The full extent of my ignorance…

I do an awful lot of thinking, and probably do a lot of awful thinking.  Problem is that since nobody can hear my thinking it’s only subject to correction by chance.

That’s where you come in, and the reason for the tag line “Helping to build a better Dave.”  I am going to try to put a lot of my thoughts here as the spirit moves me, and your job will be to correct stink’n think’n, help give me a check up from the neck up, and direct me towards TRVTH.

My interests are too wide ranging to list and so you may expect almost anything from quantum computing to pipe organs.

As the son of a conservative Southern Baptist minister, I am acutely aware of the many “flavors” of Christian belief there are to be found in the areas where I grew up and have lived since.   Some may see a conflict between my thoughts on temporal matters of science and society and my professed faith.  I do not, as I divide theology and science with a hard line.  Theology deals with “by whose hand?” while science deals with “How did He do it?” in my own world view.  There can be no judgments by one of these that are not in perfect harmony with the other, and to the extent they appear to be is human error in all cases.

I love science and have kept abreast of the latest discoveries all my life, but unlike many, I am not dazzled by it as I consider our current knowledge level to be quite primitive.  In fact, I often describe my view of our level of understanding of the nature of our universe as being, as a species, about as far along as a baby is between birth and their first smile.  That statement may actually be generous since we have yet to even leave the womb, planet Earth.   Until we do, we have no way of knowing what we will be when we grow up.

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ecce homo

Detail of "Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo where our Creator passes the spark of reason to man.  At least, that is how I see it.

Detail of “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo where our Creator passes the gift of reason to man. At least, that is how I see it.

Our evolutionary response is to kill our neighbor and take his stuff.  It is our reason from which we learn to get along.  Our reason serves no identifiable evolutionary purpose.  It destroys the natural balance sought by the evolutionary process by so biasing the survivability of a single species that all are endangered…including us.  Reason not only has nothing to do with our ability to survive, it creates burdens unnecessary for survival, as is proven by the quadriplegics and others who may live long lives.  No animal will suffer one among them who cannot fend for itself.  Only Man.

This reason is so profoundly part of us that the Eskimo elderly, when they found they could not contribute to the family, would walk away and expose themselves on the ice for the better welfare of family and tribe.  Find an animal who will do that.

So, what is the “reason” that, alone in all the universe we can see,  sets us apart from all things?  I maintain it is that which is referred to in the ancient writings when it is said that we were created “…in His image.”  To think this refers to someone who looks like George Burns and smokes cigars is, well, a bit of a stretch.  The first story is that of how we recognized our ability to reason.  Eve saw the fruit, and that it was good.  Recognizing that they have been willfully disobedient…an ability not known in nature…they cover themselves, yet another thing no other creature would understand.  In the introduction to “2001, A Space Odyssey” we see a distant ancestor at the moment he transits from pure animal to “cogito ergo sum.”  I find it interesting that the last word in of Descarte’s Latin phrase translates as “I AM,” which is the name God provides Moses to explain who sent him to Pharaoh.

In Principia Philosophiae (1644), Rene Descartes says:

“While we thus reject all of which we can entertain the smallest doubt, and even imagine that it is false, we easily indeed suppose that there is neither God, nor sky, nor bodies, and that we ourselves even have neither hands nor feet, nor, finally, a body; but we cannot in the same way suppose that we are not while we doubt of the truth of these things; for there is a repugnance in conceiving that what thinks does not exist at the very time when it thinks. Accordingly, the knowledge, I think, therefore I am, is the first and most certain that occurs to one who philosophizes orderly.”

He was not the first to make that argument.

Many have heard “cogito ego sum” and in most cases it’s attributed to Descartes.  However, if “A Guide to Modern Revision” had been required back then he’d either have properly footnoted it or been kicked out of class as a plagiarist.

Plato spoke about the “knowledge of knowledge” (Greek νόησις νοήσεως – nóesis noéseos) and Aristotle explains the idea in full length:

“But if life itself is good and pleasant … and if one who sees is conscious that he sees, one who hears that he hears, one who walks that he walks and similarly for all the other human activities there is a faculty that is conscious of their exercise, so that whenever we perceive, we are conscious that we perceive, and whenever we think, we are conscious that we think, and to be conscious that we are perceiving or thinking is to be conscious that we exist… (Nicomachean Ethics.)

In De Civitate Dei writes Si fallor, sum (“If I am mistaken, I am”) (book XI, 26), and deals with some of the modern arguments of it being a syllogism in advance.  He also states “dubito, ergo sum or “I doubt, therefore I am.”  Gotta love that one!

In the Enchiridion Augustine further states, “By not positively affirming that they are alive, the skeptics ward off the appearance of error in themselves, yet they do make errors simply by showing themselves alive; one cannot err who is not alive. That we live is therefore not only true, but it is altogether certain as well”  Here it is well to substitute “human” for “alive” as he is making that distinction between a horse and a human.

In the 8th century, the Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara wrote: No one thinks, ‘I am not’, arguing that one’s existence cannot be doubted, as there must be someone there to doubt.

The story of humanity begins with the recognition that we are not of this earth and are set apart.  Thousands of years pass and much of our time is spent trying to puzzle this out.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

—Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft

In the last line, Nietzsche alludes to that which I have felt at times is our destiny and God’s plan.  Clarks Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced science will appear as magic.”  I do not believe in the supernatural.  I believe in a 100% organic God with no additives.  Even our own crude science has developed means to rapidly cure conditions that would have resulted in a lingering and painful death for the majority of all who have ever lived.  Is it so hard to believe that He might cure with a gesture that virtually instantly caused cells to resume normal function and wounds to close before one’s eyes?  Even what we see as “routine” pit stops at the Indianapolis 500 today would be viewed with awe by those mechanics at an auto race in 1910.  How have we developed these utterly contra- indicatory to evolution abilities?

During my period of wandering agnosticism as I looked for some reason, any reason, to place faith in the values I was taught as a child.  The study of German 19th century philosophers brought me to Nietzsche, Hegel and others who mooted the “God is dead” movement.  These people were proponents of dialectic as the key process of the universe.  That last line in Nietzsche and similar allusions by others brought me to the concept of creation and humanity being the process of God “working Himself out.”  At the moment of creation when He said “…let there be light” he spread Himself throughout all of us as divine sparks processing a question whose answer may be “42” as per Douglas Adams or something even more incomprehensible.  It was something that required TIME to process, something God didn’t have as a non-temporal being.

Consider the process of human reproduction.  Millions of sperm, each with the potential for an Einstein, a Hitler, or a Lao Tzu.  But only one will successfully penetrate the egg.  However, and it’s a big HOWEVER, the success of one is the success of all.  In miniature, it is the moment of “…let there be light” repeated over millennia and eons to continue the process.  The yin/yang can readily be interpreted as a symbol of this great dialect, and even the cross carries an ancient interpretation as the quartering of the universe into active and passive elements…fundamental requirements for the difference between “something” and “nothing.”

Back to the Germans…  One must not confuse the “God is dead…” concept with atheism.  It’s more of an Arthurian “once and future king” concept at its logical end.  To massively oversimplify and bring this mental meandering to a close, it points to a human destiny to keep learning, to spread to the stars in search of “…strange new worlds…” and, eventually, reach a point at which a single human reaches out for the last piece of the puzzle, gazes upon it, and says “LET THERE BE LIGHT.”

I must stop, as I hear a mob approaching bearing torches and ropes…

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Music Files: By Request

Cover of my only commercial release.  Watercolor by Ernst Kotzin, my wife's uncle.

Cover of my only commercial release. Watercolor by Ernst Kotzian, my wife’s uncle.

I’ve had requests from some of my music loving friends for some samples of my own location recording, especially pipe organ.  I record for love of music and as a hobby.

These are available two way, either directly playable on your computer, or by download so you may play them where and with whatever you wish.  All files except one are of CD resolution.

The first recording is that last piece and encore from the dedication concert of the Memorial Pipe Organ of the Church of the Annunciation, Lewisville, Texas in 2003.  I found that instrument at the Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, FL a couple of years before.  It was a “fixer upper” with an illustrious heritage.  Redeemer had a multi-million dollar gift to replace it from the John Ringling North family and were offering it for less than the value of the scrap tin in the pipes.  Fact is, though, it was still playing beautifully.  However, they needed it out of there to get their new one in, so the deal.  I’ll mention only the very basic facts about it here.  It started life as an E. M. Skinner and had those irreplaceable Skinner classic string stops that bring tears.  It was expanded later by Moller, and refurbished by McManis.  As I found it, it was 58 stops.   It was rebuilt by Patrick Murphy of Philadelphia, shipped to Texas and installed and tonal directed by Dan Garland of Fort Worth as a 28 stop instrument with room left to add a solo and choir division at a later date.  This was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.  Bradley Welch, winner of the 5th Dallas International Organ Competition, played the dedication.

This was recorded using a DAW (digital audio workstation) of my own design and construction, microphone preamp was a vacuum tube HHB Radius, the microphones were Oktava ML-52 ribbons placed about mid nave on the floor at what I felt was “the best seat in the house.”  The reverberation time at Annunciation is about 3.5 seconds and slap-free.  It’s one of the finest acoustic environments I’ve ever been in, and the best I’ve ever recorded in.

All these files are at 16/44.1 (CD resolution) except the Spanker and GuilmontWidor files labeled 24/88.2.  If the embedded player fails to appear and you see “Download:” in unbolded type instead, or the files skip too much, it’s your connection speed and you’ll need to download the files before playing, most easily done via the “Play or Download:” link.  For those with limited experience using Internet Explorer, just right click on the link and choose “save target as.”  Of course, this in the best way for audiophiles without a direct connection of their systems to the web.

Comments appreciated!

Play or Download:

24/88.2 Version
Direct Download: 23 Saint James Infirmary

Most of my recordings are serious music.  However, that’s as much due to circumstance as to preference.  Some years ago I got an opportunity to record a fairly successful Austin group called “The Asylum Street Spankers.”  I like their music and they are totally acoustic, even eschewing amplification for their singers.   The following is “St. James Infirmary,” a great jazz standard perhaps best known in performances by Louis Armstrong.  The recording was made live at the Saxon Street Pub in Austin.  I used two separate computers and four ribbon microphones.  One was a very advanced Digital Audio Workstation I designed to handle 4 streams at once, and I used it to record an experimental surround recording at 24/192.  It was quite daring for the time as the resulting digital stream was in excess of 25mbps and the recordings take up over 25GB.   The other machine was the front channels only at 24/88.2.  I’ve also provided here at transcode to 16/44.1 or regular CD resolution.

Play or Download: GuilmontWidorCD

24/88.2 Version

Direct Download: GuilmontWidor

J.S. Rheinberger “Abendlied.”  This is the “softer” side of this instrument, with choir.  Rheinberger wrote this hauntingly beautiful piece at age 16.

Play or Download: Abendlied

I made this recording of the 1861 Hook Organ of Holy Cross Church in Marine City, MI while on a trip to Washington state.  I happen to have basic equipment as I was planning to record my niece’s senior recital.  The piece was composed by Daniel John Susan, former organist of my parish.  He’d left as he didn’t see a future without a pipe organ.  It was due to this terrible personal and parish loss I set to work to get the instrument now there as I never wanted to lose such a wonderful MM again.  This is an improvisation on the Anglican hymn “Earth and All Stars.”  Daniel was apologetic about not having anything “concert ready,” but I think you’ll find this pretty extraordinary.  The instrument is, off course, totally mechanical except for the electric blower.  Beautiful image and more info on it at http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/gallery/us_midwest/michigan/marine-city_holy-cross_hook.shtml.

Play or Download: EarthandAllStars

Worst acoustic problem I ever faced.  I’d have just said “no” except I’d promised my friend Paul Garner, DSO clarinetist, I’d record this piece.  It was part of a music festival in 2004 and he and other DSO musicians formed an “ad hoc” ensemble to perform the Schubert Octet for Strings in F Major.  It is scored for clarinet, bassoon, horn, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass and is one of the longest pieces of chamber music ever written at nearly an hour.  The location was a multi-purpose hall at Fair Park that seated perhaps 500 in folding chairs on a concrete floor with hard walls and ceiling, as well as a lot of loud side metal doors.  The stage was a nightmare.  Gorgeous view of a garden, as it had all GLASS back walls made even worse by having a 45 degree section on either side that basically formed a reflective horn.  Yikes.  The saving part was that I had my highest reach boom stand, so I put the ribbon mikes as high as possible, forward to the ensemble, and with equal distance to each player.  It was a plus that they were in a semi-circle arrangement.  I remain amazed that it sounds as good as it does.  The performance was truly excellent, with particularly wonderful work by the principal violinist on this movement, the final.

VI. Andante molto – Allegro – Andante molto – Allegro molto

NOTE:  Just heard a digital artifact at about 3:15.  It may be a few days before I can see what the issue is as I am traveling and don’t have access to the files.  

Play or Download: Track06

This piece is another example of how I handle poor acoustics, not quite as bad as the above but still pretty poor conditions.  The recital was in a converted fire station, and it sounded like a small gym.  The audience was in folding metal chairs that were noisy.  I miked VERY closely and pointed the back lobes of the ribbons at the ceiling to minimize both the building as well as the ambient noise.  I’ll try to post the composer and piece, which escapes me at the moment.  However, it’s the final movement of a clarinet sonata with piano.  The clarinetist was Dallas Symphony principal clarinetist Paul Garner and the pianist is Michelle McDonald who is also heard in the last piece in this post.

Play or Download: GarnerMix

The last piece is from my only commercial release, which sold a few hundred copies in the DFW area.  When first approached by Michelle McDonald, pianist and producer, I was not happy with the venue.  It was the Mesquite Center for the Performing arts.  Acoustics are nice for large groups and when an audience is present, but, in my opinion, way too live for chamber music when empty.  However, it wasn’t my call and now I am glad it wasn’t.  I miked quite closely to reduce the empty hall returns, but left some space.  The resulting sound is pleasing to me.  This one is also a really excellent imaging test for your system.  I’ve never accomplished better imaging and you’ll hear the principal violinist on the left, then the cello, then the viola, and the piano with clarinet in front of it on the right if your imaging is good.  The violin is an Amati played by the principal second chair violinist (at the time, now retired) of the Dallas Symphony.  The piece is “Overture on Hebrew Themes,” Opus 34, by Sergei Prokofiev performed by the Hubbard Chamber Music Ensemble, Michele McDonald, music director.  It’s a really fun piece that provides a moment for each instrument, and several pairings, plus full band.

Play or Download: 019 Overture on Hebrew Themes

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The Root of All Rights

Perhaps the greatest statement of fundamental human rights in US or world history, and it has no force of law.

Perhaps the greatest statement of fundamental human rights in US or world history, and it has no force of law.

5 states now have “death with dignity” laws allowing some degree of personal decision on when one dies.  It’s time we ALL had the most basic human right.  The above grand statement clearly states that fundamental human rights aren’t subject to social infringement.  To the extent that they are, they become simply grants from the King, the Fuehrer, the Council, Congress, or your friends and neighbors.  Maybe that’s OK with you, but I find it intolerable.

Few Americans are not introduced to the above words early in life.  However, I think many would be surprised, even shocked, to find they have absolutely no basis in law.  Why?  It’s my believe that the founders never would have dreamed that after enshrining these words in our declaration of war against tyranny that anyone would question them as the basis for everything that would follow.  Anyone of them would have asked for poison, shot themselves, or obliged a fellow family member or citizen who was in a terribly painful and terminal condition to end their life.  The Bill of Rights was not intended to enumerate the basics.  In my opinion, it was to ensure there were no “grey areas” that Congress might dabble in and infringe on in the future.  Problem is that all of us became fixed on them and forgot these were not “grants,” but elucidations based on that sweeping statement above this piece:  Every human has a basic right to sovereignty over their own person.  The right to end one’s own life is NOT something that should be debated or discussed.  If it is infringed in any way, you have NO rights except those granted by your peers and superiors.

It would appear at first glance that all one would need to do is go to the Supreme Court.  Problem is that the Supreme Court (well, at least in theory) is charged only with determining if a law is constitutional or not and remember that those words above ARE NOT TO BE FOUND IN THE CONSTITUTION.  Sorry for the caps, but I believe few give this enough thought.  A really fine legal mind might be able to argue successfully that those words represent the intent of Congress, and therefore law, but it would have to be one heckuva a passionate lawyer to convince the court after a couple of centuries of precedence to the contrary.  After all, while not “law,” that document starts with “In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776…”

But the main point of this post is this:  If we have no right to end our own life, we have no rights of any kind.  “Rights” that are simply grants of the state are not “rights” at all and are subject to change at any moment.

Think about it…

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Attention Audiophiles and Music Mavens…

UPDATE:  I’m leaving this up, but the exercise itself is complete.  Those interested can read the discussion https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/topic/148182-listening-exercise-not-anything-about-cables/

SUMMARY:  Chopin1 was recorded by me in 1998.  Who, what, when, where, and how is described in my blog entry “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future” which can be found at the top of this page.  Chopin2 was recorded by Robert Silverman and a group from “Stereophile” magazine using around 10 times or more expensive equipment.  If you don’t want to digest the above link, the gist of the opinion was that mine was preferred by most of those responding.  Not a “landslide” vote, but adequate to suggest what many audiophiles have felt for years:  The “pros” aren’t all that much to write home about, in way too many cases.  I am leaving the downloads available if you’d like to try this yourself.  I now return you to the original post…

Your opinions please.  Herewith attached there are 2 files, Chopin1 and Chopin2.  Your opinions of the engineering and general qualities of the recordings are solicited.  Once a sufficient number of comments and thoughts have been received the details about each recording will be posted here.

Klipsch Forum members feel free to respond there, others via comment here or on my Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

Of course, best served on your best system…

Play from web or download:

Chopin1

Chopin2

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But I was in shock

Drawing

Jennings Elizabeth Mallette, self-portrait 2011

Jennings Elizabeth Mallette was born on Ash Wednesday, 1998.  Within minutes of her birth, her pediatrician knew things were not right and she was transferred to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.  The next morning, my wife and I stood by her bedside as a cardiologist told us “Your daughter was born with a condition not compatible with life.”  Jennings begged to differ, and for the next 13 years lived in grace, beauty, and happiness that changed lives all around her.  For the first 3 years of her life she underwent 3 open heart surgeries and spent half of it in the hospital.  On her own, she developed a relationship with Jesus Christ that He was simply her Friend.  They walked and talked together.  I hope she will introduce me someday.

It’s a story I’d love to write someday, but at this point am sharing the below piece I wrote a couple of weeks after her interment as the shock wore off.

May 16, 2011.  I have dispassionately examined the third degree emotional burns over 95% of my body and felt nothing but that the wait for death wouldn’t be too long.

But I was in shock.

I’ve had my wife call me at the office and tell me an ambulance was in route to the house, but might not transport…but I should come anyway.

But I was in shock.

I’ve sat at as a slow, long freight train stood between me and my home listening to “The Front Row” on KUHT.

But I was in shock.

I have entered an ER and observed a huge EMT repeatedly crushing my daughter’s chest and simply watched the numbers on the monitor rise slowly while I held my wife, knowing he was unaware that CPR would be of little help with a two chambered heart.

But I was in shock.

I have seen a pediatrician perform a retinal response test on my stabilized daughter, then look sadly at a nurse nearby and slowly shake his head.

But I was in shock.

I’ve listened as the radiologist reported that the CT scan showed general diffusion of the lobes of the brain, but she might just sit up in the morning and ask for something to eat…all the while knowing better.

But I was in shock.

I’ve listened as an eminent neurologist at one of the world’s finest children’s hospitals said in the same paragraph that my daughter is already gone and that she might be just fine.

But I was in shock.

I’ve stood looking at the massive suture lines and huge fluid accumulations on my daughter’s head and wondered where the two powerful angels a parishioner had proclaimed watched over her the first time we ever took her to church.

But I was in shock.

I’ve listened as the last neurologist reported the same answer independently of the other three my wife ordered.

But I was in shock.

I’ve listened to my wife choke out “This is all I’ve done for 13 years!  What will I do now”  as she realized she’d just spent 13 years, 24/7 becoming the world’s foremost specialist in Jennings Elizabeth Mallette and the field had just ceased to exist.

But I was in shock.

I’ve told my wife that 11AM will be about right to shut off the ventilator and that I am ready.

But I was in shock.

I’ve listened to the LifeGift representative desperately plead for six more hours so they can be ready for the organ harvest and said “No, we cannot wait that long” while my daughter said in my heart “I can’t wait to share with ALL my friends.”

But I was in shock.

I’ve listened to the LifeGift representative return and say “How about 2 hours?” and my wife and I simultaneously and with a burst of joy say “YES!”

But I was in shock.

I’ve entered my daughters room to find it filled with seasoned medical professionals in tears…and they lose one every day.  But this was their Jennings.

But I was in shock.

I’ve crawled into a hospital bed a few minutes before the appointed hour and placed my cheek next to that warm, soft skin and sung “The Lord’s Prayer” almost flawlessly as I’d done so many times before she was to sleep.

But I was in shock.

I’ve stood with family, friends, ministers, and medical personal
singing all five verses of “I am the bread of life” as I watched the little two chambered heart that had sustained “Daddy’s Bestest Goo” faithfully for 13 years  forced slowly to a halt from a lack of oxygen.

But I was in shock.

I’ve stood in awe looking at Daddy’s Bestest Goo in a stunning 13 year old forever dress holding the little New Testament in her hands looking so radiantly beautiful and grown up my heart swelled with pride.

But I was in shock.

I’ve stood in front of that coffin and discussed space travel with one of the world’s foremost space scientists when I should have been spending every moment staring for the last time at the child I so desperately loved.

But I was in shock.

I’ve sung all verses of three hymns as hundreds of people approached the communion rail and saw many that I knew had not knelt at such a rail in years, if ever, and marveled at my daughter’s fruit of love and testimony of simple faith in her real Father.

But I was in shock.

I’ve stood in the warm sun of a beautiful day at East Memorial Gardens not far from my mom and dad and placed my hand on the warm metal box containing the earthly remains of my heart, then turned and walked away with my wife.

But I was in shock.

I’ve reviewed the preceding week and suddenly realized my daughter entered into sleep in Christ from her favorite place at home and that those two powerful angel’s had asked her if she were ready and she’d said “Yes” and willingly went with them without asking us.

But I was in shock.

I’ve stood on the low bridge at Ark Hwy 270 and the Cossatot River and watched the flowers we set free drift away on that crystal tide that flows past the throne of God.

But I was in shock.

I’ve sat in a chair next to my wife as my son and his cousin played gleefully in that river as flowers began to pass by in the solitude of God’s creation.

But I was in shock.

Now I sit in my office at home at write this.

I am no longer in shock.

I am now in pain beyond description as I realize I am unfortunately going to survive my 3rd degree emotional burns and will be in great pain for the rest of my life.

I’ve also realized that not to be able to bear it and move on would be an act of cowardice and shame in the light of her courage and love in the face of all that fate could throw at her.  So I am resolved not only to bear it, but to attempt to do so with the grace and dignity she demonstrated.

I’ve suddenly so wanted to vent, but finding only God to vent to realized that He’d answered the prayer I made at her birth that she was not my child but His, and that my only request was that she know she was loved and that she would always be happy.

So I can only offer Him thanks and look forward to the day my daughter takes my hand and says “Come’on Dad.  I want you to meet my Friend.”

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace.

Amen.

What can one do in 13 years?

je

Be a radiantly beautiful baby.

Welcome a new millennium with a funny hat.

Welcome a new millennium with a funny hat.

Show your little brother what Halloween is about.

Show your little brother what Halloween is about.

Love your little brother

Love your little brother

REALLY love your little brother

REALLY love your little brother

IMG_1802

Love your little brother so much it’s almost hard to believe.

Be so constantly joyous as to infect your whole family and all near you.

Be so constantly joyous as to infect your whole family and all near you.

Radiate love at Easter

Radiate love at Easter

Be the most beautiful beach bunny on the beach.

Be the most beautiful beach bunny on the beach.

Love God's creation

Love God’s creation

Wrestle an alligator

Wrestle an alligator…and win.

Go to Disney World.

Go to Disney World.

Enjoy a snowfall in Texas

Enjoy a snowfall in Texas

Assume no log is too big to chop

Assume no log is too big to chop

Enjoy a crazy uncle

Enjoy a crazy uncle

Become a martial artist

Become a martial artist

Break a board with your bare hands

Break a board with your bare hands

Become an entrepreneur like your mother

Become an entrepreneur like your mother

Behold in wonder at the Grand Canyon

Behold in wonder at the Grand Canyon

See the Great Wall of China

See the Great Wall of China

Be loved, admired, and enriched by a great teacher

Be loved, admired, and enriched by a great teacher

Catch a fish

Catch a fish

Make friends everywhere you go

Make friends everywhere you go

Be very, very, very cool

Be very, very, very cool

Learn to ride a motor bike

Learn to ride a motor bike

Be happy and cheerful when others would complain

Be happy and cheerful when others would complain

Be achingly beautiful in death as you were in life.

Be achingly beautiful in death as you were in life.

 

JenStone

The caption on Jennings stone comes from the day we gathered at Texas Children’s Hospital to shut down her body, which she had not occupied since the day before.  Her little heart, which we’d worried over for 13 years continued to function perfectly.  As family, friends, clergy, and other gathered around the bed to sing “I am the Bread of Life” as the equipment was shut off, a friend of ours heard a voice ask “What is it like outside today?”  She responded “It’s bright, sunny, and beautiful.”  Then she realized no one near her had spoken.  She looked around, and then heard a clear, strong young voice say to her “Don’t cry, mom.  It’s PERFECT.”  She knew who the message was from and who it was for.  This is only one story.  There were more I will not relate at this time.  Jennings was wheeled out of the room to another where her kidneys were harvested.  They were transplanted to a young man and an young woman.  An official called us and said “This does not happen.  Our scale is 1-6 with 6 being a perfect match.  It almost never happens.  This time, BOTH transplants were 6.  I have never heard of this before!”

Why is it that I am not at all surprised?

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A New World is Only a Decade Away

It is well known that I am a space cadet, and of the opinion that humanities fate lies in the stars and not on earth.

That said, here we are, and we have to make the best of it until folks understand that it’s only a lifeboat and supplies are running short.

So, here is something we can fix.  I am not going to throw out a lot of statistics, though I’ve reviewed a few and the numbers are staggering.  Since 1956, we have spent 6.3 TRILLION dollars on the Interstate highway system alone.  That does not count all the state, county, and local roads, which almost certainly account for at least as much.  Since 1980, 1.4 million lives have been lost on US highways.  If we assume an arbitrary, but not unrealistic value, of 1 million dollars per life, that’s 1.3 trillion dollars.

Some big, serious, impressive numbers there BUT IT DOESN’T SCRATCH THE SURFACE.  I don’t think I have ever used that many caps in a row, as it’s considered a pretty sorry excuse for good writing…but in this case, it is important.  UPS, pizza, groceries, buses, in fact, all vehicles now in use and used for any purpose to get either people or items from point A to point B. can and should be autonomous as quickly as possible.

The most conservative estimates are that commute times would be cut by 40% and freeway capacities doubled with autonomous vehicles.  Other estimates are much higher.  Estimates for accidental death are that it would be cut by at least 90%.  Let this sink in!

The actual implications are so startling as to lead to confusion.  It isn’t just about better safety and lowered costs of highways; it is an economic change that will dwarf that of the changes wrought by the automobile itself.

If you accept what I’ve just said and realize the incredible benefits, your next thought is probably “How are we going to be able to afford this, and how long will it take?

As usual, I have a “clever and cunning plan,” to quote Edmund Blackadder’s faithful servant.  The answers, in order are:

It will cost you nothing, and can be done in 10 years.  Here’s how.

1.       Freeze highway construction and complete only those projects now in progress. 

2.       Use the money saved to subsidize the entire cost of the automation system on every purchaser’s next new car.

3.       As projects are completed, keep the tax income steady to increase the pace of conversion.

4.       Make HOV lanes available ONLY to autonomous vehicles.

5.       Add the “fast lane” of freeways as soon as possible.

6.       Add lanes until only autonomous vehicle are allowed to enter a freeway.

7.       When autonomous vehicle saturation is reached, make manual driving illegal except in specified locations.

Undoubtedly plenty to debate there, but conceptually viable.  The potential for improvement in our lives, the economy, and the environment from such a program vastly outpaces any other area we could spend money on by huge amounts.  One or more persons you know and love will live if we do this, and will not if we don’t.

What would things look like in ten years?  Here is what I believe can be said without a doubt, as it is based on what we already know and have seen demonstrated.

>There will be no speed limit. 

Speed limits are for people.  Machines will always move at “reasonable and prudent” speeds because that is what they do.  This may be a hundred miles per hour or more even in a city if it is in a slack traffic period.  That is with current technology.  The ultimate speed limits for autonomous vehicles are governed only by physics and technology.

>Passenger rail of all types, commuter or long haul, will be obsolete. 

We are living in the past, planning for the past, and must wake up.  Unlike the Apollo program or the Manhattan project, the technology is already here and proven.  America can once again lead the world into a brighter future, and all we need is the will.

>Reliance on short haul air service will be drastically reduced.

Aircraft are notoriously inefficient for short hauls.  DFW to Houston, for instance.  However, they are relied on today even though the drive time isn’t much different from the amount of time spent getting to the airport, through security, and all the other overhead that comes with flying because the drive is difficult and laborious at the best of times.  At a hundred miles per hour, it’s only a little over 2 hours of productive time and you leave from your home or office and go directly to your destination with a reliability factor even greater than that of flying.

>Medium haul air service will be reduced as well.

An entirely new business will spring up based on autonomous technology.  There will be short, overnight, vehicles that feature seats that recline to make beds and some basic creature comforts.  These will be used for travel involving overnight trips of 1,000 to 2,000 miles and be rented.  Costs will be competitive to current air fares and cheaper than travel by current automobiles in taking less time and requiring no motel stays.  Longer, vacation or tour type trips will be done in autonomous RV-type vehicles with kitchen, bath, bed and such similar to today’s RVs…except faster, better, and cheaper.

>Many families will have only one car at most.

Cars will travel point to point, and then be used by others.  They may belong to private enterprise, the auto builders, government…my crystal ball isn’t clear on that, but it will be pointless to spend money on something that sits in your driveway much of the time.

I am not a “seer” and probably not even that well qualified as a futurist, but those things just listed require only the application of existing technology to realize.

The 20th century was molded by the likes of Henry Ford, Nicolai Tesla, John D. Rockefeller, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates who had the vision to make things happen.  I have little doubt they could see and fully understood what they were doing.  They built our world on new ideas and concepts that had to be built from the ground up.  What we are discussing here is not in that category at all, simply an extension of the technology and infrastructure built by these entrepreneurial geniuses.

We are living in the past, planning for the past, and must wake up.  Unlike the Apollo program or the Manhattan project, the technology is already here and proven.  America can once again lead the world into a brighter future, and all we need is the will.

ADDENDUM, 8 July, 2014

Not seeing any progress?  Well, 10 years is optimistic and assumes a “wake up.”  While I can’t guarantee there is enough intelligence in our leadership to fully grasp what is at stake here and do what needs to be done, I remain confident that free enterprise will do so.  The biggest no-brainer is the trucking industry.

Even if our personal vehicles aren’t autonomous as fast as we might like, we all have a lot to gain from the trucking industry converting their fleets.  In fact, so much to gain I won’t list all the benefits, but let’s just consider the improvement in our “conventional” driving experience.  Autonomous trucks on our freeways would no longer enter the passing lane and slow traffic for miles as they crawl ahead of another truck.  They would not make sudden changes with little or no signal into your lane.  If you needed to change to the right lane to exit, they’d sense your position and turn signal and provide you space, rather than either speeding up or ignoring you as they do now.  Further, their efficiencies would double or more in that they would never stop to sleep, have a few beers, or whatever.  Shipping costs would drop dramatically.  Accidents, always serious when a big rig is involved, would decrease exponentially.  Just a hint of the benefits, and it is simply a matter of implementing already proven technology.

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Crossing the Bridge

What remains of the "Iron Bridge."  Perhaps it doesn't look so inviting, but this shot was made after the usual spring flash floods.  By summer, it is clear, rippling, and beautiful.

What remains of the “Iron Bridge.” Perhaps it doesn’t look so inviting, but this shot was made in early spring in 2009 after the usual spring flash floods. By summer, it is clear, rippling, and beautiful and the woods and banks green and lovely. We drank from it, and it was delicious.

Text of the eulogy edited for these purposes that I was privileged to be asked by my friend Paul Robins to deliver at his funeral.

1030AM, 19 October, 2013, East Funeral Home, Texarkana, USA 

Prelude to the service, Pete Fountain’s New Orleans LP, recorded about 1965.  Paul listened to it incessantly and played along with it to the point one could not tell Pete from Paul. 

 Gathering Prayer

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed us all with the gift of this earthly life
and has given to our brother Paul Robins
his span of years and gifts of character.
God our Father, we thank you now for all his life,
for every memory of love and joy,
for every good deed done by him,
and every sorrow shared with us.
We thank you for his life and for his death,
we thank you for the rest in Christ he now enjoys,
we thank you for giving him to us,
we thank you for the glory we shall share together.
Hear our prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

PoundPaul

Paul in front of the Shelter, with Queenie.

Eulogy
I first heard the music you just listened to on Paul’s little record player in the apartment he and Ms. Vivian lived in at the Texarkana Animal Shelter.  He played the beautiful Selmer Paris clarinet his mother purchased for him, the finest money could buy, to that record and did so incredibly well.  Today, Paul Robins, who was born to this life the second day of June, 1947 and was born to eternal life 15 October, 2013, is playing that tune on an even finer horn provided by his heavenly Father.

Paul leaves behind, for a short while, his brother, Noel Wesley Cooper; son and daughter-in-law, John Paul Robins and Carmen; daughters Stephanie and Emily and his beloved mother, Vivian; grandchildren, Lauren, Will, Payton, Heidi, Fatima, and Colton.

Paul told me he’d love a New Orleans funeral.  If it were in my power, I’d have provided a Dixieland band today so we could march him out to Macedonia with St. James Infirmary wailing in style.    Paul and I surrendered our lives to Christ on the same night at Hickory Street Baptist Church, and were buried with Him in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever a few weeks later.  Paul served his country well as a Navy medical corps man and was honorably discharged.  For those grieving his departure, and perhaps wondering why at only 66, I offer these words from my own mother when I asked that question:  “David,” she said, “God never calls anyone home until their mission is complete.”  I have yet, even when I lost my beloved daughter at only 13, to find those words not to be true.

Paul’s home was a place of sanctuary.  When I visited I could never keep up with who was family and who was a temporary resident he was helping out.  Actually, there was no real way to tell as he treated all comers with respect and support.  I could go on speaking with you all about his love of animals, his joys and sorrows, and the incredible richness and depth of his life, but at this time I’d like to talk to my old friend personally.  While Paul was a very private person, I don’t think he’ll mind this time if you listen.

Addressing the casket
Yeah, Paul, you just crossed that noisy old iron bridge with its rattling timbers and creaking girders to that eternal campground.  We been to that river, ain’t we, that place where crystal clear waters run eternally accompanied by the sound of the timeless symphony of God’s creation.  That shining place where his innocent children know no pain, disappointment, or sorrow and where each dawn brings another perfect day of bliss.

Every day we spent there as children was a perfect day spent in gratitude for the boundless love and blessings from our Father.  We were perfect then, God’s pure innocent children.  You weren’t yet Sharky, and I wasn’t the fallen creature in need of grace I am today.  We didn’t know about sin, or death, or disappointment, we only knew the eternal moment of perfection and free will.

Well, you’re back there now, beloved friend.  I’m sure Diane already had the fire going and a pot of beans cooking when you arrived.  It will seem to you guys only a moment before you hear my Dad’s ol’ pickup truck coming, and you’ll see us waving as you look up at the old iron bridge.  We’ll scarcely have had time to greet each other before all the rest arrive.

Danny’s folks won’t mind his being there this time Emmett will finally tell my dad “Well, Mr. Mallett, I guess I understand now why you always said they were safer here than in town.”  That’ll be something, won’t it, old friend?

And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we hear sounds emerging from those gentle woods, and see ol Mickey bounding towards us.  He’ll likely be followed by Boz, Jinxy, Pat, Shorty, and Queenie.  Frito will probably show up as well, and maybe even Spunky won’t embarrass me anymore by getting hung up in everything trying to keep up with us.  Then we’ll sit around the fire and eat toast and Karo, and never run out of bread, and our Lord will be within us and surround us, as He always was, and always will be, and His love will fill us with eternal joy.

Bud, I know it was a long, rough road getting there.  After our first visit to that beautiful river, we wound up on different roads.  You had much pain, disappointment, and loss.  But you also had great joy and touched many lives on the way.  Diane got there before us, and you could hardly bear it.  You watched her waste away and probably wondered why your Father in heaven would allow one of his beloved saints to suffer so much.  I tried to help you with that by assuring you that while she appeared to be suffering, in fact, the intense love of Jesus she carried deep in her soul protected her against all things.  You heard her singing God’s praise in her final hours.  She didn’t want to leave you, and her children, but she knew you’d all understand when you joined her by that beautiful river, and that all things are in His hands, and we cannot fully understand that until we cross that ol’ iron bridge for the last time.

Not many people ever knew how you completely subordinated your own life to caring for her, because you didn’t talk about such things.  Some of her friends shunned you, because they did not understand that the mark of a Christian is not judged by their attendance record in Sunday School, or the fervency of their public prayers, but by such silent, devoted service to others.

James, the brother of Jesus tells us “What doeth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?  Can faith save him?” (Jas. 2: 14).

Those who judged you on this earth did not hear these words of James and were blind.  But you didn’t care.  You did what you did willingly, without complaint, and without yielding to the tempters taunt of

“Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die” as hissed at Job.  (Job 2:9).”

You told me so many times during and after this period what a fine Christian she was, and what an unworthy wretch you were.  My God, Paul, of all the saintly people I ever knew in my life, you stand alone as an example of everything our Lord asked of us as His servants.  You just laughed when I said that, but our Lord Jesus said:

“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40).

I, for one, choose to believe what He said over the pulpit rantings of those who choose not to understand the true message of faith.

Our Lord also said: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

How many times did you give a friend, or even just a Samaritan by the side of the road, a “loan” you knew you’d never get back just because you knew it was the right thing to do?  And you never told a soul.  While others laid up treasure on earth, you quietly laid up treasures in heaven.  I am not sure you ever expected to see those heavenly treasures anymore than you expected those earthly “loans” to be repaid.  Now you know the eternal truth: It is those who do the right thing and expect absolutely nothing in return that our Savior prizes above all.

Your seeking of God’s will was deeply personal.  I always knew when my Dad was about to pull out his bible and preach to us, and that it would be followed by a seemingly endless prayer.  I’d warn you, and exhort you to go home and save yourself, but you’d often just look at me and hang around.  I suffered and wished mightily I was elsewhere.  I had no idea why you stuck it out.  But you stayed in the temple and listened.  Many times over the last few years you told me with tears in your eyes how much those ministries meant to you, and how my dad touched your life.  You also told me of the hours you spent with Fr. Richard C. Allen down at St. James Church, whom you found on your own, and how his saintliness and sacrifice touched your heart.  Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that God led us separately to that great man of God, and that his example impacted both our lives.

Well, old friend, I’ve got to wrap this up.  I am going to miss our long phone conversations and our discussions over a few beers at your table.  But it won’t be long until we continue them down on that sparkling shore that lies across that ol’ iron bridge where you are now gathered with all our friends and family who’ve gone before.

Crossing that ol’ iron bridge was always scary, and I ‘m sure it was no different this time.  When it is my time, I hope you hear me crossing those rattling old boards, and I see you waiting for me at the other side.  The example of your faith has made my journey at lot easier, and knowing that you will be there to help me cross that chasm brings me joy.

Closing Prayer
Father of all mercies and God of all consolation,
you pursue us with untiring love
and dispel the shadow of death
with the bright dawn of life.
Give courage to this family in their loss and sorrow.
Be their refuge and strength, O Lord,
reassure them of your continuing love
and lift them from the depths of grief
into the peace and light of your presence.]
Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
by dying has destroyed our death,
and by rising, restored our life.
Your Holy Spirit, our comforter,
speaks for us in groans too deep for words.
Come alongside your people,
remind them of your eternal presence
and give them your comfort and strength.Now we ask that light perpetual shine upon our brother Paul,

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Please join me in singing one of Paul’s favorite hymns, “Shall We Gather at the River.”

“Shall We Gather at the River?
Based on Rev. 22:1-2            Robert Lowry, 1864

  1. Shall we gather at the river,
    Where bright angel feet have trod,
    With its crystal tide forever
    Flowing by the throne of God?

Refrain

Yes, we’ll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

2. On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.

(Refrain)

3. Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.

(Refrain)

Graveside, Macedonia Baptist Church

Under a perfect fall Arkansas sky, a unit of sailors in immaculate uniform rendered military honors to one of their own.  Taps was sounded flawlessly and lingered across the rolling hills as it faded into the woods beyond.  With all the respect and polished perfection that would be rendered unto a fallen President, the sailors folded the flag and presented it with a salute to John Paul Robins, Paul’s eldest son.

Closing Prayer

Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the earth and the sea shall give up their dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his own glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

Now let Thy servants depart in peace, according to Thy word.

Amen.

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