Archive for September, 2011

Musings at the Coast

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Originally posted 10/31/10
Back in the RV now after a good, though spendy meal at the Pelican Pub.  I think I mentioned that the scotch was $9.00, which makes me glad I brought a bottle of Clan McGregor for which I paid $11.00.  That’s two dollars more than one drink at the Pub.

Anyway I’m sitting here having a scotch ( cheap ) and  thinking about politics.  I have decided I hate politics.  It occurs to me that politicians are liars no matter what side they are on.  It is very disturbing to me that the good guys (democrats) are just as big liars as the the bad guys (republicans).  It makes me crazy.  The guys whose policies I agree with are supposed to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.  If you are confident that the things you believe are correct, there is no reason to speak ill of the opposition.  Just tell the truth as you see it and right will always win out.  Evil and ill will may win some battles, but the war will always go to the good guys.

I am a Christian.  I have not always been a Christian.  For years I had no use for religion in any form. I don’t believe that Christianity is the only way to God, it is just my way to God.  When I read and think about the teachings and the life of Jesus it makes me realize that I am very imperfect and have a long way to go if I ever hope to be worthy to be called a friend of Jesus.  I  know some things, though, from my studies that make me a liberal both religiously and politically.  For one thing, Jesus was always speaking against the current religious leaders because they were arrogant and self righteous.  They were certain that they were right and that they were somehow better than everyone else.  When they gave to the poor, they did it in public to be seen by everyone so people would see how wonderful they were.  Yet in private they foreclosed on the houses of widows and other poor folks.  Does that remind you of any modern institutions?

The Bible is a big book that takes a long time to read.  It is difficult to understand in many places.  There is no shortage of people who are willing to tell you what the Bible says and means.  As Christians, though, we are mainly interested in what Jesus said and did in his life and ministry.  That is a much smaller body of literature.  The first four books of the New Testament contain all we need to know about how to conduct ourselves as followers of Jesus.  When I learned this simple fact, life became much simpler for me.  More about that later.

Okay, “health care reform”.  Big subject but vey simple for me.  Question? How can we be assured that everyone has access to quality health care, no matter what socio-economic class they happen to be in.  Easy answer.  We just make it so that all people have equal access to medical services.  I don’t think we can do that by making everyone buy insurance.  Everyone cannot afford to buy insurance.  Insurance companies are in business to make a profit.  No sin in making a profit, but why does everything in our lives have to be about profit.  There are things in life where the profit motive is not a good fit.  Doctors and nurses and other health care workers are people who want to help others.  They don’t want to help only those who have lots of money or good insurance.  They want to help all people who need help.

My wife died because our insurance company decided that the only treatment with a chance of saving her life was not covered. We could have sold our home and gone deeply into debt and perhaps raised enough money to get the treatment on our own, but my wife opted not to do that.  You mentioned that if you had a catastrophic medical condition you would probably lose your home and everything else in an effort to stay alive.  There are people who work no harder than you or I yet have enough money to pay for our health care expenses hundreds or thousands of times over with no effect to their own health care.  These people pay our politicians millions in campaign funds in order to keep it that way.

Let me ask you a question?  What is it that runs our economy.  It is actually very simple.  We are consumers.  We buy products and the retailers order more products and the manufacturers produce those products and hire more workers to produce more products to sell to the retailers to sell to the consumers.  I keep hearing Republicans say that if you give tax breaks to the rich people they will invest more into their factories and create jobs.  That is absolutely false.  Factory owners will only produce more products, (jobs) if consumers are buying those products. Let’s say that you make a rich person pay more taxes because they have more to pay.  At the same time you give a tax break to the middle class (consumers).  The consumers buy more products because they have more money to buy the products.  Do you really think the factory owners are not going to produce those products because they had to pay more taxes?  They will produce the products, whatever it takes, like hiring more workers, because their livelihood depends on selling the products.  Perhaps they will have to buy the 50′ yacht instead of the 65′ yacht because the difference had to go to help pay for you cancer surgery.

We (liberals) were after “health care reform”.  What we got instead was “health insurance reform”.  Not what we wanted, but a step in the right direction.  Ultimate goal:  No one in this country must choose between quality health care and keeping their home or buying food or sending their kids to college.  The beginning of reaching that goal:  Force the insurance companies to be fair and make sure everyone can have health insurance.  The same people who are hollering about the horrors of “socialized medicine” were hollering about the socialistic idea of socialized retirement back in the 30’s.  Millions of older American’s today are thanking God that we ignored the nay sayers back then.  My father would have been dependent on his children to take care of him except for social security.  There are things that do not have to be for profit in a capitalist society.  Health care is one of those things.  Forcing the insurance companies to be fair is just the beginning.  I for one do not think it will work.  I think we need to provide free quality health care equally to all people.  Not because they are Americans, but because they are people.

Jesus liked regular people like you and I.  He was a party guy.  He was always at some party or other drinking wine and talking to people about how they should treat their neighbors.  The only time he went to church was to tell the church people what they were doing wrong.  We just had a President who claimed to be a “born again Christian”.  Then he started two wars.  Took our economy from a huge surplus to a huge deficit as a result of those wars and the fact that he allowed the rich people to run things.  Now we have a president who is a Christian, but doesn’t say much about it.  He is trying to get us out of the two wars and fix our economy at the same time.  I keep hearing Republicans calling the stimulus package a failed policy.  I am just one little guy in the scheme of things, but I have personally seen more than a hundred million dollars worth of construction projects that would not have happened but for the “failed” stimulus package.  Keep in mind that I only see the work in Oregon.  Most people do not know that 1/3 of that “failed” package went to extend unemployment benefits and another 1/3 for tax cuts to middle class people like me.  I don’t know about you, but I had $800 more dollars to spend in this economy because of those tax cuts.  The other 1/3 was for construction projects all over the country.  Failed?  What?  Can we be honest or do we just want to be political?  It took George and Dick 8 years to run us into the deepest hole we have been into in my lifetime.  Let’s give Barack a little more than two years years to pull us out.

I hear people calling this the worst recession since the “Great Depression”.  I don’t know how much you have read about that part of our history, but the little I have read tells me that we are not even close.  Unemployment reached 25% and it lasted for 11 years.  Incidentally, it took a democratic president with the balls to fight the status quo to finally pull us out of it.  They cried “socialist” then too.  We came out of it with a new way of doing government.  Still capitalist, but socialist where it needed to be socialist.  When capitalists fail to serve the people and begin to let greed rule them, we must turn to socialism in some areas to make things fair.  If you can find a way for the insurance companies to police themselves and serve the people, the people will allow it to continue.  If not, the people must take over and make it right.  Obama is trying to give the insurance industry one last chance.  I hope it succeeds, but I am a realist.  I think they will continue to allow greed to run their business.  I think the final result will be that the insurance industry will get tossed out of the health care business by the people.

The government is imperfect, but the government is the people.  The people have the power and will exercise that power when necessary to protect themselves against greedy men.

Wow, this is getting long.  That’s what you get for turning a wild eyed liberal loose with a full bottle of scotch and an iPad.


Sat. Oct 30, 2010

So as a Christian, how can I justify going to war.  Actually as a modern fundamentalist Christian, it is very easy.  If you believe that the Old and New Testaments are the literal, inn-errant word of God, you can justify almost anything.  Need justification for slavery, it’s there.  Need to justify prostitution, it’s there.  Need to justify executing prostitutes, that’s there as well.  I could go on and on but you get the point.

That’s why I like to differentiate “Christians” from “Followers of Christ (Jesus)”.  If you are a follower of Jesus and his teachings, you will have a very difficult time justifying  many things we do as Americans.  Nationalism and Christianity are incompatible.

If you believe that as Americans we are somehow better than people who are not American you are a Nationalist.  So let’s examine that.  How do you determine if someone is a Nationalist?  Do you think that, because of an accident of birth, you are entitled to certain rights and privileges not enjoyed by others?  I was born in the US and so I am automatically a US citizen.  If I am overseas and become the victim of a terrorist attack along with 5 Israelis, 12 Indians, 3 Italians and 30 Ugandans.  The news casters will say “51 people died today in a terrorist attack including 1 American.  It’s like the attack was so much worse because there was an American killed.  As a young man in college studying WWII, I remember that people were looking for ways to justify dropping atomic bombs on two Japanese cities.  I asked my father about it and he justified it by saying that it ended the war sooner and may have saved the lives of 5,000 American soldiers. So we were willing to sacrifice somewhere between 150,000 and 230,000 people, most of whom were innocent civilians, for the possibility of saving the lives of 5,000 American soldiers.  So if we do the math, each American soldier is valued at 30 to 46 innocent Japanese civilians.

That brings me to immigration.  Our southern national border seems to be a large area of concern to some people.  It seems that all of these terrible people keep coming into our country so that they can work and make enough money to feed their families.  How dare they.  They are not Americans, most do not speak our language.  I’m sure Jesus would agree that if they were not born in the US and speak english, they have no right to work here and feed their kids.  I mean after all, they are taking our jobs.  If not for them, we could be picking the fruit or mowing the grass or washing our cars or any number of those highly sought after, high paying jobs.

Non-Traditional Christians

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Originally posted 11/4/10

From The Skeptical Seeker

The link above takes you to an excellent article about “Non-Traditional Christians”.  Below is my little comment on the article.

Well thought out and well written. I would say at the risk of causing you to chuckle at me, that I consider myself a non-traditional Christian. You are correct in saying that most of those who claim that title are simply non-modern Christians. They would mostly consider me a heretic if I told them my real beliefs. I believe that there is a God, who presents to people in many different way. Some people need an example to guide them in being moral. Jesus meets that need in my life. Like you, I was brought up in a Christian environment. I was allowed to question things, but if my questions could not be answered to my satisfaction, I was simply told that this was a mystery which I would understand when my faith was strong enough. I accepted that until early teens, at which point I decided that it was all hogwash. I didn’t have time for hogwash so I just laughed it off and ignored the whole subject. I still believe that it is mostly hogwash,(no offense to hogs, I love bacon) when presented in a “modern fundamentalist” mode.

Originally posted on 11/5/10

I had some scotch again tonight.  I don’t usually have drinks two nights in a row, but tonight was an exception.  Actually I did not have drinks last night so, technically, I will not have had drinks two nights in a row until I have drinks tomorrow night, which I plan to do so it’s the same thing.  I think. Right?  Anyway I don’t want to drink two nights in a row because it seems excessive.  I don’t want to be an alcoholic.  I try to limit my drinking to 1 night every week or two.  Why am I talking about drinking?  Isn’t that one of the signs of alcoholism?  If you are not drinking, you are talking about drinking.

I like scotch, cheap scotch, not single malt, expensive scotch.  I am not a scotch snob, I just want a cheap blended scotch.  Some of the bars in the small towns around here don’t understand scotch.  They seem to think that if you want scotch, you want some expensive 18 year old liquid for which they can charge you $9.00.  I do not want a $9.00 drink.  I just want scotch.  I guess people who usually order scotch around here don’t care about the cost.  If it is 18 years old and has a prestigious name, then it must be good, so they sip it and comment on its body and flavor and everyone thinks they are wise in the ways of good liquor.  Maybe they are wise or at least knowledgeable, but not me.  If you intend to sip on an ounce and a half of scotch for two hours, you will not be concerned about the cost.  In order to get the result I am looking for I need to have consumed 5 or 6 ounces in that same 2 hours.  That would cost me $27.00.  Scotch is here for one purpose, and only one purpose.  That purpose is to get you feeling good.  To get your otherwise slow tongue moving a little faster.  To release some of your inhibitions so that you can say what you really think without caring so much about how it sounds to others.  I like scotch for two reasons: 1. it tastes better to me than other hard liquors, and 2. It tastes bad enough to me that I will never drink it just for the taste.

I guess you have figured out by now that this writing has nothing to do with sacraments.  Sorry about that, but it is a Christian blog, so if I wanted to write about scotch, I had to make some religious reference somewhere.  Why not the title?

Originally posted 7/15/11

Occasionally I get an email or a Facebook comment that I just cannot ignore.  I get lots of emails like the one below.  I almost never respond to them and I never forward them, but on occasion I get one that is so stupid or inflammatory that I must respond at least to those who sent it to me.  Following is one such email followed by my response.  Help me out here.  What is this author talking about?  Prayer?. The Pledge of Allegiance, Muslims?, Socialism? What?…..:

On Jul 5, 2011, at 10:41 AM, Louise Lynn wrote:
Subject: Fw: A Day of Prayer for ALL???

31 words — Think about it!
Isn’t life strange? I never met one Veteran who enlisted to fight for Socialism!

86% will send this on.


If Muslims can pray on Madison Avenue, why are Christians banned from praying in public and from erecting religious displays on their holy days?

What happened to our National Day of Prayer? Muslims are allowed to block off Madison Ave. , in N.Y.C., and pray in the middle of the street! And, it’s a monthly ritual!

Tell me, again, whose country is this? Ours or the Muslims?

I was asked to send this on if I agree, or delete if I don’t.
It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God.

Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a problem in having “So help me God” in the swearing in our court rooms and having ‘God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I believe it’s time we stand up for what we believe!

If you agree, pass this on; if not, delete.
Thank you.



First thing I noticed was the comment about veterans and socialism.  Well I am a veteran and I enlisted to fight for freedom to continue our form of government.  Democracy in a Republic is our form of government.  That has nothing to do with socialism, which is not a form of government, but an economic system.  We all know that pure socialism does not work well, just as pure capitalism does not work well.   Pure socialism removes the incentive of individuals to do well and gives far too much economic power to government.  Pure capitalism leads to greed and does not provide for those who are unable to compete in our society.  That may include millions of older Americans who rely on “Social” Security.  That is why our system of economics takes the best features of both systems and rolls them into one system that works quite well.

The next thing I noticed was the completely misplaced anger.  As far as I know, Muslims also believe in God.  I know of no group of Muslims who are trying to change the “Pledge of Allegiance”.  Christian holidays are often celebrated in public and in fact there are Christmas and Easter parades in every city I have ever visited in the USA and they always block traffic for the benefit of the celebrants.

To answer the silly question about whose country this is “ours or the Muslims”,  I offer the obvious answer.  This country belongs to Americans of all varieties.  We are not a Christian nation any more than we are a Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or Atheist nation.  If the majority of Americans are Christian, does that give us the right to hinder the freedom of worship for other religions?  There are countries where it is against the law to be anything but a Muslin.  We are better than that and it is my fervent prayer that we remain so.

I believe we should leave the “Pledge of Allegiance” alone.  We do not require anyone to recite it if their religion or lack of religion prohibits it.  That is good enough for me.  My allegiance is to Jesus not to a flag.  As far as courtrooms go, if you want someone to swear on something, doesn’t it make sense that they swear on something they believe in?   If an Atheist swears to God with his hand on the Bible what is he sworn to?  How silly would that be.  If he is a Muslin he should swear to Ala with his hand on the Koran so that it means something to him.  Trying to accommodate all religions in this way is equally as silly as it is cumbersome.  The only thing that makes sense is to find something meaningful to all Americans to swear to.  I’m not sure what that might be, but I’m sure we could come up with something if we give it some thought.


On Jul 6, 2011, at 4:50 AM, Amanda Jackson wrote:

Mr Childers,

I appreciate your need to inform us of your opinion on the email sent; however, in trying to make my grandmother appear as “obviously not a thinker,” you only made yourself look like a giant ass. I’m sure you know where the DELETE button is on your email, and it works just as well as the insensitive comments made below. My grandmother has never tried to push her religion or beliefs on anyone and I resent the fact that you implied as much. She is a Christian, God-fearing woman who only wants to see those she loves in Heaven one day, as do I. She is by far not saying that Christianity should rule the US, only that Christians not be afraid to practice their beliefs. The email she sent begs Christians to stand up for their beliefs. I have seen many families sit down at a table in a restaurant in public and pray before beginning their meal. All this email attempts is to get Christians to think and not be doormats. Although teachers or “leaders” in school cannot lead a pray, NOTHING stops a student from praying. We, as Christians, must teach our children, as well as be strong enough ourselves, to stand up and pray to God to save us so that we might join him in Heaven. There are 2 verses from the Bible that I would like to leave you with, Mr. Childers…

1st – “But whoever disowns Me before others, I will disown before My Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:33
2nd – “If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we disown Him, He also will disown us;” 2 Timothy 2:12

I pray for your soul, Mr. Childers, may that God speak to you and may you one day be a minister of His word.


And to this I responded:

I appreciate your prayers, but if you pray for me don’t waste your time on my soul.  Jesus has already taken care of that and your time may be better spent on other things.  I don’t know you or your grandmother, though I suspect there is a connection here somewhere, perhaps even family.  Else how did I get on her address list.  The fact is I am a grandfather myself and my wife is a grandmother, so I don’t need to have any special respect for someone because they are a grandparent.  The fact is your grandmother sent me an email full of lies and hate for Muslims.  Read the the email yourself and then show me where there is any truth.  Everything in it was a blast against Muslims.  And the parts that were not just spewing hate were out and out lies.  Tell me which Muslim group is trying to change the Pledge of Allegiance.  Show me some evidence that a Muslim group in the USA is trying to keep Christians from praying in public places.  There is not one single truthful statement in that email.

Your grandmother , based on the email she sent, falls into 1 of 2 categories.   1. She is a sweet little old lady who does not think very much and has been listening to some radical fringe rabble rousers. or 2. She is a racist hate monger whose goal is to spread spurious lies and spew her brand of hate to all who will listen.  I suspect she is the former.

From the things you are saying here it seems you have not even read the email she sent, or if you have read it you have not given it any thought.  I do know where my delete key is and I use it frequently.  Unfortunately for you and your grandmother, you live in a free country where we get to choose either the the delete key or the reply key.  In this case I chose the reply key.  You have the choice to take my name off your address list, or to take the risk that I may disagree with you and let my thoughts be known.

Thanks for the Bible refs., I have read and studied these passages a few times.  I confess I can’t see how they relate to the subject under discussion, but I think they might be misinterpreted to mean that a persons reluctance to make a display of their prayer is equal to disowning God.  That would be a gross misreading of the passages as evidenced by Matthew 6:5-6.  Based on this passage I prefer to wait until the hereafter to collect any rewards.

As Christians we need to teach out children to seek truth and follow Jesus in his life and teachings.  If they seek with open minds they will discover truth.  We need to teach them how fortunate they are to live in a society where all forms of religion may be openly practiced without fear.  We need to teach them that all people are children of God, not just Christians, and that God loves all people and that Jesus is our example of how God loves and how we are to love.

Again, if you don’t want me to respond to your writing, don’t write to me.


Originally posted 5/30/11

My wife and some girl friends decided to have a girls day out at the coast today.  I was not invited, but instead of vegging out at home I asked them to drop me off at Starbucks in Newport.  They have free wifi and good coffee.  I can surf the web, drink coffee, people watch, and write, all in one place.  What more could a man ask for?  So here I sit trying to write a blog.  I fear the “people watching” may be too distracting to allow for erudite blogging, but I will make the attempt.
Much has occurred in our little world since my last blog.  We killed a pathetic old man living in a hovel watching videos of himself and of porn on a 13″ tv.  Apparently he could not afford a recliner.  Sitting on the floor wrapped in a blanket may not be the image he wanted to leave to the world, but there it is.  Is this really the guy we spent billions in resources to catch?  Is this the man for which the Taliban risked war with the USA to protect?  Is this the man for which some high officials in the Pakistani government risked the wrath of their wealthiest ally to protect?  If Pakistan losses the billions in aid from the US, where will they get the money to build more nuclear weapons.  How will they ever get enough bombs to blow India to one of the many Hindu hells.  Was it the fear of this man and his organization that caused us to allow our authoritarian leadership to further erode our diminishing freedoms by passing the “patriot act”?  Was he the reason we allowed our leaders to condone the torture of human beings?
Did we really allow this pathetic old man to cause us to sacrifice thousands of our young men and women?  It seems to me that we took a pathetic radical religious nut and his followers, and elevated them to the most powerful people in the world.  We gave them the power to force us into sacrificing a healthy economy to the god of fear.  For them we gave up many of our most precious resources, our young men and women.
And now for the religious portion of my blog.  “Goddamnit” when will we ever learn to do what Jesus would do?

Book Review: “Fall To Grace”

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Originally posted 5/2/11

This is my first attempt at a review of a book for public consumption. The book I am reviewing is “Fall to Grace” by Jay Bakker. You may remember Jay’s parents, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker from PTL Network fame,or in-fame as the case may be.

The first thing that struck me about the book was the title, “Fall to Grace” as opposed to “fall from grace”.  I often heard the phrase “fall from grace” as I was growing up. It was usually a description of someone who stopped following the rules and started doing things or saying things that were unacceptable for a Christian to do or say. Fallen was something I always felt in danger of becoming.  “Falling to Grace” implies something very different.  It’s almost like you need to fall to a level so low that grace is all you have left and the only thing that can save you.  And in fact, grace is the only thing that can save you no matter who you are or what you do.  You cannot be “good” enough to gain your salvation.  It can only be gained as a free gift from God because of and through Jesus. It turns out, much to my surprise, that you don’t have to earn, in fact it is impossible for you to earn, your salvation.  Wow, what a revelation.  I have heard preachers say as much many times in my youth, only to learn that they expected me to earn that salvation by being a “good boy”.  Like Jay, I found that to be an impossible task.  I remember one day I decided that repenting and getting saved all over again every Sunday night was a hassle.  I heard that God would hear your prayers and answer if you were earnest in your payers so I devised a plan and carried it out.  I prayed and asked God to forgive all my sins and all the sins I was going to commit in the future.  It lifted a great burden off my shoulders and for a time I was content in my faith.  I made a fatal error, though, that ended my contentment.  I told others about my plan.  Some people just found it amusing, but others were appalled and said I was just making excuses to be as bad as possible without the eternal consequences. Thanks  to Jay, I now find that I was very close to a sacred truth. Thank you Jay, for putting into words what I have always felt but was unable to express.

The last two or three chapters deal almost exclusively with debunking the conservative fundamentalist tunnel vision regarding homosexuality.  Wow, it is refreshing to run across a Christian who actually has the cajones to expose the hypocrisy.  Even if homosexuality is a “sin”, and I don’t believe it is, spewing hatred of homosexuals from the pulpit must be a much worse sin.

I highly recommend this book for people like myself who want desperately to remain Christian, but cannot abide the current trends in Fundamentalist Churchianity. I also recommend it to those who reject the fundamentalists, but find the Liberal “High Church” too cold and uncommitted, perhaps ritualistic.

Harvey Childers
May 1, 2011

Originally posted 4/25/11
In the interest of accuracy in whiskey lore,  I offer the following corrections to the whiskey portion of my last blog.  I sent the text of my last blog to the friend I mentioned and he promptly sent some corrections.  In hindsight, I should have done more research or at least waited until I got his comments before publishing that portion of the blog.  As always, I have included a bit of religion at the end of this blog, even though it is just a correction.
“Yes, peaty is a word.  So is “peatreek”, the nature or degree to which something smells peaty.  Though perhaps counterintuitive at first blush (or should I say “sniff”?), a good reek (of peat) is something to treasure.  For some of us.
(I can see the approach of a little investigation into the history and usage of the word “reek”.)
However, I must correct your understanding of peat and how it flavors scotch.  Peat is not dirt.  It is vegetation, mostly moss, that one author has described as partly “fossilized”.  I’ve long thought it was partly decomposed.  I will look into this further.  But it is certainly not dirt.  It is burned for fuel where it is abundant and where other fuels are not.
Conversely, it’s difficult to burn dirt – not that I’ve put a lot of effort into trying.  In fact, no effort at all has gone that direction.
Scotch whisky gets its flavor from several features and ingredients:  The yeast used; the nature and quality of source water; the proximity to salty ocean air; the barrels used for aging; and, in the case of peat, the fuel used to dry the green malt in the kiln.  Some of the peatiest, Laphroaig and Lagavulin, say their source water picks up flavor by flowing through peat (just as other distillers say theirs picks up heathery notes by flowing across the moors), but most of smokey flavor in scotch whisky comes from the smoke generated by the drying fire in the kiln.  Apparently, peat fires are kept at a relatively low heat:  enough to dry the germ and stop internal consumption of sugars, but intentionally smoldering and smokey for the flavor it imparts.
Interestingly, the Islay Islands are an area where peat was historically (and still is) abundant and other fuels had to be imported, and to this day the peatiest scotches are distilled there.  In other areas of Scotland, other fuels were more readily available and used for drying heat; and hence those areas of Scotland produce whiskys that are less smokey than those of Islay.
I’ve never been to Scotland; I’ve never smelled peat smoke; I’ve never distilled anything.  This all comes from reading, and I trust it is correct.
Apparently peat smoke smells quite good – heather and grass.  At the very least, it smells good to a peat lover.
I can distinguish smoke from wood fires of Doug-fir, pine, oak, alder, juniper, pinon pine.  So I can easily imagine peat smoke has characteristic aroma.  I hope I get a chance to smell it some day; I think then I could more precisely say “That is the peat smoke flavor”, and distinguish it from other complexities of scotch flavor.  In the meantime, “smokey” will have to do, and “smokey” and “peaty” are synonymous.
In looking into the definition of peat, I learned that Kentucky (or U.S.?) law limits the use of bourbon barrels to one time only (or at least that was true at one time).  Thus, there are a lot of oak barrels for sale that scotch distillers snap up.  Other barrels are sometimes used for scotch, but they are not as plentiful, and thus the associated scotches are specialty items.
“Consequently, when you do luck onto a bottle, you savor it and make it last.”
Yes and no.  Yes, it is wonderful good fortune to have a bottle of good single-malt, and Yes it is to be savored.  Unfortunately, a wee dram each evening means that the bottle doesn’t last as long as one might like.  But it still is made to last a lot longer than a bottle of wine or a bottle of orange juice!!  So I guess you are correct on all counts.  haha!
I found an article written by someone who likes the smokey flavor given by peat fires as much as I do.  He said he brought home from Scotland some cookies and breads in a tin that also held some peat-dried barley malt.  He took the cookies and breads out and found they smelled smokey, and long afterward he continued to open the tin occasionally to get a whiff of the wonderful peatreek.  He must be my long-lost brother, because I have several empty Laphroag cans that I occasionally open just to get a whiff; they have been empty for many years.  They never contained dried grain, so perhaps my case is one of wishful thinking and fond memory.
Though it didn’t come in a tin container, I did just now discover that my relatively new Lagavulin bottle had a drop remaining.  Thank you again.
That author also said one should never put ice in a glass of single
malt:  ice deadens the tongue, and prevents the enjoyment of the subtleties and nuances of the whisky.  He said one can put all the ice desired into a glass of blended scotch!! haha!”
I stand corrected, and gratefully so.  Thank you Bill. The next time I buy you a bottle of Single Malt, I will make certain it comes in a tin canister.  I may even drop in a few grains of aged barley for your future enjoyment.  The obvious reference to my fondness of ice in my cheap blended scotch was uncalled for, but I suppose I had it coming as punishment for my woefully inaccurate ramblings about a subject, which is obviously near and dear to your heart.
And now to answer some of my well meaning Christian Brothers and Sisters who think I talk too much about whiskey when Christians are not even supposed to drink.  In truth I have spent considerable time talking about Scotch lately, and I will attempt to avoid the subject for a while, but I offer the following quote from one of my favorite Christians of all time and arguably one of the most often quoted Christians of all time.

“Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its meaning. It now usually means teetotalism… [In the past,] temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further. It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotalers; Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is the teetotal religion.
Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much, or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself. But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons—marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

—C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity, p. 78-79

Originally posted 4/19/11
My friend likes (loves?) old single malt scotch whiskey.  He has commented in my presence about how he likes it smokey and peaty.  (wow, I just typed the word “peaty” and my spell checker had no reaction, is this really a word?) Anyway, I understand smokey, some sauces and cheeses taste smokey and it is a pleasant flavor.  But peaty? Peat is just dirt with lots of organic material mixed in.  They dig it out of the ground and filter the scotch through it.  Go figure.  The smokey flavor apparently comes from the charred insides of the oak barrels used to age the scotch.  The longer it ages, the more of the charred oak flavor it takes on.
I found it interesting that the barrels used to age scotch are barrels that were used in Kentucky to age bourbon whiskey.  These barrels are built from seasoned oak and charred on the inside. When the Kentucky whiskey is aged for the prescribed time the whiskey is removed and the barrel is sold to whiskey makers in Scotland.  It is my understanding that only barrels used to age Kentucky bourbon are acceptable for this purpose.
I guess it is the single malt aspect, which means it was made from malted barley and distilled at a single distillery, not blended with other whiskeys, and the age that determines how good and how expensive it is.  You can pay seventy or eighty dollars for an average bottle of 18 year old single malt scotch.  So you can see why you probably will only have it if it is a gift or if you buy it for a special occasion.  Consequently, when you do luck onto a bottle, you savor it and make it last.
So at Christmas I gave my friend a bottle of good scotch.
Not counting politics, Kentucky is a pretty cool place.  Did you know that out of 120 counties in Kentucky, 86 of them are still under prohibition.  Did you also know that more that 95% of the bourbon whisky distilled in the US is done in Kentucky?
My friend is a drummer in a rock and roll band.  I’m actually using the phrase “rock and roll” rather loosely.  They play a variety of music in a variety of genres.  We were talking about music one day and he mentioned that music sometimes has a profound effect on him.  I think it drags up “River Teeth”.  River teeth are memories that stay with you when all other memories have faded away.  “River Teeth” is the title of a book by David James Duncan and a very interesting and enjoyable read.  I have always loved James Taylor’s version of the song  “In My Mind I’m Going To Carolina”.  It brings up memories of Carolina.   Both North and South Carolina are very unique and interesting places.  The coast of the these states is so different from the Oregon coast you would think they were totally different oceans, oh wait, they are.There are so many places right here in the good old USA that I have not seen, it will take the rest of my life and more to see it all.  As a young man, I once drove south from Louisville with a girl friend.  We wanted to see New Orleans, but ran out of money and gas just south of Jackson Mississippi.  We just found a well lighted parking lot and parked the car and stuck out our thumbs.  We made it to the Gulf Coast just east of New Orleans.  We just kept going east and traveled the coast line through Mississippi, Alabama, and a little way into Florida. Then we ran out of time and had to get back so we turned around and headed NW to get the car.  We were crazy, of course, but we did have the where-with-all to retain enough gas money to get us home.  The thing is we did not just see these places, we experienced them and met the people and waded in a swamp and slept on the earth, drank the local water and ate the local food.  We rode about 20 miles with a group of people in the back of a truck heading for their work place where they shucked oysters.  I doubt I will ever do that again, but it will never leave my memory.  It is one of my river teeth.
I like to dance, but only on a concrete floor.  I have this effect on wood, above grade, floors that is akin to striking a drum with a bunch of pennies lying on it.  The pennies represent all the people around me.  That may be a slight exaggeration, but that’s how I feel when I’m up there and all the other dancers are having trouble keeping their footing.  Or maybe they are drunk.

A short exercise in circular free association: Frogs, Jeremiah, Music, Gigs, Frog Leggs, Fried Foods, Cellulite, Fat, French Cooking, Snails, Slime, Frogs.

I have always had faith that God existed.  I’m not even sure faith is the right word.  I knew God existed, and when you know something to be a fact, faith is not necessary.  Growing up I was afraid of God.  As a young man I still knew that God existed but I did not like him very much.  He seemed very mean, even cruel and I wanted nothing to do with him.  Then in middle age I net a woman who introduced me to Jesus.  Not the Jesus from my Sunday School lessons but the real Jesus.  She told me that Jesus was sent to us to show us what God was really like.  She told me to forget about all the stuff I had heard about God and Jesus and just read about Jesus for myself.  I did that and discovered a God I liked.  A God that was loving and compassionate, not mean spirited and cruel.  So the God I thought existed was really a scary fiction.  Now I still know that God exists but he/she/they/it is/are a God I can trust with my eternal soul.

Is it Time to Hurl

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
Originally posted 1/3/11
I learned a valuable lesson today.  This morning when I was thinking about what to take for lunch, I decided I wanted a high protein, low carb, high potassium lunch.  With this in mind I opened the cabinet and found a can of salmon and a can of black beans.  Since I was running late I didn’t want to take the time to put them in separate containers.  I reasoned that since they were both going to end up in my gut, I would just save my gut some time and mix them together.  Lucy, my lovely wife, was kind enough to open the cans, drain them and find an appropriately sized container for them.  I tossed in a few drops of balsamic vinegar for flavor and we were out the door in record time.
Now I love the flavor of salmon, even canned, and I love black beans and balsamic vinegar, so you can imagine my surprise when the taste of the three items combined made me want to vomit on my shoes.  Luckily I was able to hold it down and because I had packed nothing else to eat I suffered through the entire meal.  I needed the sustenance it provided and I hate to waste food.  I am also attempting to live by the credo “eat to live, don’t live to eat”.  It is amazing what a little self-talk and a large paper clip attached to your nose will allow you to choke down.
Well I ate in record time and was feeling good that the ordeal was over and I had survived it without sending the contents of my gut to the floor.  What I did not understand at the time was that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, just like in high school physics.  Well the reaction for this particular action came in two equally disturbing forms:  1. If you think salmon , black beans and balsamic vinegar are disgusting going in, you will need a much more descriptive adjective for the gastronomic after effects.  2. If you want to remain in the good graces of your fellow office mates, you should never put such a concoction into a microwave oven.  If you ignore this advice, be prepared to face the wrath of those around you.  You can mitigate that wrath somewhat by doing two things:  A. Be prepared with cloth and cleaners to scour the bean innards from the microwave cooking cavity.  And B.  have a can of spray deodorizer nearby, both for the air in the office from cooking and for the later gastronomic by-products.
Respectfully keeping my distance,
And now I am faced with a familiar dilemma.  This is supposed to be a Christian blog, so what spiritual truth can we glean from the above narrative?  Let me think……Okay here’s one:  Mixing religion and politics is like mixing fish and beans.  The outcome is always unpleasant.  Tossing science into the mix is like adding balsamic vinegar to the fish & beans.  It can only worsen the effects.

To Judge or Not to Judge

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
Originally posted 11/11/10
The following is my answer to a question posed by a mother concerning her daughter and whether she could pass judgment on her friends.   A couple of things to keep in mind as you read this.  1. I tend to paraphrase scripture, so you may not agree with my interpretation.  2. I was speaking to a fundamentalist Christian, and for that reason I used the masculine pronoun when referring to God.  I don’t believe God has a specific gender, but it is easier to just use the accepted forms than to try to explain that each time I speak.
Luke 6:37-42 speaks to this issue best of any I have seen.  Judge not, so you won’t be judged.  Don’t condemn and you won’t be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  Give and you will be given to. The criteria you use to judge, condemn, forgive or give to others is the same criteria which will be used to judge, condemn, forgive or give to you.  It occurs to me that, knowing these things, I may want to be very careful judging or condemning.  This passage also has a great parable about the blind leading the blind and the specks and/or planks in our eyes.  Matthew 7:1-5 says the same things.
1 Corinthians 4:5 says to judge nothing before the Lord returns.  The Lord will know the motives of your heart and so will be equipped to judge correctly.  This indicates to me that motive is important in knowing if a wrong has been committed.   Even in our own system of justice it is very difficult to convict someone of a crime if you are unable to determine his motive.  In society, we must be free to speculate about motive in order to maintain order and punish crime.  But in truth, only the person doing the deed and God, can know for certain what his motive is for committing the deed.  For this reason we cannot judge anyone.  It is not our job.  It is God’s job, and He has sole discretion over what constitutes sin, and He has sole discretion over what the punishment might be if He determines that a sin has been committed.
It is a dilemma, because you want your kids to make wise choices based on your values and morals.  Yet if they make the choice only because they know you want it, whose values are they displaying?  They need to make the choice because it is the right thing to do and they need to be able to understand why this is right and that is wrong.  As a young seeker I read a book called “Why I Believe”.    The only thing it taught me was that the author’s reason for believing was not a good reason for me to believe.  I needed a bit more evidence than this author presented.  As a small child all that is necessary is “Mom or Dad says so and if I disobey it hurts”.  As the child grows up he/she needs to have reasons which make sense for doing this as opposed to that.  It is the job of the parent to see that the reasons are in place when needed, and that they are logical.
Another thing that occurs to me is in something you said about the mother and daughter wanting not to judge, lest they be judged.  It seems immature to simply not want to judge because you don’t want to be judged.  That is simple self preservation.   We don’t judge because we are not qualified to judge and our judgment may be incorrect or unjust.  It’s the old “don’t judge me till you have walked a mile in my shoes” metaphor.
John 12:47 tells us that even Jesus was not going to judge us.  He came to save us not to judge us.  So how can we presume to judge others when even Jesus won’t.

There are some obvious paradoxes here.  If we look down on those who judge, are we judging them?  As with any aphorism or metaphor, you can carry it out only so far until it turns into nonsense.