Monday, January 30, 2012

Ruminations on Physics and Faith...

Doing the Math, World is a Unique Place for Life

Mural by Laney Riley depicting the wonder of sea life.

"The strengths of the basic forces and certain other fundamental parameters in our universe appear to be 'fine-tuned'," Professor Lightman explains, "to allow the existence of life." -- Rabbi Avi Shafran

My Mother was a physicist. She studied the subject at Westhampton College (now part of the University of Richmond) and later at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Mom, when I was young, always saw wonder in the construction of the mathematical formulas that described the very workings of nature. That wonder, learned at my Mother's knee, must be considered as one of the greatest influences on my becoming a person of faith.

In an article entitled Blind Faith and Physics [click to read], Rabbi Avi Shafran explores the implications, not only of that order, but of the rare 'coincidence' that our Universe, capable of supporting life, really is.

Building on the work of noted physicist Alan P. Lightman, Rabbi Shafran explores the implications of what science may be teaching us beyond basic observation.

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" -- Romans 1:20


"Do Not Go Where the Path May Lead"

"Go Instead Where there is No Path..."

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson. ht/Lynn

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Got Faith?

"This Beginning of Miracles did Jesus in Cana..."

A billboard between Davis and Thomas West Virginia illustrates the miracle described in John 2, where Jesus turned the water into wine. The accompanying text asks: "Got Faith?"

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue V

"Power Under Control"

"And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
-- Matthew 5:1-12

The 'other' weekly news magazine gets it right this week with their cover: "The Power of Shyness." Actually "Meekness" is defined more closely as "Power Under Control." Picture here a strong horse that gently responds to the reigns of its master and you will have a better grasp of the actual concept.

Watching the last Presidential debate, one great moment was when the candidates were asked: "If Raul Castro called you on the phone, what would you say to him?" Ron Paul's answer was simple: "I'd ask him what he wants?"

No great point was made... or was it? When one world leader calls another, couldn't the exchange indeed be made better if there was no initial posturing, just a simple question: "What does he want to talk to me about?"

With the future of our Nation hanging in the balance, one grows weary of destructive rhetoric and very desirous of dialougue that addresses our ills. That does not mean ignoring the very destructive policies that are pulling our Nation down at all. Rather, it is a call for Servant-leaders who will see beyond getting on a ticket and campaign against those policies rather than each other.

Distinctives are good. Let's discuss those at length, but let us remember that we are preparing for battle, not engaged in battle at the moment. It will take all of us working together to turn the tide in America. We are all flawed human beings, but made in the image if G-d!

It is just a dream, but I'd love to see us address the ideas with great, and even heated energy, while joining in the sentiment of Will Rogers, who once said: "I never met a man that I didn't like."


Monday, January 23, 2012

Dark Mentor to the 'Sage of Baltimore'

Nietzsche's Influence on American Thought


H. L. Mencken wrote for the Baltimore Sun in the earlier part of the Twentieth Century. He gained the reputation of 'Sage of Baltimore' for the fruits of his eloquent pen. Most known for his reporting of the Scopes Trials in Dayton Tennessee, Mencken derided the presentation of Divine Creation using phrases such as "monkey trials." Some background is often omitted in the popular presentation of the issue.

A little digging shows that Mencken was one of the American thinkers who popularized the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche.

"Indeed, Mencken was Nietzsche’s first American popularizer. The sage of Baltimore followed his 1908 book, The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, written when he was only 28, with The Gist of Nietzsche, a collection of the German’s aphorisms, in 1910, and a translation of The Anti-Christ, published in the aftermath of World War I. Mencken, Ratner-Rosenhagen notes, told a friend that his denunciations of American life and culture “were plainly based on Nietzsche; without him, I’d never have come to them.” -- Fred Siegel, in City Journal.

Ideas about the 'perfectability of man' and their implications also influenced people like Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthiood. Sanger's eugenics led to the dark side in the sterilization of untold numbers of patients in Virginia's Western State Hospital [1]. Today the widespread use of Amniocentesis often results in the abortion of 'potentially imperfect' embryos. The quest for übermensch has now reached into the sanctity of life in the womb.

Fred Siegal explores today's "Nihilism with a Happy Ending" [click to read] in City Journal.

Friday, January 20, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue IV

'The Pessimist'

The 'other' weekly news magazine this week gives us a glimpse inside 'Obama's World.' We at THYME feel like this is a worthy subject as well. Barack Obama spent twenty years under the teaching of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, student of James Cone. Cone's 'Black Liberation Theology' is a sort of race-based Marxism in a Christian wrapper. 'Hope and Change' leans in a Socialist/Marxist direction. The mainstream media does not seem concerned.

Obama launched his campaign in the living room of Bill Ayers, who he says is 'just a guy in the neighborhood.' Ayers is no 'Mister Rogers' though, having planned to blow up a number of government buildings in his 'wilder days.' 'Hope and Change' has a bit of Olinsky radicalism to it. The mainstream media does not seem concerned.

Mr. Obama's neigborhood isn't all that shabby either, thanks to his association with Tony Rezco. The Obamas own a pretty nice house, but 'Hope and Change' seems a bit like the 'Chicago Way.' The mainstream media does not seem concerned.

Mr. Obama's Keynsian economic policies are rolling up large amounts of government debt. 'Hope and Change' looks a bit like Weimar Germany. The mainstream media does not seem concerned.

Mr. Obama's publicists want to make him out to be the hero of the common man. If a Republican played this much golf and took so many vacations he would be the subject of much scrutiny. 'Hope and Change' looks a lot like the worst kind of elitism. The mainstream media does not seem concerned.

America is at a crossroads. Four more years of Obama policy could reduce her to a mighty nation that once was. Mr. Obama loves to apologize for America. Does 'Hope and Change' understand the precious legacy our ancestors bled to give us? The mainstream media does not seem concerned.


Friday, January 13, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue III

"The Optimist:" The 'other' weekly news magazine features Warren Buffet on the cover. "The Optimist," they call him. But Buffet's tax plan and endorsement of Obama's policies (some of them) remind me of someone who built his country house LAST YEAR, and now is on the Board of Architectural Review. He's your worst nightmare if you are trying to build your house next to him THIS YEAR.

Buffet's tax plan would squelch a lot of new growth and fails to acknowledge the job creation that occurs under a fair tax structure. It smacks of the worst kind of class warfare, that promoted by someone who's already 'got his.' John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan both spurred the economy back into life by CUTTING rates.

Where is Tomorrow's Reagan?

First a little history is in order. Do you recall that Ronald Reagan started out as a Democrat? Indeed he changed his positions on some key issues as he grew in his political career.

The fact that Romney has come recently to certain positions is troubling. But history tells us he is not the first to make this journey:

"Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has drawn suspicion from the right for his flip-flopping on abortion, but he’s not the first candidate to change his view on the issue before seeking the White House.

Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Dick Gephardt and Al Gore also shifted on abortion as they set their sights on the presidency. When Romney was running for the Senate from Massachusetts against Ted Kennedy in 1994, he took a pro-abortion stance in the decidedly blue state."--
Newsmax [click to read] examines how Reagan and Romney are not all that different when it comes to this issue.

Bearing Drift Endorses Romney
By Lynn Mitchell

Bearing Drift [click to read] has endorsed Mitt Romney for President 2012, a decision I heartily agree with after following the process that has narrowed through debates, controversy, media scrutiny, and primaries. Mitt Romney for President? Absolutely!

Bearing Drift's editorial noted:

"Each candidate has strengths and weaknesses, but we feel Romney has emerged as the only candidate with the ability, organization, skill and leadership to both beat the President in November and to govern America well.

Instead of hope and change, it’s time for America to get some good, old fashioned competence."

Good, solid reasoning went into this decision. I would invite you to read the entire editorial.

"There is no doubt that Mitt Romney has the intestinal fortitude to take the “3 a.m. phone call” and make the correct decision. In matters of national defense, and emphasized in the endorsement by John McCain, Romney has proven he has the capacity to make the tough decisions to protect and preserve our nation as commander-in-chief. He has demonstrated already in this campaign superiority to any of the other candidates on national defense issues. Additionally, because he has taken a true introspective look at when life begins, we believe he will fight for the life movement and ensure Supreme Court justices are appointed that respect the rule of law instead of rule from the bench.

Mitt Romney had done what should be expected of conservatives and liberals alike – he has matured as a human being and developed political positions that demonstrate that maturity. While some deride his metamorphosis as political expedience, we see a man who has made deliberate and conscientious steps to develop a firm conservative foundation." -- Bearing Drift

Read Lynn's original commentary Here [click to read].

THYME's Thoughts

The race is far from over, but it is clear that Romney is sailing into the final months with a steady hand on the tiller.He performs well in debates and stays on message. He certainly understands the need for defeating Barack Obama is the overriding concern in this election.

South Carolina [click to read] should be interesting.


"Choice and Competition" [click to read]


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Leadership for the Twenty-first Century

David Karaffa is Sworn in as Supervisor

David is sworn in... Photo by Lynn Mitchell.

...surrounded by four generations of family. Photo by Lynn Mitchell.

The campaign staff pose with David. Photo by Lynn Mitchell.

We worked hard and had a lot of fun. (Can you tell)? Photo by Lynn Mitchell.

Celebrating a new era in young Conservative leadership, we look forward to meeting new challenges in the days ahead. Photo by Lynn Mitchell.

Lynn Has More [click to read]. On January 3rd, Augusta County history was written as David Karaffa took the oath of office. Supported by his family and friends, David took on the huge task of running an independent campaign. He knocked on a lot of doors. He taught more than he campaigned, showing citizens how the process worked so that they would understand how government works, how essental services are provided and paid for, and how representative government requires the involvement of informed constituents.

David asked people to get involved in their own government and they did, propelling him to office as Beverley Manor's newest supervisor.

Along the way he had great support from four generations of family. His Grandmother Lucille worked at the polls. His young daughters watched him teach the ultimate civics lesson. His father, Dr. David Karaffa, proudly stumped for his son's campaign.

As we gathered to celebrate,I could not help but echo Santiago's sentiment: "I live in a good town." Many of us had been touched by this fine family. My daughter found her best friend and soulmate in Kurt Michael's Governors' School class, she is the daughter of David's uncle. One of the greatest joys of the evening was in hearing just how many of us had been blessed through our association with the Karaffa family.

I feel that the legacy I speak of is still in its opening chapter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

This Truck Really 'Kicks Gas!'

A Ride in David Waterman's Electric Ford Ranger

On the outside it looks like an ordinary 2003 Ford Ranger 2.3L 5 speed with a regular cab...

I was heading out of my neighborhood Saturday morning when David Waterman asked me: "Do you want to ride in my electric truck?" The answer should be obvious. David opened the hood, revealing the lack of a gasoline engine, radiator and exhaust manifold. Instead, a 150 pound WarpNine electric motor from NetGain is seated in place of the conventional engine. An adapter kit allows it to be attatched to the Ford drive shaft.

48 lithium ion cells provide power. A device called a controller regulates power to the motor. It is mounted up near the firewall and is a beautiful piece of milled aluminum with cooling fins.

David designed the vehicle around his driving needs. At 120 volts it takes 20 hours to put on a full charge. A full charge costs about $3.00 and the estimated range with all cells healthy is around 100 miles. That's a 'fuel cost' of three cents per mile!

A business such as an auto parts warehouse might provide a charging station so the trucks can be charged every time they are 'docked' for loading. A company could provide charging stations for its employees who had electric vehicles. A 50 amp 240 volt charge station could replenish the batteries in less than half the time of a full charge at 120 volts. Companies wanting to do a bit of 'green marketing' could put charging stations in the parking area.

But the time needed for recharge still limits range. Long trips are still questionable with the technology as it exists. Cracker Barrel restaurants in Tenessee have added electric car charging stations [1.] in a prototype installation but even a leisurly meal and time in the retail store might only give you ten miles of added range.

David starts the truck and we glide out of the neighborhood onto route eleven. He starts in second gear with the clutch out. Electric motors can start from a standstill. He shifts up for efficiency as we approach highway speed.

We enjoy a quiet ride and plenty of power as we ride through the countryside.

David estimates the conversion costs at under $15,000. That's pricey for a short-hop pickup but chunk-change for a prototype vehicle. The perfectly good gasoline motor awaits sale.

The lithium ion cells are made in China. Bench tests indicate David should get 200,000 to 400,000 miles out of the present set. He's had to exchange some bad cells though and attributes it to poor quality control at the Chinese plant.

David sees this technology as having a very specific nitch. Natural gas fleets for large over-the-road trucks and hydrogen need to be developed as well. One can argue that the truck is simply removing the pollution source to a coal plant in West Virginia, but it is still more efficient to control emissions from a large single source than many small ones. Also the truck eliminates foreign oil. The coal and uranium that fuel the truck come from North America.

...but under the hood things are quite different. Here is the 150 pound electric motor and its controller.

One of 48 lithium ion cells that make up the battery of the truck.


Kik'n Gas.

The "Land for Pieces" Scheme Exposed

History Refutes the Effectivenes of 'Land-for-peace'

'Love' in Hebrew, by Robert Indiana. This sculpture is at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Photo by Talmoryair.

Israel willingly gave up Gaza in a good faith move designed to move the Middle East closer to peace. A visit to the Southern Israel city of Sderot is an eye-opening illustration of just how effective land-for-peace really can be.

The residents of Sderot are mostly Russian Jews. They are not rich and lack the resources to move away from Sderot. Why would they want to leave? Gaza is now the launching point for hundreds of rockets that rain death and destruction on the city on an almost daily basis.

School children playing outside in Sderot have thirty seconds to find cover when the rockets are detected. Playgrounds may include large concrete pipes for them to run into.

Israel turned Gaza over to its residents with a well established agricultural economy. Large greenhouses provided work for Jews and Arabs alike. Today the greenhouses are largely destroyed -- and rockets are fired freely across the border.

The Land-for-peace Hoax [click to read] is explored further by Caroline B. Glick in Jewish World Review.

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Yusuf Qaradawi, in 2009 "called for the Muslim world to complete Hitler's goal of eradicating the Jewish people." -- Caroline B. Glick. It would seem that those who would promise peace in international negotiations should carry the same message home with them.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Augusta County Historic Churches

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Jolivue

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church designed by T. J. Collins was built in 1924.

Friday, January 6, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue II

"So You Like Me Now?"

The 'other' weekly news magazine asks this, referring to Mitt Romney on their cover this week. Romney won Iowa by a mere eight votes (not eight percent, mind you eight VOTES)! We at THYME think the real story is the rise of Rick Santorum, featured on OUR cover with the same question.

The 'other' weekly news magazine also presents "The Meaning of Tim Tebow." I humbly suggest that the meaning of Tim Tebow and Rick Santorum are one and the same. TIME introduces Tebow like this:

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" -- Ephesians 4:11 ...and some to be quarterbacks!

You could apply that to leaders of state as well. In a time of moral vacuum, when Theodore Dalrymple reports that one can scarcely tell the difference between the sound of a mob of British youths partying... or beating the life out of someone, there are many who long to hear that difference.

Moral leadership is still a treasured commodity by many voters. Even the Left appeals to a sense of corporate morality (stop "global warming," etc.), but let's face it, people are looking for leadership that reaches into the way we live our individual lives. Let me be very careful here, they are NOT looking for meddlesome prudery, but rather those rare leaders who would show us that life indeed aspires to a higher purpose.

Santorum believes in an America that can aspire to its own exceptionalism, one that is worth defending from clearly identified threats. As the present occupant of the White House apologizes for America at almost every opportunity, it is a breath of fresh air to hear someone like Santorum celebrate her virtues.

Here we might note that those who oppose Tebow are often the very same people to whom Santorum is also a threat. Mainstream journalists are often out of touch with the Faith that moves the average person in our land. Statistics show that few of them are actively involved in Religious institutions. It is not surprising that they often miss the story.

A Girl's Legacy: 'Angel' of Tucson's Dream for America [click to read]

Revelry and Mayhem [click to read] by Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal.

"Is that British youths enjoying themselves—or killing someone?" -- Theodore Dalrymple

Tebow Critics Put Own Bigotry on Display [click to read] by Linda Chavez in Jewish World Review.

"Tim Tebow is not the problem. The real problem is our willingness to be bullied into thinking that prejudice masked as tolerance is acceptable." -- Linda Chavez


Thoughts on What Constitutes True Greatness

A Wise Rabbi Gives Insight and Practical Direction

Detail of a Mural by Laney Riley and Bob Kirchman depicting the promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth.

"The Name of Heaven should become beloved through you." -- Imperative of Scripture -- Jonathan Rosenblum

Today's inspirational feature on Greatness and Healing [click to read] by Jonathan Rosenblum in Jewish World Review is a must-read for all who would seek to live in the light of Divine wisdom and guidance.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dr. Vivien Theodore Thomas

Breaking Barriers in Surgery and Opportunity

Dr. Thomas pioneered lifesaving surgical techniques.

A Milestone Monday Feature:

Dr. Vivien Theodore Thomas was born on August 29, 1910 in New Iberia, Louisiana. He was the grandson of slaves but completed high school in Nashville Tennessee. He dreamed of continuing his education and becoming a doctor but the Great Depression in 1929 dashed his hopes for higher education.

Thomas had found a job at Fisk University as a carpenter for their maintenance department. He worked through the Summer of 1929 but was laid off in October of that year following the stock market crash. This put his educational plans on hold and eventually he found work as a laboratory assistant with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Vanderbilt University.

The original job description was caring for the dogs being used for surgical experiments. Thomas fed the animals and cleaned their cages. Dr. Blalock took notice of the young Thomas, discovering that he possessed keen hand-eye coordination, a sharp intellect and the ability to think on his feet to solve problems. No doubt, Thomas' carpentry skills and training came in to play here.

Blalock began using Thomas as a technical assistant, having him perform much of the actual work in developing new surgical techniques. Through the 1930's Blalock pushed on into new frontiers in vascular and cardiac surgery. Thomas did essential work in perfecting the surgical procedures. This pioneer work made Blalock one of the leading surgeons of his time.

In 1940 Blalock was offered the position of Chief of Surgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He requested that Thomas be hired with him. Their 34 year partnership would continue to push the barriers in surgical technique. Their work would eventually lead to learning how to correct the heart defects that caused blue baby syndrome, Their work on crush syndrome led to understanding that would save the lives of thousands of soldiers in World War II.

Baltimore society was even more segregated than Nashville and Johns Hopkins only hired African Americans in their houskeeping department. Thomas was put on the payroll as a janitor but worked alongside Blalock in surgery. He turned a few heads walking the halls in his labcoat. Here many wonder that Blalock so valued Thomas professionally but allowed him to be distanced socially. Both men, it must be remembered, where men raised in the old Southern society. The separation was highly codified in a city like Baltimore [I still have a map of the city from my youth that matter-of-fact labels the white and colored swimming pools in Druid Hill Park]. The recognition of merit over race and the mens' friendship was enough to remove the most insurmountable of barriers.

Blalock didn't object to Thomas initially being 'assigned' to housekeeping but by 1946 he had negotiated his status as the highest paid lab assistant at Hopkins.

Watching Thomas perform an intricate surgical procedure, Blalock remarked "That looks like something the Lord made." Thomas was able to perform complex surgeries with such efficiency of motion that the students said that he made them look effortless. When a young surgeon in training moved in too close to observe, he might unknowingly step into a spot next to Blalock, who would tersely remind him: "Only Vivian is to stand there!"

In 1976 Johns Hopkins presented Thomas with an honorary doctorate and appointed him an instructor of surgery, acknowledging the work he had already been performing for decades.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Taking of Shenandoah National Park

The Dream and Displacement that Built Skyline Drive

Massanutten Lodge
The flamboyant promoter George Freedman Pollack owned the Skyland Resort and was one of the park's biggest supporters. His resort was preserved as a visitor lodging facility while Blackrock Springs resort in the Southern District and other private businesses were closed.

I grew up loving Shenandoah National Park. My Mother had hiked White Oak Canyon and Old Rag Mountain as a girl and I inherited her wonder at this beautiful world of natural splendor. Mom also went to school in Criglersville with schoolmates who's families had been removed from the land that was to become Shenandoah.

This week Lynn writes about Shenandoah's History [click to read]. Her story, accompanied by wonderful photos, is great reading.

I find the abuses of eminent domain in the park's aquisition troubling. The handful of residents who refused to leave could have been handled much more humanely. Indeed, the park's mission might have been better served in the long run had the State of Virginia created a 'Park Zone' and offered the option of life tenancy where it did not compromise preservation of irreplacable natural resources.

Shenandoah actually did allow life tenancy in a few instances. The last resident, Annie Shenk, lived in Shenandoah through the 1970s.