of the U.S. economy and power in the world.  On the contrary, Americans are awakened and united against the militant Islamic threat, there are many more American soldiers in the Middle East, and al-Qaeda itself has been decimated.

Yet, I'm sure that in the minds of many, especially in the poorer Islamic world, bin Laden is viewed as a great martyr, someone who stood up to the great Satan and struck with success.  He has inspired many thousands, perhaps millions, to take up his cause to one extent or another.

I myself have a great distaste for bin Laden, and those like him.  I place him in the same ranks with Hitler and Stalin, who has brought untold misery and hate into the world.  I fail to see how the world, or anyone in it, is better off for his being here.  I grant that he has made an imprint upon history, but a very ugly one indeed.

Friday, November 30, 2012

My evolving views on the Middle East

Until recent years I've always had a staunchly pro-Israeli view on the Middle East.  These were influenced by:

1.  My belief in the Bible, that the Jews are a chosen people, and Palestine is their homeland
2.  Israel is an underdog amidst a sea of hostile Arab countries
3.  Arabs played unfairly with airline hijackings, Olympic village killings, suicide bombings, terrorist tactics
4.  Cultural, political, and economic alignment between Israel and USA
5.  Jews deserved a break after the Holocaust

As I've read a number of books about the Middle East, traveled there, and as my daughter and her family live there, my views have changed to be much more even-handed.  I no longer give Israel a free pass on any action or policy, nor do I believe Israel's interests are always in America's best interests.

This last point is made clearly in a landmark (for me) book that I read, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy", by Mearsheimer and Walt.  The book makes a strong case showing the disproportionate influence the Jewish and Israeli lobby has on legislative, economic, and foreign policy with regards to Israel and the Middle East.  The obvious negative result for the United States is the prevailing view in Arab and Muslim countries of that unfair alignment, and subsequent suspicion and hatred it provokes.  In short, it makes our dealings with these countries and people very difficult, and is a significant factor in the growth of radical and militant Islam in those countries.

When we visited Syria we always heard "welcome to Syria", and "we love Americans but hate your government", and "be sure to tell everyone we are not all terrorists".  In fact, we found the Syrian people to be delightful -- honest, friendly, God fearing, and family-friendly.  Islam is a wonderful influence in the lives of the great majority of the population.  I am greatly saddened by the Civil War turmoil that rages there today.

I do believe Israel deserves the right to a Jewish state, and should be protected from those powers that openly advocate her annihilation.  But I also believe Israel is in the wrong with her West Bank settlements and general treatment of the Palestinian people.  I think Israel should withdraw to her 1966 borders as part of a general peace plan.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


The first trophy I recall receiving was for my participation in Little League baseball, when I was 9 or 11 years old.  It wasn't for being the first place team, or the star player.  Every boy got one, which I think I felt was a little odd.  But I valued it nevertheless, and it made me feel important.

Over the years I have accumulated a fair number of trophies and other awards--baseball, softball, basketball, table tennis, cycling, tennis, running, academics, work contributions, church service, Boy Scouts, etc.  I was always pleased to get the trophy or award, and it helped focus the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, at least for a while.  For the most part, the trophies and plaques became more of a clutter and nuisance, rather than anything that was displayed--gathering dust, bunched up on a high closet shelf. 

It seems increasingly that the awards became more practical.  Like the prized BYU intramural champion t-shirt, or the tennis mouse pad, or the Chevy's Run mug, or any number of hats, or digital clock.  One award was a gift certificate for Starbucks, so I have enjoyed several cups of hot chocolate.  At least these could be used and enjoyed.

To help with the trophy clutter problem, without discarding the memory entirely, we took to removing the engraved plate and giving the bare trophy to D.I.  I still have way too many shirts and hats, so some of them just had to go. A shirt has to be particularly memorable to be a keeper.

Here is a sampling of some--a Chevy's mug I use all the time, a softball trophy from my top closet shelf, an engraved plate from a table tennis trophy, cycling distance awards from my bedroom wall, the BYU shirt from my drawer, and a softball champions hat I keep in the closet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I confess.  I like ketchup.  And I add it to lots of foods.  Suzanne says nobody...NOBODY....puts ketchup on a taco.  But I do.  Hot dogs?  Of course.  Hamburgers?  Certainly.  Spaghetti?  When left to my own devices, yes.  Meatloaf?  Absolutely.  French Fries?  Fish filet?  You guessed it.

I don't recall the origins of my ketchup likings.  Certainly by the time of my mission I was adding ketchup to any number of our meager missionary recipes.  It never occurred to me that I was in any way unusual in this regard.  There are countless foods I don't add ketchup to.  Such as breakfast cereal, or vegetables, or ice cream.  I mean, come on.  Those would be unusual.  Maybe an indication of mental instability.

So, there you have it.  If I knew how to do one of those online voting things I'd see how my readers are divided on this.  But no matter, I'm secure in my tastes.