Eric's Daily Weblog

Atlantic City

For many years, the largest working pipe organ in the world was the Wanamaker organ in the Macy's in Philadelphia. Now, thanks to restoration efforts, you must move northeast a few miles to find the largest. The massive pipe organ at Atlantic City, with 30,000 pipes, is also the loudest in the world (due to high wind pressures) in order to fill the massive auditorum with sound. It has been dormant for roughly 70 years. 

Turn up the volume for the quiet first verses of this hymn, then hang on for the last time through. Then consider that only about 30% of the pipes have been restored to use. It will get more impressive, if that is possible. 


At last count, there were about 11 African-Americans living in Northwestern Minnesota. Oddly, the area is also blessed with 3,714 full professors in African-American studies. Educated at Talk Radio University, the profs are pretty sure they know just what the problem is with those black people. If you are interested, they gather for educational seminars in cafes and bars all across the area most every morning and evening. 

Here is a different perspective. I have seen this happen myself on a train. It boggles my mind. And it makes it clear to me: Nobody who hasn't been treated with indignity due to the color of their skin should pontificate about race. My partner Lance is half black. While working at a photo workshop in a supposedly liberal city, he attended a weekly dinner for the new students. In fact, he was in charge of the artist presentation. Yet hardly a week went by where somebody didn't just routinely hand him an empty drink glass, or a plate, assuming he would take care of it. One time and you can get over it. Many times and you start to wonder what these people think of your place in society. 


Every now and then, I run across an article that causes a light bulb to turn on in my brain. This one makes it clear to my why Aunt Olla has always loved mauve and wants to be buried in a mauve casket. 

UPDATE: Thanks to a reader for pointing out the bad link. 

View from my window



Finally! Normalization of relations with Cuba. This is about 30 years too late. Of course, the regime in Cuba is not particularly nice. But openness is the one hope to change it. The only reason we have continued to treat Cuba like a Cold War threat has been the vote of the emigree population in Florida. Because the state is needed to win a presidential election, and because it is always close (remember the election of 2000), no candidate wants to lose the anti-Castro vote. So, no president could normalize relations until a second term. I was hoping this would happened and puzzled that it hadn't already. 



Flew down to Tucson yesterday for one week. Found a new the foothills near Sabino Canyon. Turns out, the second floor apartment is right against the base of the mountains. It is very well vegetated. The person in the apartment below feeds the birds. In just five minutes on the porch, I saw a cardinal, many humming birds, a purple finch, several sparrows, the ubiquitous mourning doves, and an Arizona version of a chipmunk. The weather is in the 50s, so it is unseasonably cold (I didn't bring a jacket) but I will survive!

The death of Washington

I wonder: will people eventually look back at medicine today and wonder what we were thinking? George Washington was pretty much murdered by his doctors, who didn't know any better. Medicine has advanced, yet when somebody struggles through chemotherapy, a cure that can bring you to the edge of death, I sometimes wonder how different it is from blood-letting or leeches. 

Johnny Wahlin

LIfe-long neighbor Johnny Wahlin (pronounced Wall-EEN) passed away this week. He was 86, which I had never imagined, he stayed so active. He somehow arrived 86 without seeming old. Read the obituary for a list of his post-retirement activities. In short, John devoted the final 21 years of his life to helping others. That despite crippled legs from decades of milking a large diary herd. John was an activist before activism was called activism. At one time, you could find him in the aisles of the grocery store beseeching people not to buy certain brands of milk products, brands whose products he felt were unfairly obtained from the farmer. 

After retiring, John volunteered for an organization which helped farmers in difficulty. He was their counselor. He was unconditional in his concern and caring for every person in every situation. Then he worked in the school as a volunteer. "These kids.." he would say, shaking his head at the rough things they went through at home. 

What a rare attitude. Most people have enough trouble giving unconditional love to their own children. Johnny showed unconditional love to everybody he met. 

Current affairs

•Torii Hunter has returned to the Twins. Yawn. He is old. He might hit a little, but he shouldn't be allowed in the outfield. He continues to talk too much. On the other hand, I don't think his opinions on gay marriage matter. Who cares what he thinks. He certainly shouldn't be penalized or censured for speaking his mind. Athletes should not be expected to toe any ideological line.  

•The torture report (what a victory for the English language that people are finally using the word torture, not Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) continues to bounce around. Its conclusions are really too much for the establishment to swallow. If President Obama and others faced the facts as they are required to do by law, they would have to arrest a whole bunch of war criminals, including former President Bush and former Vice-President Cheney. At a minimum. Do you think that will happen? It should! And don't think it shouldn't unless you have read what the report reveals. Torture without any intent of gathering intelligence. Torture for retribution alone. Torture and more torture, first by the Army, now by the CIA. At least twenty-six people tortured, at least one to death, who were later proven innocent. People who don't care don't give a damn about the rule of law. And there are plenty of them. Why is it they are afraid of big government––until it starts killing the innocent? 

•Bill Cosby's accusers now number nearly two dozen, and they should be given the benefit of the doubt. According to many people, he always was an intolerable asshole off screen. Now add rapist to his resume. 

•The House of Representatives passed a spending bill last night, but not before adding provisions allowing big banks to take greater risks with investors' money. Yes, we really need risky derivatives reintroduced into our economy. We little people have missed them so much since 2008, when they imploded the economy. Elizabeth Warren for president? I am tempted. She gets this stuff. Hillary is sold out to Wall Street, and that is a big problem for me.

•What happened to Ebola after the election?

It apparently wasn't needed anymore. 


The consequences of apocalyptic thinking

This is an insightful article. I agree with its conclusion: an understanding of End Times theology (otherwise known as eschatology) is central to any understanding of modern evangelical religion. The End Times, a relatively new concept in Christianity, shapes the political thinking of the evangelical right. It is a desperate, angry, and violent philosophy, and it is held by a greater percentage of Americans than ever before.