Slow Going

Currently reading two works which, though as different as could be, require slow, thoughtful study.

They are Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England by Jane Chance and Andrew Murray’s With Christ in The School of Prayer.

Therefore I will again fail to meet my habitual two to three reviews a week pace.

I’m making better progress on Small Acts of Defiance: A Novel of WWII and Paris by Michelle Wright, but as I’m reading it on my personal computer (and I dislike reading on a computer) I’m not moving fast.

Good reading.

The Real Cost of Living


Cost of living may be defined as the amount of money needed to sustain a certain level of living, including basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes and health care. As reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price, it’s a measure of what typical consumers pay for retail goods and other items.

But the real cost of living is far higher. Beyond our teen years, few of us our live our dreams. Our aspirations. Our goals. That symphony you conceived. That killer app you thought up. That design. That song. That marathon. That painting. That book. That achievement. Even that trip or nest egg.

The 99th percentile are not just the hyper rich. More often they are the hyper focused. The ones who shed family and friends on the way toward their goal, be it success, money, or fame. The rest of us–we compromised.

Allen Saunders wrote, “Life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans” more than twenty years before John Lennon put it into a song. (Typical. Someone famous gets the credit.) Because paying the rent, changing the diapers, mowing the grass, washing dishes, even hanging out, solitaire or Facebook or Snap Chat all come first.

That dream, that image, that goal fades farther and farther away. Eventually we lose sight of it amid the clutter of life. We settle for … less.

The cost of living is your dreams.

I Lied Today

r toon

I lied today. About my age.

As I waited to get a haircut, the other men bragged about how old they were. The oldest was 87, and the youngest, but me, was 81.

I told them I was 71. Which I am … almost. They complemented me on looking younger. I felt bad.

What possessed me to do that? Felt like a child saying he was almost seven.

Not a bad feeling–not the fib–the childishness.


My Seven Wonders of the World, #5


photo from

Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru.

Despite the latter being the poster image (top photo) of the Inca Empire, they ruled from Saksaywaman (near Cusco) eighty kilometers away. In my mind the massive walls of Saksaywaman (lower image) are more striking than the re-constructed temples, homes and terraces of Machu Picchu. (The photograph does not reveal that the far hills are separated from Machu Picchu by a river gorge, which effectively creates a thousand-foot-deep moat on three sides of the site.)

Particularly remarkable is the similarity of Saksaywaman’s finely-fitted massive walls to similar constructions, such as the cyclopean walls of Mycenae half a world and several millennia away, and Osaka Castle, closer in time but more remote culturally.

Machu Picchu’s site and modern reconstruction renders it more photogenic, despite its being a subsidiary outpost of the Inca. After the Spanish conquest, the site of Machu Picchu site was covered by jungle and known only by locals until the twentieth century. If you have the opportunity, visit both as we did.

The particularly fit can trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu along paved trails of the Inca. The distance challenges less than the altitude, which starts at 12,000 and descends to 8,000. We didn’t make that trek but did in 2003 climb Huayna Picchu, the hill overlooking Machu Picchu, to a tiny (perhaps priestly) community site for a selfie (since lost).

My Seven Wonders of the World, #4


Appian Way near Rome (

Roman Roads, including bridges and aqueducts, but not monuments and buildings. The Romans didn’t just grade the path and lay out some stones, they built their roads like buildings. They built their roads to last, and last they did.

To this day Europe, western Asia and North Africa are crisscrossed with the veins of Roman military, commercial and administrative governance. They anticipated modern highways for defense and commerce.
Seemingly, all the straight roads in England were laid out by the Romans. Over mountains, across rivers, or through bogs, the Roman demonstrated that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The Watling Street from Exeter to Lincoln stretches 293 kilometers, never more than ten kilometers from a straight line.


(Caesarea Maritime aqueduct in Israel. My photograph)

Over the years we encountered Roman roads in England, Germany, Italy (of course), Greece, Turkey, and Israel. The adage about all roads leading to Rome may not be true, but the roads connected an empire for a thousand years, and many remain under roads and bridges still used today. (You’d think we could make a road last a hundred years.)

My Seven Wonders of the World, #3


Temple Mount of Jerusalem



The Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been a focus of history and religious devotion and fanaticism for three millennia. Three faith’s hold it to be the site where Abraham offered his son (Genesis), though they disagree which son was offered. It was the site of Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s (Nehemiah?) and Herod’s temples in the tenth and sixth centuries BC and first century AD.

Some assert that Herod’s Temple was only the second, as the building of the third temple will supposedly trigger the Apocalypse, but historically Herod’s Temple was the third Jewish temple built on this site. Calling it a reconstruction of Zerubbabel’s sanctuary would compare to Continue reading

My Seven Wonders of the World, #2

The second in a series of seven articles about the seven man-made objects/sites I found most amazing. You mileage is sure to vary.

My #2 is Stonehenge.

stonehenge image

Equally old, evocative and challenging as the Giza Pyramid group is the Stonehenge of Wiltshire, England. Stonehenge is a series of concentric circular monuments started as early as 8000 B. C. Most visible today are the remains of Stonehenge designated 3aII, built during the twenty-sixth century B. C., about the same time as Khufu’s Pyramid.

Stonehenge is best seen on quiet days without the crazies. (Like the Pyramids, Stonehenge was built long before Continue reading

My Seven Wonders of the World, #1

Noodling around the internet “researching” something else, I ran across a New Wonders of the World list. Based on a poll run by an outfit in Switzerland, it was mostly a popularity contest. Several of the listed “wonders” can be rejected outright: neither the Statue of Liberty in New York nor Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro are wonders. Large statues, but neither the largest nor the most significant. Too modern. Ditto the Eiffel Tower. Petra and the Taj Mahal at least showed endurance.

So, I jotted down a list of seven wonders, then realized that I had actually seen only four of them. How can I judge the wonder-value of something I’ve only seen in photographs? Therefore, I started over, listing seven manmade structures which moved me when I experienced them. Rather than just list the seven, I’ll devote a short article to each. Along with a picture. Unfortunately, I visited some before the era of digital photography and, while I took pictures of each, I’d be hard pressed to find them now, and they’d be slides, prints or negatives.

The current mode would start at number seven and work up to number one, but that doesn’t work because, even if any of you have seen them, there can be only one greatest manmade wonder of the world. Even the ancients agreed. In fact, this group of structures was ancient when the ancients made their list. And is the only surviving wonder of the original list. I’m referring, of course, to:

1. The Great Pyramids at Giza, Egypt.


The Giza Pyramids are perhaps the only “gimmee” on the list. No one who sees them can miss their gigantic proportions and simplicity of form. When I saw the Pyramids in March 1983, I was prepared beforehand to be underwhelmed because I expected them not to live up to the hype. We stayed at the Mena House Hotel (a significant historical site itself) just down the hill from Khufu’s Pyramid. (The Mena House starts on the edge of the picture, by the golf course.) The first afternoon we walked up the hill to see for ourselves.

Approached that way, Khufu’s Pyramid shields those of Khafre and Menkaure. Khufu’s Pyramid isn’t just big, it’s so big that your sense of proportion is jarred. Impressive? It’s as impressive–no, more impressive in person. In addition to the three great pyramids Continue reading

Convincing Ourselves the Real is the Ideal


ISTOCK image in WSJ

Hopeful science thought for the New Year (from Dr. Helen Fisher on via the WSJ):

“Natural selection [favors] those who responded negatively to the one malevolent intruder, rather than positively to myriad friendly guests.”

But, “happily-in-love long-term partners [overlook] the negative to focus on the positive aspects of their marital relationships—… ‘positive illusions.’ … We humans are able to convince ourselves that the real is the ideal.”

“The neural roots of tolerance, mercy and pardon may live deep in the human psyche.”

Happy New Year, especially you who survived and thrived in long-term, loving relationships.

Firing a Flintlock at Colonial Williamsburg


(not flintlock firing program participants)

Want and need seldom coalesce as conveniently and enjoyably as they did March 30, 2016. In the process of writing a Revolutionary War novel, I had questions about the process and feel of firing a flintlock musket of that period. Such an experience is not readily available.


The range, safely away from populated areas

By happy coincidence Colonial Williamsburg, about an hour from where I live, recently inaugurated a flintlock firing program. I inquired and found the requirements simple and suitable. So, while my wife photographed the sheep, flowers and people in Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area, three other gentlemen and I were transported to the new black powder firing range.

Williamsburg’s program is convenient, safe and well-presented. Each two shooters are paired with an instructor, while the remaining costumed attendant acts as range safety officer. State-of-the-art noise reduction Continue reading