Paul, Socrates, and Keith Green

by rundy on April 17, 2014

This week I happened to engage in a cursory refresher on Socrates. It is recorded that the oracle of Delphi said that there was no one wiser than Socrates, and Socrates considered this a paradox because he did not consider himself wise. He realized the oracle was correct when he understood that knowing that he knew nothing made him wiser than all those who thought they knew something when in fact they did not.

I guess this percolated in my mind for a day or two until I connected it with Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 8:1-2, “we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” Socrates lived and died hundreds of years before the time of the apostle Paul, but the teaching of Socrates was still known and impacting Greek culture and schools of thought (and thus certainly in Corinth to which Paul was writing). It thus appears very compelling that Paul, aware of Socrates teaching, was turning the words of the Greeks’ own philosopher back to rebuke them. This is not particularly surprising since in two other occasions in Paul’s writing he explicitly references cultural writings of the day.

I am sure many people have made this connection between Paul and Socrates before. (After it occurred to me I have the faint thought that maybe I had already read it before–there is the tendency to read things and then have it shuffle back to the subconscious until it later bubbles to the surface again and you think it is a “new” thought.) Still, I think it is interesting, and gives a little more context and nuance to the rebuke Paul gives to his readers in Corinth. But what I think is most interesting is the final comment Paul appends:

“But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (v. 3). This is going beyond Socrates. The Greeks were obsessed with knowing things. Paul tells them that being puffed up with knowledge is not the way to go, but takes it even further. Loving God, Paul says, indicates that such a person is known by God. Present tense. It is not “Love God and then you will come to know God” which would fit the Greek idea of “Do something and gain something.” This is a profound reversal. The Greeks were all about reaching up to grasp–whether it be the god(s), wisdom, philosophy, virtue, or whatever. Paul has turned it around and gently reminds his Christian audience that unlike the pagan grasping Greek philosophers who were ever trying to reach up and grasp the god(s) that in fact God had reached down and grasped (known) them. The term “known” is what is used of God’s special relationship, and choosing, of Abraham.

So Paul is re-orienting his Greek Christian audience away from being puffed up in knowledge (and a sense of one’s own accomplishment) and toward a right attitude: That it was not them who grasped God, but God who grasped them and made Himself known in their lives by giving them a love for Him–and such (Paul goes on to say in the rest of the chapter) should lead them on to have a love for their brothers. From the prideful Greek thinking Paul turns his Christian readers around to loving humble service to their brothers.

I delight in seeing how deftly Paul works his rebuke, teaching, and admonishment.

Now, Keith Green.

Somehow, I got onto his music today. Keith, I know you’re dead man, God rest you, but you really weren’t the greatest singer. Tried to go a little high in some of those songs, and some of the tunes are a bit flat. But man, you had some really, really, good lyrics. I don’t know why someone hasn’t come along and sung those words in a little better key, and with power.

Grace By Which I Stand Lyrics – Keith Green

Lord, the feelings are not the same,

I guess I’m older, I guess I’ve changed.

And how I wish it had been explained, that as you’re growing you must remember,

That nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus.

I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace, by which I’m saved.

Lord, I remember that special way,

I vowed to serve you, when it was brand new.

But like Peter, I can’t even watch and pray, one hour with you,

And I bet, I could deny you too.

But nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus.

I’m sure that my whole life would waste away, except for grace, by which I’m saved.

But nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus.

I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace, by which I’m saved.


That is raw. True.

And maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with Socrates, but what Keith Green sings in that song sure has something to do with Paul’s words, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God”

Such is my random flitting thoughts today. Sorry if I didn’t make all of the connections well for the rest of you. I’m just thinking aloud, not writing a thesis.

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The Years of Things

by rundy on March 31, 2014

floccinaucinihilipilificate: (colloquial) To describe or regard something as worthless.


My younger brother Owen likes odd words. If he was not the family inventor of the word “bibbage” he was at least an enthusiastic user of the term. “Bibbage” and “bibbageful” were words coined by younger siblings in the family, derived from a playful combination of “broken” and “garbage” to describe something worthless or trifling and yet perhaps amusing. When he grew older Owen took up the term “trundle” with approval. He likes to go on long trundles, not walks. Somehow, I imagine J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis would approve. It seems like a word for the British view on a method for appreciating nature.

We celebrated Owen’s birthday on Saturday, though his actual birthday wasn’t until Sunday. On the year he was born, the 30th of March was Easter. It snowed that night and the roads weren’t good the next morning when Dad went to visit Mom and the new baby in the hospital. He hadn’t even left our street when his car slid off the road and into a snowbank. This March has felt unreasonably cold, and slow to admit Spring is coming. Such memories remind me that this year is not the only year of late snow.

Owen asked for home made ice cream for dessert so I spent part of my afternoon outside running the ice cream machine to freeze a batch of chocolate ice cream, and a batch of peanut butter. I’ve been freezing ice cream for years and I think these batches ended up as the two best batches I have frozen, as measured by the consistency of the final product. Both batches came out very smooth, with even and fine crystallization. Not the flavors I would have picked, but that doesn’t change my judgment on how well they turned out. Making ice cream is more art than science and a good batch churned to perfection is inordinately pleasing. It makes me feel like a good form of employment would be to simply make artisanal batches of ice cream all day.

It would quickly get boring, really. But the sentiment is there.

For supper Owen requested Philly cheese steak sandwiches. I don’t know that anyone in our immediate family has actually eaten a cheese steak sandwich from Philadelphia PA, but we have our own version. It is a make-your-own-sandwich affair where strips of meat, cheese, sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms are heaped in desired amounts. All very tasty.

The cooking was not without its excitement. While Mom was sautéing the mushrooms on the stove the electric burner shorted out on the bottom of the large frying pan. Everyone agrees there should have been no way for the burner to do what it did. But it did what it did, and in dramatic fashion. I was across the house in the gym emptying the first batch of ice cream out of the mixing canister and what I heard from that distance was something which sounded like a cross between someone welding very loudly and someone running dried beans in a food processor. If you have never heard the distinctive Kaaak-Kaaak-Kaaak! of a welding rod, then you probably can’t imagine the sound very well. But it was indeed something like that, only many times louder.

Grandma O’Keefe saw what happened and she said it looked like an explosion. Dad saw the end of it, and said that what looked like a baseball sized spark shot toward the ceiling. Perhaps that was a blast of metal plasma. Mom fell over backward onto a bench. Then the circuit breaker tripped. But not before part of the electric burner on the stove vaporized, and in the process melted a hole through the bottom of the pan. It all happened very quickly, and was as impressive as it was unsettling.

Fortunately we have a propane stove in the basement so meal preparation went on.

Nobody cares to think about what would have happened if Mom had been touching the pan with a metal spoon at the moment the burner shorted out. It is also discomforting that the burner in question was only a little over a month old, having been a recent replacement. Needless to say Mom doesn’t really want to use the electric stove ever again.

It was dark and raining when Grandma and Grandpa O’Keefe left. When Grandma pulled out of the driveway she drove into the ditch across the street. The car is a tiny little thing and lurched to one side with one front wheel hanging over the ditch and a rear wheel dangling up in the air over the road it looked like a pathetic machine lost and out of place on a back country road. Several of us boys grabbed the front of the car and lifted it out of the ditch.

The temperature was still above freezing when I left late Saturday night, and remained moderate Sunday morning. Then a severe local snow squall moved through late Sunday. On the way home from church Arlan helped push a pickup truck and a van out of the snow. March is not leaving quietly, as it did not those years ago.

When you are nearly the oldest of twelve siblings you have the privilege of feeling old before your time as one by one the little children grow up. The memories leave their odd feeling when they slip through heart and mind. Is it fondness and sadness mixed up together and confused? Perhaps the word is bittersweet.


lacrimae rerum: The “tears of things”; the inherent tragedy of existence.




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The Many and Fine Holes

by rundy on March 27, 2014

Back in the day when Teman and I were still young and spent most of our time goofing off–an activity elsewhere called “being homeschooled”–we spent a good share of our time browsing through old copies of Fine Homebuilding magazine. Well, I would browse, look at the pictures, and read the funny disaster story column in the back. Teman probably read them cover-to-cover like he read encyclopedias. They were a legacy of our father, a subscription probably started around the time he was in trade school and likely stopped when he finally reconciled himself to the fact that life was taking him down a different path. Anyhow, it was here in the pages of these magazines–some of which were printed before we were born–that we penniless paupers dreamed of the houses we would someday build.

I think Teman was a little more systematic in his dreaming and planing. Me, I looked at pictures. Today, we are much older. I still spend probably too much time looking a pictures, a bit more time reading and maybe not enough time writing. I’m still the penniless pauper. Teman has a decent paying job working in a power plant at a local state facility. Neither of us can yet afford to build our dream house, but I’d say Teman has a better shot at it some day. But before that day one has to start with small dreams. And one small dream Teman had was radiant floor heat.

We first saw radiant floor hearting in one of those old Fine Homebuilding magazines. For those of you who didn’t spend part of your youth drooling over old construction trade magazines, I will explain. In the original radiant heating, steam or hot water is piped through radiators along the wall. This was more heat efficient than forced hot air, and more healthy (no dust blown around). However, radiant heat was more expensive to install than forced hot air. New radiant floor heat takes everything to the next level. The radiators are built directly into the floor, a grid of tubing underneath all the floor. The method of installation depends on the type of floor–in concrete the tubing which holds the water is buried directly into the concrete pour, in wood construction the method is different and varied but the end result is the radiant heat is between the sub-floor and the finished flooring. Radiant floor heat is more expensive to install than the old radiator heating, but since the heat is evenly distributed throughout the floor it is more efficient and makes a more comfortable environment. It is considered one of the ultimate (if not the ultimate) method of residential heating.

Way back when radiant floor heating first came out it was only designed for new construction. It was Teman’s dream to have this in the house he built. Sometime not too many years after radiant floor heating was invented they started designing methods to retrofit an installation in old construction. Basically, clips are used to attach the pipe to the bottom of the sub-flooring and the pipes are run between the joists. It isn’t quite as efficient as the new construction design, but it is still good.

When our family moved into the old farmhouse in Oxford, Teman saw the opportunity to install radiant floor heat. If anyone asked, it was all about the oil forced hot air furnace being old, and the oil fired hot water heater, and how between the two of them they cost quite a lot in the oil heating bill. So in the long run it would be cheaper to install radiant floor heat. All true. But I remember the boy who was dreaming of using radiant floor heat.

So, over the last several weeks we have been running the lines for the new radiant floor heat. The disaster column was my favorite part of the Fine Homebuilding magazines, and I suppose it is thus fitting that my construction life often resembles those columns in some measure. I helped pull two of the lines, but my job has mostly been to drill the holes necessary for running the heating lines while other siblings followed behind and pulled the plastic pipe throughthe holes. My job required a minimum of two holes in every joist, and some required double that number of holes depending on how many zones were passing through. In other words, a lot of holes needed drilling.

Teman had borrowed a powerful right-angle drill and bought an expensive one and a half inch spade bit so most of the holes were easy to drill. But there were a few problem areas. The first problem was drilling through the main center beam under the house. The house is an old post and beam construction so the center beam is a good twelve inches of solid wood. Back in the day when we lived in the old house in Triangle and I was but a youth, Dad had to drill through just such a beam and I remembered the experience well. Let’s just say that one or two broken spade bits later Dad use a chain saw to make the hole he needed. I was looking to avoid that conclusion this time.

I had a better spade bit than Dad used all those years ago, and I tried to take it slow to keep the bit from binding, but it was still hard on the bits. The drill could take the work fine–it had enough torque to snap the bits without trying–and that was the problem. By the time the drill gave any hint that there was a problem it was too late. I had to estimate when I had to back out and clean away the saw dust, and if I mis-guessed at the bit bound up in the hole I could have a broken or bent spade bit.

By the end of the project I had snapped the base off two bits, bent one bit, bent one extender, and snapped the head off another extender. This wasn’t all on one hole–there were several holes that gave me trouble. But these were expensive bits, and extenders. I was lucky to have brothers who could afford to purchase replacements as needed. I wouldn’t be suprised if all combined north of fifty dollars were spent on bits and extenders. But, on the plus side, we got all the holes drilled without resort to a chainsaw.

The second difficult point was when I had to drill holes over the old cistern in the basement. It is empty of water, but the original joists over cistern were so rotted that a previous owner had sistered boards on both sides of several original joist. This made a much thicker piece of wood I had to drill through, and in several places it didn’t even leave me enough room to get a good angle when I started my drilling. It was a frustrating and cramped place to work. But a kinda cool and creepy holding cell for any naughty children.

The final difficulty–and this was the most difficult–was when we ran the line out to the gym. Technically this is the attached garage that we finished and made into a living space, and which holds two spare freezers and a spare refrigerator, along with a computer, and exercise equipment. Also, technically it isn’t going to be radiant floor heat out there because the floor is a concrete pad so there will be a transition to wall radiators.

The concrete pad was a big obstacle because we faced the hurdle of trying to drill a hole through the concrete to get the line out of the basement and into the gym. We were saved from attempting this (and in hindsight surely failing short of using a jack-hammer) when I lit upon the idea of feeding the line through the tiny space under the attached bathroom and out through the floor of the bathroom and under the sink in the gym. It was as convoluted a path as it sounds, but it was a path that didn’t appear to need a jackhammer to use.

There was no possibility of crawling up in the tiny space under the bathroom floor and drilling out through the sill plate into the gym, so I had to drill into the crawl space from under the sink that was in the gym. I was painfully aware that I was drilling blind with a very sharp bit into a tight space filled with plumbing. The bit could easily puncture one of the copper water lines and start a spraying wet disaster in a space that would require us ripping up the entire bathroom floor in order to reach and fix. It was the sort of situation where everything could suddenly go south, very fast.

Cue the disaster music.

The first hole I drilled hit some metal object. It was either a stud plate or some lag or re-bar attaching the sill plate to the concrete. After giving up on the hole I moved to a slightly different location under the sink and drilled again. This time I got through, and hit the PVC drain line that served the sink in the bathroom. I took a chunk out of the pipe as big as the end of my finger nail before I pulled the drill bit back. This wasn’t as bad as hitting a pressurized water line, but it was still a problem. Any time the sink was used water would leak out the hole. Under normal circumstances this would have been an easy fix–but I hit this drain line right where it butted up against concrete and stud in a wall underneath a sink. There was no space to access the line and properly patch it.

This is where a simple job gets really complicated. The sawzall entered the picture and I cut away as much wood and sheet rock under the sink as I could. Then I got out the stone chisels and the short-handled sledge hammer and began widening a hole in the concrete block. All this work had to be done under a sink, which meant either lying painfully on my side on top of the cabinet frame, or else effectively standing on my head whilst trying to work. I alternated. The former made my side heart, and it was nearly impossible to breath when I was trying to do something in that position. The latter position of standing on my head was more comfortable and allowed free breathing, but that position gave me a headache.

Picture tools and debries scattered everywhere.

To make a very short story out of a lot of work, I managed to clamp a piece of rubber gasket over the hole in the drain line which fixed the leak. This looks incredibly stupid, but cutting out the damaged section and patching the line properly really would have required tearing up the entire bathroom floor, so this alternative was gladly accepted. After that I slightly widened my hole through the concrete block sill and then we pulled the first line up through the the narrow space using a wire drain snake.

It all sounds rather mundane and easy, but I am most proud of the trick we managed to pull off getting the radiator line into the gym. I’d have been happier if we had avoided the whole hitting-the-drain-line incident but that little mistake aside it was a rather clever, and difficult, feat to manage to pull the line up the way we did and was by fair the most technically difficult part of the project that we did ourselves.

Today I am helping Teman with the last bits of radiant line that needs to be run. It should be pretty easy. The only problem is that we need to keep ahead of the man Teman hired to set up the actual boiler who is hooking everything up and check for leaks. If you want to see real fancy work, you’d have to see what that man did setting up the boiler and zone controls. The zone controls have enough valves and levers and pipes to satisfy the imaginations of boys reading through old Fine Homebuilding magazines. That, at least, is state-of-the-art and a job done right.

Sometimes childhood dreams become a reality, after a fashion.


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Savage March

by rundy on March 16, 2014

There is the over-worn saying, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” I am convinced that optimistic description was not created in these climes, nor does not apply to these Northern locations except for a unusually balmy March. While around here the end of March is typically better than the beginning, I wouldn’t say we reach lamb-like weather until April. A more appropriate saying would be that March comes in like a dragon and goes out like a lion. March is savage.

But really, if we’re going to talk about the month of March we could call it a bi-polar month and stop there. March doesn’t make a nice progression from nasty to nice. It careens all over the place like a person with mental issues who can’t decide if they are happy or angry. One day the weather is glorious, the next it feels like the pit of winter. And good luck predicting what tomorrow will bring.

To survive March in these parts you need to have an even keel. In the depths of winter you need fortitude because the weather is unrelentingly dreary. But in March you need that even keel to survive the swing from “Yaaaa! It’s sunny out! Let’s go enjoy the weather!” to “Oh my gosh! It’s so cold! Look at all the snow falling!”

The whiplash between the extremes can be severe, and this week was a great example. On Tuesday this past week it warmed up to a sunny afternoon high in the fifties (F). I went out on a bike ride in a short sleeve shirt and it was glorious. Then on Thursday morning the day started out at 7F and the wind howled. Oh, how the whined howled like some savage nasty creature. When I went out for my bike ride on Thursday I had to bundle up like it was December or January. This was only two days apart. It felt insane.

I think for someone who has not lived in these parts the weather of March can be very unnerving. The reaction can range from, “How can the weather be so crazy?” to “Will it ever end?” But as one who has lived all my life here, I can just smile at March. (Though, I admit I wasn’t smiling on Thursday when the wind was blowing so hard I almost couldn’t pedal the bike forward.) I know that all the crazy weather in March is a good sign. The sun grows strong, winter is losing its hold, and spring is coming.


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by rundy on March 5, 2014

When lifting or carrying a heavy object, there is an acute awareness of gravity. When carrying a very heavy object down a flight of stairs, this awareness multiplies. So it was that as stood beneath the piano on the stairs I was very sensitive to the work of gravity on me. I was balanced on the knife edge of going somewhere I didn’t want to go, and going very fast in the direction.

I am strong for my size. I am not fat, but I am somewhat bulky for my size. But “my size” is only five feet seven inches tall, which falls decidedly on the short end of the scale and definitely limits both my strength and weight. There is only so much you can pack on a five foot seven frame, and those limitations are felt in a pressing way when the weight of a piano is bearing down on you. I was able to comfortably pick up and carry my end of the piano, but once on the stairs I couldn’t escape the reality of how much more the piano weighed than I did. I had the unmistakable sensation that my weight was not sufficient to keep my shoes firmly planted on the stair tread, and shortly my feet would start sliding backward off the stairs, pushed by the inexorable weight of the piano.

I ended up on that staircase, with that piano, because I was helping my aunt and her family move. I was not the only adult male present, and I certainly wasn’t the tallest or the heaviest. But I might have been the strongest, and I was sure of my capabilities–unlike the bigger but somewhat rolly-polly alternatives. It is no good if you are big and heavy but don’t have the hand strength to hold onto the piano and so drop it halfway down the stairs, breaking your shins and ending up in a bloody heap at the bottom. Ideally a bigger person would have been better suited, but since they were unknown quantities which I had met scarcely more than five minutes ago, I opted to take point. At least then I knew what I was getting into.

When my Aunt Marianne and family moved into the second story apartment my brothers Teman and Lachlan had helped them move in. Both Teman and Lachlan are stronger than me (by a good bit in some measures) and had managed, between the two of them, to get the piano upstairs. However, they were not available to help for this move. But they had told me the story of their travails, and how it had required every last ounce of their strength, and how Lachlan had almost blacked out from the effort of lifting the piano up over the stair rail at the bottom.

Lachlan had told me (rather breezily) prior to the move that he thought I could do it because he had been “much weaker” back then. This did not comfort me. Regardless of whether he was weaker back then or not, Lachlan has a tendency to underestimate the difference in our strength and to forget the full implications of the fact that he is several inches taller than I am, and a good twenty-five pounds or more heavier than I am. On top of that, Lachlan had lifted to piano over the stair rail at the bottom of the stairs before exerting himself to carry it up the stairs. I, on the other hand, would be lifting the piano over the stair rail after I had made the taxing journey down the stairs. Except, unless God blessed me with the strength of Samson, I doubted I would be lifting the piano over any stair rails.

I had an alternative plan. My aunt’s friends from church were at the upper end of the piano, but my several male siblings were behind me. They couldn’t help me carry the piano down the stairs because of space constraints, but once we reached the bottom I intended to pass the point position to them. I figured two or three of them, with a bit of extra help from me if necessary, could get the piano over the stair rail.

But first we had to get down there. That was the tricky part.

As anyone who has carried a heavy object down stairs knows, the weight of said object increases exponentially if you are on the lower side. As the object tips downhill nearly all of the weight is transferred to the lower person and those on the upper side carry a much lighter portion of the weight and are primarily responsible for stabilizing and guiding the heavy object. If the man on the lower side looses his grip, or his balance, there is little those on the upper side can do besides try to avoid tumbling down the stairs as well.

So I started backward down the stairs and as I descended nearly the full weight of the piano came down on me. The two or three men on the uphill side scrabbled and gripped the piano as best they could, but I knew if something happened to me I was on my own. And I could feel that I did not weigh enough to counter the downward pressure of the piano against my chest as it sought to answer gravity’s hungry call. It didn’t matter if I had enough strength to hold the piano up if I didn’t have enough weight to counter it’s push.

“Brace my back! Brace me!” I hastily instructed my brothers behind me. With several hands pushing against my back I felt like I finally had enough force countering the piano to keep me on the stairs. I continued my careful descent.

The staircase was curved so it was not easy going. About halfway down, one of the men above me got stuck and we had to stop until he could free himself and get out of the way. As anyone knows, the longer you hold a heavy object the heavier it feels. The piano was not too heavy for me, but the longer we dallied on the stairs the heavier it became.

“Wait, wait,” the man said. “I’m stuck. I need to get free.”

So I stopped, and waited. Breath. Just breath. Hurry up, guys, I can’t hold this forever. I didn’t say that aloud because they were trying to correct the situation as fast as possible and commentary wouldn’t help, but every minute felt exceptionally long and every second reminded me in a pressing way that I did not have an infinite amount of strength to draw from and oh, by the way, this is starting to feel heavier and heavier.

The stuck man extracted himself and we made it to the bottom of the stairs. It didn’t actually take that long but by the time we reached the bottom the muscle fatigued in my arms was such that I wasn’t sure if I could, in the moment, lift my own arms over my head much less a piano over the stair rails. At that point there was the hasty switch over as my planned transfer took place and two or three of my younger brothers maneuvered the piano up over the rail.

That piano was the hardest part of the entire move. The rest was pretty much child’s play in comparison.


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Elsewhere . . .

by rundy on February 28, 2014

Sorry for the protracted silence, readers. I hope to return next week with some meaty posts (well, at least one). In the meantime, for your interest I will share some of what I’ve done elsewhere.

I wrote a guest post over at the DR Power Equipment blog:

Then, over at my professional website I have been intermittently creating quote pictures. That is what I call them–I’m sure you’ve seen the sort of thing all over the Internet; some picture with a quote attached to it. For my own amusement I decided to take a hand at creating some. Most are quotes from other people which I put with some photo. However, one is a quote I invented myself–a tongue in cheek “inspirational” exercise quotation. Please repeat that one regularly to your friends so that I become famous:

That will have to keep you until next week. Stay warm!


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Snow for All

by rundy on February 7, 2014

Overnight from February 4th 2014 on into February 5th it snowed. I have seen much worse storms, but it was the biggest storm of the year.

Open the front door:

Snow to the door

For a few more photos, I added a short album:

And just to put life in perspective, here a some photos from a very cold place on earth where people live:


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The Moderation of Good Judgement

by rundy on January 28, 2014

A break today from my usual more long-form writing. This article ( presents a good critique, and could be applied to many more similar cases. A bit of truth far oversold is the currency of t0day. I wrote about it previously myself ( That is still worth saying, now four years later.

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Packing and Moving

by rundy on January 22, 2014

On January 4th a passel of my family moved my mom’s parents (Grandma and Grandpa O’Keefe) from Syracuse NY to the local small town of Greene. Since we also moved them up to Syracuse from Plainfield NJ nearly ten years previous, the two different moves were unavoidably compared. The move ten years ago was across 240 miles, and from a large house to a three bedroom third floor apartment. The move this time was across 67 miles from that third story three bedroom apartment to a small house. The first move was a significant downsize in space, the second was an increase in living space. All of this to say the move this month was much easier.

But still, the recent move had its trying points. In the previous move we had the advantage of more planning. Prior to the summer move last time, Titi and I had gone down to NJ in April and did a decent amount of pre-packing, and staging of material. Then when the summer move came four of us went down to NJ several days in advance of the move and carefully prepared everything for the actual day of moving. When the day of the move arrived I had devised a packing strategy, we had stuff staged and the plan rehearsed, and I fitted everything from a full large house into a 26 foot moving truck–a feat that I admit to being a bit proud of. I like to think all the years I spent stacking hay for farmers paid off.

We had to pack the house in NJ in one day and drive up to NY state the same day. The second day we drove to Syracuse and unloaded the truck into the 3 bedroom apartment. Packing and moving the stuff, and then unpacking it into a small apartment was a great logistical challenge and quite a logistical achievement considering how well we pulled it off.

There were not the same logistical problems this time. The journey was much shorter, and we were moving from a small space to a larger space. But the move was not as easy as it could have been because this time we compressed everything into one day. We had one day to pack everything up into the boxes, load the truck, travel, and then unload the truck. This time it wasn’t a challenge of logistics, but rather a challenge of time efficiency.

I arrived at the apartment on Saturday at 10:00 AM with the rest of the crew following soon after. About the only thing packed when we arrived was the fine china, and such breakables. The rest of the apartment was as it was lived in.

The problems began immediately. The 26 foot truck that had been rented in advance could not be started that morning by the rental agency because of the very cold weather. So we were given two 16 foot trucks instead. When Teman and Arlan went with Grandma to pick up the trucks, Grandma had difficulty finding the rental location. The trucks did not reach the apartment complex until around noon, but in the meantime the rest of us did not sit around waiting. We were frenetically packing, staging boxes out in the hall, and then making a large stack of them in the living room. When the trucks finally arrived, we had plenty of boxes to start loading.

One of the great things about our family working together is that we are very effective. Jobs are divided up naturally, and we know that everyone will do the job assigned to them. We can work in a good rhythm. On moving day some people were filling boxes in rooms while other people were moving boxes back and forth. I had the duty of loading the truck, while other people brought the stuff down to me.

Everything had a good flow, except there was one problem. The rate of stuff coming down from the apartment was too slow. The first 16 foot truck was loaded, and the second started, but the day waned late. Darkness was starting to set in and I got the feeling we would run out of day before we finished packing. So I decided the speed of things needed to be kicked up a notch from “brisk” to “crazy.” Instead of waiting at the truck for the other people to bring down stuff for me to load, I joined in on bringing stuff down until I had a large collection ready for packing. I quickly discovered–as others already had before me–that the elevator to the third floor was very slow, and a lot of time was spent standing around waiting for the elevator. So I reverted to using the stairs. And, feeling our rapidly closing window of time, I began running up and down the three flights of stairs with the stuff I carried from the apartment. It is even faster to go up the stairs if at the landings between flights you are going fast enough to grab the rail and use your moment to swing yourself around pendulum like, and skip the landing, along with a stair or two.

Working full-out like that, we managed to finish cleaning out the apartment at nearly 9:00 PM. Then it was time for the drive back to Greene.

On the journey home I got us lost. Well, not truly lost. We were trying to get on the highway, and we knew exactly where the highway was located, but my directions to the on-ramp were not working out. I am terrible with directions, and I should never have taken the lead, driving by myself and following directions as I tried to navigate in the dark. I was not thinking very clearly because of the long day, but I had thought it would be easy, and fool-proof since I had gone that way once before. But that had been years ago, and when it wasn’t dark. If I had been by myself, it would have been no big deal. You make a wrong turn on a back country road and you correct by simply turning around. But in our caravan I had two 16 foot trucks following me as we journeyed on the sometimes snow covered and icy country roads, and I knew “turning around” was a much more difficult procedure. Soon as I was certain that I had messed up my directions I pulled over and let Titi in the pickup, who had Evan with a phone with GPS as copolit, take the lead.

The journey to the highway was still a bit of a comedy of errors. By this point Cadie (who is even more of a worrier than I) was getting anxious from her point at the back of the convoy and callied Evan to say that she was concerned that her car might run out of gas before we got un-lost. While he was talking to Cadie, Evan failed to keep an eye on how well Titi was following his directions and so she accidentally turned into a trailer park. Since she was leading, we all followed. Thus our five vehicle convoy ended up driving on what was practically a snow covered wheel-barrow path through the back hills of upstate NY after dark. I watched Titi fish-tail the truck slightly in front of me, and glanced in my rear-view mirror behind, and fretted about how if somebody got stuck in the snow here we would really have a fun time.

Fortunately, nobody got stuck. After we all successfully navigated our little journey around the trailer park and made it back onto a real road everything straightened out. Once we reached the on-ramp for the highway it was a straight shot home. We arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s new house at nearly 10:00 PM. Unloading the trucks into the garage progressed rapidly. I left before everything was unloaded because I had another 45 minute drive back to Grandma Purdy’s place, but basically we did the entire move in 12 hours. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t neat, but to both pack and move in that amount of time is a success, I say.

Doing that type of work for so many hours uses the body, but it also uses the mind. If you are going to do it well you need to be subconciously thinking about a lot of stuff. There is a lot of time and spatial management that has to be going on while physically working at the same time. I didn’t realize how much my mind had got into the groove until When I went to bed that night I still had images of packing flashing through my head. it felt a little weird to go to bed and still be thinking in pictures, “Packing…packing…packing.”


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A Bit Like Jonah

by rundy on January 3, 2014

But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Matt. 12:39-41)

Miracles are interesting things. Like with the Pharisees’ demand for a miracle, so often those that God works are not what we want, what we expect, or even what we would admit as a miracle. One of the marvelous things about miracles is that they so often make people hate God.

When I saw the story of the man who survived three days on the bottom of the ocean in a sunken ship, that caught my attention. Below are some excerpts from the story:

LAGOS, Nigeria – Entombed at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in an upended tugboat for three days, Harrison Odjegba Okene begged God for a miracle.

The Nigerian cook survived by breathing an ever-dwindling supply of oxygen in an air pocket. [...]

As the temperature dropped to freezing, Okene, dressed only in boxer shorts, recited the last psalm his wife had sent by text message, sometimes called the Prayer for Deliverance: “Oh God, by your name, save me. … The Lord sustains my life.”

To this day, Okene believes his rescue after 72 hours underwater at a depth of about 100 feet is a sign of divine deliverance. The other 11 seaman aboard the Jascon 4 died.

Divers sent to the scene were looking only for bodies, according to Tony Walker, project manager for the Dutch company DCN Diving, who were called to the scene because they were working on a neighboring oil field 75 miles away.

The divers had already pulled up four bodies.

So when a hand appeared on the TV screen Walker was monitoring in the rescue boat, showing what the diver in the Jascon saw, everybody assumed it was another corpse.

“The diver acknowledged that he had seen the hand and then, when he went to grab the hand, the hand grabbed him!” Walker said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“It was frightening for everybody,” he said. “For the guy that was trapped because he didn’t know what was happening. It was a shock for the diver while he was down there looking for bodies, and we (in the control room) shot back when the hand grabbed him on the screen.”

On the video, there’s an exclamation of fear and shock from Okene’s rescuer, and then joy as the realization sets in. Okene recalls hearing: “There’s a survivor! He’s alive.”

Walker said Okene couldn’t have lasted much longer.

“He was incredibly lucky he was in an air pocket but he would have had a limited time (before) … he wouldn’t be able to breathe anymore.”


Okene’s ordeal began around 4:30 a.m. on May 26. Always an early riser, he was in the toilet when the tug, one of three towing an oil tanker in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta waters, gave a sudden lurch and then keeled over.

“I was dazed and everywhere was dark as I was thrown from one end of the small cubicle to another,” Okene said in an exclusive interview after his rescue with Nigeria’s Nation newspaper.

He groped his way out of the toilet and tried to find a vent, propping doors open as he moved on. He discovered some tools and a life vest with two flashlights, which he stuffed into his shorts.

When he found a cabin of the sunken vessel that felt safe, he began the long wait, getting colder and colder as he played back a mental tape of his life — remembering his mother, friends, mostly the woman he’d married five years before with whom he hadn’t yet fathered a child.

He worried about his colleagues — 10 Nigerians and the Ukrainian captain including four young cadets from Nigeria’s Maritime Academy. They would have locked themselves into their cabins, standard procedure in an area stalked by pirates.

He got really worried when he heard the sound of fish, shark or barracudas he supposed, eating and fighting over something big.

As the waters rose, he made a rack on top of a platform and piled two mattresses on top.

According to his interview with the Nation: “I started calling on the name of God. … I started reminiscing on the verses I read before I slept. I read the Bible from Psalm 54 to 92. My wife had sent me the verses to read that night when she called me before I went to bed.”

He survived off just one bottle of Coke, all he had to sustain him during the trauma.

Okene really thought he was going to die, he told the Nation, when he heard the sound of a boat engine and anchor dropping, but failed to get the attention of rescuers. He figured, given the size of the boat, that it would take a miracle for a diver to locate him. So he waded across the cabin, stripped the wall down to its steel body, then knocked on it with a hammer.

But “I heard them moving away. They were far away from where I was.”

By the time he was saved, relatives already had been told the sailors were dead.

Okene kept faith with the psalm he recited, that promises to “give thanks in your name, Lord,” at a service at his Redeemed Christian Church of God.

The particular article I excerpted above was from Fox News ( Other versions on the Internet are much truncated. Comments on the event, cover the spectrum. “Lucky man” some say. “God saved him,” others answer. “And so God killed the other 11 who didn’t survive?” is a sneering response. “What kind of God is that?” Then National Geographic chimes in to say, “Turns out that an air bubble was Harrison Okene’s savior.” (

The comments speak for themselves, in more ways than one.

If you want an abbreviated video, the AP version is here:

A long version is here:

To me, it is marvelous beyond words that we should be given the opportunity to be witnesses the grace of God shown to this man.


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