Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Survive! By Les Stroud

I just finished reading Survive! by Survivorman host Les Stroud. Rick and I got into his show somewhat randomly (I think Rick had seen it once and we happened upon it one night) and we were hooked. I think we're going to register for seasons of it for the wedding. Anyway Stroud has written a book about the basics of survival, full of various tips. I bought it for Rick for valentine's day, and when my Amazon copy didn't come in on time I bought him another, and forgot about the Amazon one (which eventually arrived and I meant to ship back) until last week. So I decided to read it.

All in all: a good read-but only if you're into camping and such. It's full of small bits of story, but that's not really what the book is about. If you want to read narratives of survival, find something else. This is about how to survive if you're caught in such a situation. Therefore, it's not a book that will likely be of interest to a person who never goes outside, much less goes camping (there's a small chapter on natural disasters at home but it's not worth buying the book for that chapter-anyone who lives in tornado/hurricane/blizzard/earthquake country will know what he says already).

The "good" of the book: Les's tips are expressed clearly (minus one about making a torch bark bundle-I couldn't figure that one out) and accompanied with easy to understand illustrations. He does not assume too much when he explains things, noting at some point in the book that beginners will be using this as well. Furthermore, he skips out on the fancy survival skills that only those who have taken courses will know. He assumes that you're just someone going camping who ends up in the situation. It's about the simplest way to keep you alive and get you out of there. End of story. Thus the skills are in many ways pretty rudimentary, but not necessarily things you would think of on your own (like solar stills, for example, or vegetation stills).

Also, if you are someone who goes camping, you will be heartened (or at least I was) to see some things you already know. He describes filtering water with a filter made on your own-likely with rocks or ever smaller sizes, sand and charcoal-a filter I was already aware of. That shouldn't make you overly confident, but I think Stroud's book is excellent in that it doesn't make you feel like an idiot. Skills you may already have can be useful in survival.

It should be said that this book could be taken as one full of bragging. There's lots of "When I was in X place, I did Y to stay alive and came out very well." Normally that would bug the hell out of me. In this case, however, I think it engenders trust in the teacher (Stroud). I don't want necessarily to try doing something if it seems that it hasn't worked for anyone. Yet there's a confidence in Stroud that comes from reading this book and watching his show.

The "bad" of the book: There's not much bad about it. It's not a particularly entertaining read, but it got my imagination going, if only because I was thinking of camping trips I'd like to plan. I started to skim over the Africa and Jungle and Arctic sections. I don't live those places and am not going anytime soon, so it seemed like a waste of time to read. The boreal forest stuff was much more interesting to me. And mountains. That said, it's nice to have the extra info on hand should I travel to one of these places.

Now, for my biggest beef with the book, I have to start with the caveat. I don't think this is necessarily beef with the book itself, but I couldn't help but read this stuff and think "I either have to practice this over and over or memorize the book or backpack with it for this to be helpful." Some people have survived with skills they remembered from the show, and I think the same thing could be the case for the book, but there's so much info packed into it that I would rather just take it along. Only books are heavy...so I thought about maybe creating a smaller reference that can be on laminated index cards for a survival kid. That might have been useful to put in the book as well-little reminders that will jog your memory about the larger text.

So there you go. Read this book if you're going camping or backpacking or whatever. Or if you like survival reads. But don't be surprised if you get the itch to you into the wild when you're done with it...

Resisting Chemo

I just happened upon this article on Yahoo News today. I think before I would have dismissed it, but I'm not sure I could do any such thing given the past year. I know there are all kinds of arguments for and against treatment, but I sit and read this article and am beyond flabbergasted. The oncologist says this kid has a 90% chance of survival if he undergoes the chemotherapy! Granted, chemo is no small thing. I watched my brother struggle through it. I was not the one being injected with those drugs, and I have no place to say how bad it is. But I watched him and it sucked. Big time. There's no way around that. But a 90% survival rate is pretty amazing. I can't believe the parents are just going to walk away from the medical treatment when doctors agree with the original prognosis and the kid's in pain. Somehow the child agrees with the parents though (not a far stretch, considering how defensive kids can be of their parents) but another question comes to mind: why can't this kid read? He's 13. The article does not mention significant learning disabilities, although they may be there, but he doesn't seem to understand what the chemo is meant to do.

This would be an interesting article to talk about in CPE. I had a few Jehovah's Witness patients during my time in CPE, and it was always interesting to see their reactions. One person in particular, when I introduced myself as the chaplain, said "I'm a Jehovah's Witness," clearly expecting me to understand that she had her own beliefs and I wasn't going to change them. I said, "That's fine. I can still talk to you. I just came here to see how you were." And then she was able to express her fear at what was going on. It's amazing what you find out when you just talk to people.

Anyway I'm rambling, mostly because I have nothing to do and am rather bored. Hopefully Rick and I will go for a bike ride tonight when he gets home. The weather is perfect for one...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Running with Butterflies

That's the title of a book if I ever write it. Anywho...

I've been running now somewhat on and off for a little over two years now. I usually feel pretty bad about my running abilities. I am a slow runner-about 11 minutes/mile is about my standard. Which means there are old people who run faster than I do. I think I could do OK for a 5K, and maybe even a 10K (which I'm hoping to do this summer), but I'm not sure I could qualify for the Boston Marathon because I'm so slow (you have to do a qualifying half marathon first). I can run for lengths of time...today I ran for 62 minutes. I'm just not sure I went all that far.

But something else happened today that actually made my running feel better. I was running at the Broad Meadow Brook wildlife sanctuary, one of my all time favorite places in Worcester, and as I came off of a trail and onto a wider gravel path that would take me back to the street, a butterfly came out of the reeds and flew alongside me. It wasn't that long-only about 10 seconds, but the fact of the matter was that our paces were perfectly matched! And then, as I was running back along the same path, another butterfly did the same thing!

So if anyone tries to tell me anything about my running speed being so slow (including my own subconscious), I know that I can run with butterflies. And that's pretty cool.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blue Highways

Well folks, here it is. The inauguration of my book reviews on this blog. Huzzah! Up first: Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon.

American literature is full of travel narratives: Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, On the Road, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance...the list goes on and on. Perhaps it speaks to a inherent need to "go" within the American. After all, even those who have been here the longest are descended from migrants traveling the land-bridge from Asia. If we sit and think on it, I'm sure most of us could come up with a list of travels that brought us to where we are. They may not be our own adventures-they may reach back hundreds of years. But the "going" is there. It's in our blood.

William Least Heat-Moon portrays such a going in his book. As his life falls apart-fired from his job, splitting up with his wife, feeling generally lost-he decides to drive around the country in a Ford Econoline van using only the "blue highways," or those roads represented by the blue lines on his atlas. No interstates. No chains (if he could avoid it). No hotels (for the most part). Just William and his van, Ghost Dancing. He literally travels around the country seeking something, but what exactly that something is the reader nor the author ever seem to know. Maybe he's just seeking America. Or maybe he's seeking himself. Or both. Read the book and decide for yourself.

The travelogue is full of interesting encounters between Heat-Moon and the residents of various towns and villages along the way. It was especially interesting (for me at least) to read of encounters in places I know or that are fairly close to home. It's pretty amazing to read how much some of these folks opened up to him; makes me wonder if people would do the same for me! (Although admittedly having a Greek textbook on an airplane does tend to get conversations rolling). The book is a great read and I think will get anyone itching to move. I was especially interested in his experiences in the bayous of Louisiana and on the Chesapeake Bay. I was pretty captivated by this read, not so much by the action (because to be honest it's not very "action packed") but by the honesty displayed by the author and the people in the book. I wanted to see who he would meet next, what they would say, what ridiculous name the town would have. There's something compelling about this travel narrative. It is very much about the author, but at the same time there's a kind of self-effacement that makes it about us as well.

Now, for a couple of downsides. The travels took place in 1978 and the book was published in 1983. I wasn't alive in 1978. I doubt I was even a twinkle in either of my parent's eyes at this point (I don't know if they had even met yet). That said, there are definitely times when the book feels dated, dated in ways that books like Huck Finn seems to avoid. Maybe it's because it is the recent past-it's like what he is writing about is that word on the tip of your tongue that you just can't seem to remember. The late seventies and early eighties are that way for me-I definitely didn't experience them, but I feel that if I try hard enough I could visualize/remember it. So the dated-ness of the book felt a little alienating at times, but that could be very much limited to those in my particular generation.

The other downside is the tendency towards a self-righteousness and divinization of the "old" that occurs throughout the book. I don't want to get on the author too much about the self-righteousness business. It's a sin most of us are guilty of, but at times it can be a bit unbearable. The divinization of the old is more problematic, however. At times I wonder if Heat-Moon doesn't want things to stay the same purely for the sake of staying the same. That to me seems just as bad as change for the sake of change. I am not advocating the idea of "progress," and as an historian and a church person I have a love of tradition. But what I've learned is that there has to be real meaning to those traditions and why we hang onto them. Otherwise we start to sound like old codgers who can't stand when anything changes. Too much of Heat-Moon's prose tends in this direction. Yes, chain restaurants can feel sterile and bad, and yes we too often let economic "progress" destroy national and local treasures. I do not doubt this. But some of Heat-Moon's characters see the problems with small towns staying exactly the same--the young people leave because there is no opportunity. It's more than the "nothing to do" of the teenage years. There seems to be a lack of future. The future Heat-Moon sees for these places is one of decline and destruction on the parts of the "rest of us" who don't live there, but there's a curious lack of suggestions for solutions on his part.

That said, you probably think I don't like the book. On the contrary, I thought it was great. The social historian in me loved it. The person with the travel bug in me loved it. And the reader in me loved it. It a great record of one man's travels on America's backroads, and makes me want to try a similar thing sometime (Rick and I have dreamed about driving Magic all the way down Route 66 some time...).

Friday, May 08, 2009

New England again

For those of you who have been following this blog from its inception, you will remember that in June 2008 I started writing about things in New England that are great but aren't necessarily the big tourist-y things that you would normally think of when coming here (like Cape Cod, where Rick and I have yet to go). I've thought of a couple of others, and as I live here longer-but not forever, for the South is my home and we're going there in a few years-I want to keep recording these things for y'all.

Lime Rickeys are my next installment. This isn't a place, but a drink. Those of you who have been to New England may have experienced one of these things, but you may also have tried a frappe, which is a lame excuse for a milkshake in my mind (not as thick as a milkshake). The lime rickey reminds me of going to Sonic and getting a limeade. Yes, I realize Sonic is a big chain but their drinks are so damn delish that you just can't pass 'em up! Plus they have happy hour every day. And you can get an Ocean Water, have an insanely blue mouth, and annoy the hell out of my mom. : )

Anyway back to the Lime Rickey. The best place I've had one is at Bartley's Burgers in Harvard Square. The burger place is famous, but overpriced and not the best burgers in the world. O'Sullivans down on the Cambridge/Somerville border near Porter Square is MUCH better. But the Lime Rickeys at Bartley's are fantabulous. It is basically a carbonated drink (don't know if it's just seltzer water or Sprite) with lime juice and fresh limes. Some people enjoy the raspberry lime rickey, but I find that to be a travesty. Go for the plain lime ones. They're not as sweet as a lemon-lime cokes, but they're great and very refreshing and thirst-quenching.

So there you go. Lime Rickeys. And don't ask me where the name comes from because I have no earthly clue. I could wikipedia it but that would take away the mystery...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Number Two

Well folks I've finished Masters degree number two. I took my final today and papers have all been turned in. Thus ends 20 years of continuous schooling. Now for a break, and then hopefully back for more school in a year or two!

Things are going OK I guess. I've been packing up my room and getting ready to move things into storage for the next month (at least) with the possibility of those things being there until after the honeymoon. It's funny though-tonight I wasn't really sure what to do with myself. After I had gotten tired of packing, I just sat there thinking "Huh. I don't have any homework." So I read some of the book I'm reading now (Blue Highways). Then I'm going to start my How to Brew book once I've finished this one. Woohoo! Next week I'll work on putting together the wedding address list. I think I mentioned before on here that I was thinking of working up my Greek again this summer, but I'm going to wait until I'm in Worcester to do that. once I'm in KY I think Greek will be the last thing I want to do.

That's about all I have for now. Nothing particularly insightful going on-just a great episode of the Office and Parks and Rec tonight (a new NBC show that I find hilarious). Tomorrow night Rick and I are going to see the new Star Trek. It should be AWESOME. If it's not raining we're going to the drive-in. If it is raining, this is one of those rare occasions when we will go to an indoor theater during drive-in season. But we've gotta see it! Speaking of movies, Year One and Taking Woodstock both look like they're gonna be fantastic. And Harry Potter of course. Rick's excited about Terminator and Transformers. I couldn't really care about either. The first Transformers movie was OK but I didn't think "man, I can't wait until the next one comes out!" I'm really in the mood for comedy right now as well as fantasy (and Star Trek of course). One of the drive-ins is doing a double feature of Star Trek and I Love You Man, which I've been wanting to see. Hopefully we'll be able to go tomorrow night!

Here's to summer break!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I Heart Charles Gore.

Finished the Gore paper this morning. A few of my favorite quotes from him:

"Now what is it that has in fact made Christianity so real a Gospel? It is the simplicity of its message. It holds up the crucifix and says, 'Sic Deus dilexit mundum.' This is a simple message, and it is simple because it points to facts, to the old, old story of the life and death of Jesus. But observe, the facts only constitute a Gospel, because a certain interpretation of them is implied. It were no Gospel that the best of men, after a life of boundless self-sacrifice, should have been harried to death on Calvary. It only becomes a Gospel if He who submits to this ignominious death really reveals the love, not of man only, but of God, if He really was the Son of God, who out of the love which is His own and His Father's, had come to give Himself in sacrifice for man. It only becomes a Gospel again, if God's power is shewn through the weakness of Christ's death, and He gave assurance of this to all men in that He raised Him from the dead. If He was the Son of God, if He was raised form the dead, we have our Gospel for the world...But the power of this Gospel depends utterly on an interpretation of the facts which is necessarily theological, or (considered intellectually) metaphysical, involving the special doctrine of the pre-existent person of the Son who was sent into the world." -The Incarnation of the Son of God, 23-3, 1891.

“that any really true and distinctive presentation of the principles of Christian living and Christian brotherhood, made vivid and intelligible, and applied under modern conditions, must claim a profound change, not only in the region of the social and industrial life, but even more in the region of our prejudices and presuppositions” - Christianity Applied to the Life of Men and of Nations, 41, 1920.

“the evils which we deplore in our present society are not the inevitable results of any unalterable laws of nature…but are the fruits of human blindness (largely voluntary blindness), willfulness, avarice and selfishness on the widest scale and in the long course of history: and their alteration demands something more than legislative and external changes…it demands a fundamental change in the spirit in which we think about and live our common life” -Christ and Society, 178, 1928.

A new record!

I just ran for 61 minutes. I realize this isn't a marathon. And I realize that I don't run very fast (around an 11 minute mile on a good day) but still. 61 minutes! It's weird though-61 minutes of intense biking doesn't leave my legs feeling like jelly. This did though. Oh well. Still kinda cool to say I can run continuously for over an hour. I'm sure this will come in handy some day...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

La la la la

It's always so hard to concentrate when there are only a couple of things left to do, but they don't feel particularly pressing. Well, the final doesn't feel that way to me. Maybe it should, but it's for a year-long course on Dante and it's basically doing some very close readings of the passages. No one really knows how to prepare for it, so I've just been taking some notes and reading the footnotes and hopefully if I do that enough they will stick.

The other thing I'm working on right now is a paper on Charles Gore's incarnational theology as the basis for Christian ethics. It's actually really interesting. People in general are pretty hard on Charles Gore, claiming that he's got a very kenotic christology (which focuses on a complete self-emptying of God in Christ...the problem is that people say this focuses too much on the human side and not on the divine). The more I've read of Gore, though, the more I think he's a little more rounded than it seems from his 1891 Bampton Lectures. He does talk about and sin and the cross, although I don't think he does so as well as Michael Ramsey (who, incidentally, was a big Charles Gore fan).

Anyway, back to the paper. My whole argument is that the Incarnation of the Word not only allowed us to have a new relationship with God, but also allows us to have new relationships with one another because we have the living example of Christ-the "crown of nature"
or "real man" as Gore would put it. There's a danger here of focusing too much on the idea of progress (although Gore was still writing post WWI he was trained before the Great War and thus reflects ideas of progress inherent in that time period). So what I'm arguing is that the Incarnation allows us to approach relationships with one another in new ways that are modeled on the humanity of Christ. Hopefully I'll be able to draw in a few comments from Rowan Williams, who critiqued incarnational theology in his "On Christian Theology" book, but who I think draws on Gore-perhaps unintentionally (although no Anglican theologian worth his salt could ignore Gore...nor do they, I believe) when he talks about the Christian community standing over and against all other forms of community because we share in Christ incarnate, crucified, and risen. Gore lays the foundation for all of this (as does F.D. Maurice but I only have 8-10 pages so I'm focusing on Gore because he's the less obvious choice, thereby making a greater contribution to scholarship...in my dreams at least).

So that's what I'm working on. Hopefully I'll get comments on my Herbert and Eucharistic theology paper back on Friday, so I can start working it up for this competition I'm going to enter it in. And getting it polished for PhD/ThD applications.

And then it's time to read whatever I want for the year. I've started compiling a reading list. Thus far it consists of:

Into Thin Air (own it, never read it)
Life of Pi
Dear Fatty (Dawn French's Autobiography-out in the UK but not here until October I think)
The Brothers Karamazov (only made it half way through about 3 times. I'm determined to
finish it)
King Lear
Everything written by Rowan Williams in book form, as well as sermons on his website
More Michael Ramsey
Maybe some Lancelot Andrewes (if you can't tell I'm trying to widen my reading in Anglican theology and spirituality for PhD stuff)

And in there I'm going to sprinkle a whole lot of fun not very heady books. And I want to write a short blurb on all of them so that I can keep track of what I've read.

Oh and I'm thinking about teaching myself Latin this year, or at least starting it. And reviewing my Greek. I'd like to take Hebrew if I decide against Latin, but that will largely depend on where I'm working this next year. If I'm in a college town, I could audit a class at a local university. I'd just like to be able to do some solid biblical exegesis in the original language. I know enough Greek to be able to do that with the NT (and have used it in preaching, which is the real reason I want to know it) but I'd like to be able to do the same for Hebrew. And Latin would just be helpful since I tend to find myself in sixteenth century when I'm studying. But that's something to decide in August. I thought about taking my Greek textbook, NT, and middle Lidell home, but decided that I wouldn't study it anyway this summer so why carry it all there. It will be easier in the fall when I'm in more of a routine and when it's not so nice outside that I would rather be sitting in the pool. And I'm not sure flashcards would work out so well while floating in crystal clear chlorinated water...maybe a better mind could do it, but I'll take some Diana Gabaldon instead. : ) (speaking of which I think she has a new one coming out this fall! Yay for Clare and Jamie!)

OK must read Dante now...

Monday, May 04, 2009


Hey there. I don't have too much time to write, because I should be doing some research. Just thought I would let you all know that I'm still hanging in. It's finals week, and I have an 8-10 page paper and a final left, and then I'm DONE with master's number two. Wootwoot. Also, I'm hopefully lining up some job prospects. I have at least one interview this month, with two more possibilities. We'll see. Rick and I went to one of the churches this past week and liked it. It was a little bit chaotic (I felt like there was very little sense of cohesive movement among the congregation at times like communion) but the people were friendly and the rector could do a great baptism. So that's good.

Other than that...we're getting more excited about the wedding. We registered at Sears on Sunday. Woohoo! Still have Walmart and Lowes left to register at, but we'll probably do those this weekend. Once classes are done I can finish packing up everything (I'm about 1/4-1/3 of the way there) and try to sell my car. Then home to KY for a few days, then back here for a couple of weeks, then back to KY for the summer until the wedding. Phew.

I'm reading a good book right now. I think it will be the first post in my book postings on this blog.

Also, I'm stoked that the new Star Trek comes out this week. Simon Pegg is in it, and Rick and I both really like his stuff (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Run Fatboy Run) and maybe just maybe we'll go see it at the drive in on Friday night!