Jul 11

Orthocogy may be defined as right/correct thinking.  It is a word coined by me to complement the words orthodoxy (right/correct creeds/beliefs) and orthopraxy (right/correct practice/behavior). The word “orthocogy” is most needed in the English language, as no other word fits the entity of thinking correctly. Besides, having an orthodox belief system does not guarantee that one thinks well.

I first realized the need for this word while reading the parable of the sower in Mark 4. After Jesus gave the parable, he later asked his disciples what they thought it meant. Let’s quote directly from Scripture…

Mark 4:10-13 (ESV) And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

It is easy for us to assume that we would have offered the correct interpretation to Jesus, yet the interpretation of Jesus would NOT have perfectly matched what a Reformed, Arminian, Anabaptist, Catholic, or heretic would have offered as the best interpretation of this Scripture. Jesus commented that orthocogy (right thinking) is necessary to understand not only this parable but all of his parables.

There does not seem to be much difference between orthocogy and wisdom, which in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word hokmah (chokhmah, חכמה) or Greek sophia (σοφία) in the New Testament. There are times when the Wisdom literature of the Old and New Testament seems contrary to sound doctrine, such as Job, Proverbs, the Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), or the book of James. People have wondered about whether or not the book of Esther should be in the canon of Scripture, as the book does not even mention God. Yet, I think there is a reason for its existence in the canon. As my dear friend Bob Case brought out in his commentary on Esther (reviewed previously by me), the book of Esther offers great wisdom in how to deal as a Christian in the world of politics. It’s a lesson easily missed.

I have oftentimes wondered as to why superb theologians make some of the stupidest errors in thinking. I recall how the Southern Presbyterian theologians Thornwell and Dabney both wrote passionate defenses for slavery. I recall how one of my heroes of the 20th century, JG Machen, was an ardent fan of one of our worse presidents ever, Woodrow Wilson. Think of those theologians who came out with vitriolic statements against Donald Trump, in spite of him making more Christian-like decisions than ANY other president who preceded him! Or, contemplate how so many “first-rate” theologians are woke, adhere to critical race theory, or have given in to the higher-critical thinking of biblical interpretation.

Orthocogy is very much like orthodoxy or orthopraxy; we all like to assume that we have it. Even though our behavior may change with time and our belief systems mature over time, it is quite clear that we all assume that we are the best examples of the three orthos. Dale Carnegie, in his hit book How to Win Friends and Influence People spends the first chapter of his book developing the notion of how even hardened criminals are convinced that they were right thinking and right acting in their crimes. He is correct. Orthocogy is not a trait that we boast about possessing, and if we do, we probably do not have it.

The wisdom literature gives you instruction as to how to obtain orthocogy.

Proverbs 2:6-7 (ESV) For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity…

Proverbs 3:5-7 (ESV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

Proverbs 9:10 (ESV) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Though Proverbs 1-9 is a focused treatise on wisdom, other Scriptures (especially the book of James) offer insights on how to gain wisdom (orthocogy). It is true that orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthocogy are inseparable features. One must behave well in order to think well. One must hold wisdom with the highest value and seek after it, seeking for wisdom and knowledge. To this end, one can not approach Scripture in a haphazard fashion and expect to be imparted with the grace of wisdom. Wisdom entails standing on the shoulders of other bright scholars, striving diligently for truth and correct understanding of things, ordering one’s life in accordance with the Scriptures, and being humble in one’s assessment of themselves.

Hopefully, the word “orthocogy” will become an established word in English literature. It is needed as a completion of the ortho triad and establishes a framework for thinking through the writings of any person. Are they living a proper life? Is their diligence in Scriptural accuracy right on? Do they think well in the matter of life issues? If any of those three questions is suspect, then the rest of a person’s teachings also become suspect. The three go together, and the exclusion of any one of three gives one an incomplete assessment of a person and their teaching.

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Jul 04

James Madison, by Richard Brookhiser ★★★★

I had originally planned on reading Ralph Ketcham’s biography on James Madison, a lengthy and well written document, though written in a very dry fashion. Getting through a few pages of Ketcham’s book, I realized it was not a good “fit” for me, and purchased the biography by Brookhiser. Though Brookhiser shared in Ketcham’s love for dry writing, this was a shorter book and one that I was able to read within the course of a few weeks. Brookhiser offers a very brief summary of Madison’s childhood, how he got involved in politics, and how he developed a life-long friendship with Thomas Jefferson. The details of Madison’s life through the Revolutionary War, and his involvement in the writing of the constitution, as well as his friendship (and loss of friendship) with Alexander Hamilton are mentioned though not developed at any length. There is much discussion as to how James Madison brought the art of politics to the US government, including the development of the political parties and factionalism in government. Madison’s service in Jefferson’s government led to him being promoted to two terms as president of the United States, a presidency best marked by the foolish engagement in war with England, known as the war of 1812. The greatest lesson of the Madison presidency was how incompetent the government was at that time. The government had poor means of taxing citizens, no funds for war, yet voted to go to war with England when entirely unprepared to do so. How the USA survived that episode in its history is nothing short of a miracle. Madison, in the aftermath of his presidency, turns again to writing, while living in his estate at Monticello. He does not present himself as a wizened statesman like Washington or Jefferson, but manages to outlive all the other presidents including his successor, James Monroe. Issues with the supreme court are discussed, but oddly, in the chapter on his post-presidency years. More odd, the most important court decision of his time, Marbury v. Madison, is left unspoken of. The issue of slaves is discussed, this time Brookhiser suggested that Madison’s approach to this difficult issue was to simply ignore it as a problem; Madison did not free his slaves at death.

Brookhiser does not give me a reason to consider Madison as one of the “greats” of the founding fathers. There is nothing peculiar about him, save for his establishment among the elite classes of Virginia. The Madison presidency was a complete disaster, with Madison failing to make good decisions, and ending his life as a near pauper, having poor management of his household economics. What in particular makes James Madison stand above many of the other founding fathers of the USA? This book certainly does not answer that question. It is a brief but lackluster recount of the life of a perhaps great man. Maybe I should have labored through the much lengthier tome by Ketcham?

I will next be reading more on the Indian wars before tackling the life of James Monroe.

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Jul 03

Echo Lake with Sam Flanagan: 01-02JULY2021

Echo Lake is located within the Norse Peak Wilderness, just north of Mount Rainier, and in proximity of the Crystal Mountain ski resort. It is pristine wilderness with wonderful streams and beautiful lakes, marred only by the unfortunate occurrence in 2017 of a major forest fire that raged through this area. The fire was started by lightning strike, and though it was fairly comprehensive, it is seen extensively when one is hiking in proximity to our current trail while on the Pacific Crest Trail. The fire was rather selective, leaving large patches of unburnt trees, and occasionally a small island of viable trees in a field of charred and dead trees. Some of this hike traversed burnt sections, though there were still mostly viable trees.

We started out on July 01 at about 10 am, and the parking lot was essentially empty. This is an extremely popular hike so that was quite strange. On the way in, we greeted the owner of the one other car in the lot who was hiking out. She also had a Gossamer Gear backpack, which is not the most common backpack in this part of the universe.

Crossing a stream on a precarious “bridge”, aided by a rope strung across the creek by the forest service.
Sam entering the Norse Peak wilderness
Hiking up the Greenwater River system, past the lower and upper Greenwater Lakes.
Sam at the horse camp of Echo Lake. Across the lake, one can observe the devastation of the 2017 fire.

I originally intended to do this hike as a loop, going from Echo Lake up to Corral Pass, spending the night at Corral Pass, and then descending by way of the Lost Lake trail and back to the trail head. Echo Lake was 7 miles from the trailhead, and a lot of climbing. As we went past the Greenwater Lakes, we encountered more and more mosquitos. Sam applied mosquito juice, but still got eaten up. I was using a mosquito head net, but they were not attacking me as viciously as Sam, so loaned the net to him. Even still, by the time we reached Echo Lake, Sam had had enough of the mosquitos, and we decided to call it quits. We ate lunch and then dinner, set up our tent, and had a restful night. The day was warm but mostly cloudy, with blue sky for an hour or two while we were at the lake. On the way out the next day, we then encountered swarms of weekend warriors coming up the trail. We got to the parking lot about 11 am, which was nearly full of cars. I gave Sam an obligatory stop at Wally’s for his Wallyburger, a treat not to be missed.

On arriving home, Betsy had a list of chores to get done. Meanwhile, I conspired as to my next hike. Sometime after the 4th JULY, I will be taking the train down to Vancouver, WA and meet Gaylon. The next AM, he will drop me off at the Bridge of the Gods, but this time, I will start hiking north. I’ll probably not resupply until White Pass, a total of 150 miles, and then terminate the hike at Chinook Pass, and hitch hike back to civilization.

The multiple obstacles that I continually am confronting have left me with the question as to whether I’m crazy, or whether God is blocking every attempt of mine to complete the trail. At this point, I’ve lost all interest in completing the entire PCT. I would like to hike most of the Washington and Oregon parts of the trail, and hopefully also hike the trail from Castella to Ashland. I don’t have any extreme hopes or expectations. I’ve learned the importance of enjoying the hike. Many will push on in the face of miserable conditions, simply to claim that they’ve done the entire trail. That’s not my cup of tea. I’ll do what I can, but I’ll enjoy it while I do it.

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Jun 29

Last year, the Wuhan virus prevented most people from hitting the trail. This year was assumed to be a normal season. Distinctives included a higher than normal snow season in Oregon and Washington, and a lower than normal snow season in the high Sierra. Now, as I head down to central California, we are experiencing an extreme heatwave in the Northwest, with temperatures as high as 106F in Puyallup, and hotter in Portland. This heatwave has extended down to central California, with only the high Sierra having relief from the heat. The heat has affected the train, as they claimed that above 100F, they were limited to a speed of 40 mph. So, I’m not sure that I’ll reach the transfer point in time to switch trains to Bakersfield.

I purchased a business class seat to save money, yet sleeper cars just make sense for overnight travel. Hopefully, I can get some sleep tonight. At least the train is air-conditioned. They require you to wear masks, which creates a stagnant air environment, enough to make one sick.

Towards late evening, as we were coming up on Klamath Falls, we were informed that the train could go no further since there was a fire that was close to the tracks. By morning, still in Klamath Falls, they notified us that the fire had actually encroached on some train trestles so that further travel was impossible. They also tried to find a bus to transport us southward, but virtually none were available. Therefore, they were taking us back home and refunding the train fare. 

Lava fire in Northern California. You can see that the Amtrak track goes right down the middle of this fire. They are represented by the dashed white-black line that runs under the fire shield on the map.
One photo (that I did not take) of the fire. Mt. Shastina is on the left. The train tracks run right through the middle of this fire. 

At this point in time, there truly is no sensible way for me to get to the trailhead, as I am not going to fly there. My options have completely run out. I called Betsy to let her know what was up. I am a bit disappointed but also realize that God sometimes uses such means to lead me on the correct path. So, it is unwise for me to be angry about matters. Yes, I believe in the providence of God that works all things for His purpose, and for the best of his children. The fire was caused by lightning, and because of the dry hot weather, the high Sierra is also experiencing an abundance of lightning storms, which present significant dangers to the hiker. 

What to do? Well, I’m sad to not do the high Sierra. Even if I schemed another way to get back to Walker Pass or Kennedy Meadows, it will be past the time permitted on my permit and thus run a problem. So, I will do other things. Like, hike the Washington portion of the trail. Get back into bicycle riding. I have some serious home projects that need to be done. Even though Washington has had a heatwave, it was a winter with much snow, and a moderate portion of the trail in Washington is still covered with snow. Thus, several weeks delay before starting at the Columbia River would be ideal. 

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Jun 25

Next Monday (28JUN2021) I board an Amtrak train to Bakersfield, CA. This is an overnight train with several transfers, after which I board a bus to Lake Isabella. I’ll spend a night in Lake Isabella and then board another bus to Walker Pass. If the weather happens to be unusually hot, I will then continue on to the town of Ridgecrest, and hop a ride from there to Kennedy Meadows to begin my hike for the year. So, I couldn’t tell if I will begin hiking on 30JUN or a day or two later. In any event, I will be hitting the grandeur of the high Sierra in this episode of the PCT. I do not plan on summiting Mt. Whitney, a common side trip for PCT hikers, but will maintain my objective of hiking straight through. I also do not plan on stopping for resupply mid-way through the high Sierras but will head straight to Muir Trail Ranch, a segment that will take roughly 10 days to complete without a resupply. I will do a limited resupply at Reds Meadow (Mammoth, CA, Devils Postpile area) and mailed resupply packages at Tuolomne Meadows and Kennedy Meadows North (Sonora Pass). Rather than hitchhike down to South Lake Tahoe for resupply, I’m hoping that I can do a limited resupply at the Echo Lake grocery store before arriving at Donner Pass. At Donner Pass, I will hitchhike to Truckee, CA where I can catch the Amtrak train back home. I’ve considered plans for a much more extensive hiking season and then opted against that for a number of reasons, including my desire to spend as much of the summer with Betsy as possible, and taking the extremely hot weather under advisement. Besides the challenge of hiking in hot weather, there remains a much greater possibility of forest fires. Later in the summer (September) I hope that I can complete some more of the Washington PCT, perhaps with Russ A.

Preparations have been somewhat haphazard. I’ve been doing long hard day hikes, and last week did a very easy overnighter with Sam and Liam Flanagan. Physically, I feel ready. I’ve mailed my resupply packages to Kennedy Meadows (South) and to Muir Trail Ranch. Today, I mailed resupply boxes to Tuolomne Meadows and to Kennedy Meadows (North).

I will be using a Garmin InReach mini which will allow you to follow my progress. The device leaves a satellite “breadcrumb” every 30 minutes as to my location so that you can observe my progress from home. The link for this is share.garmin.com/PuyallupPilgrim . You may see mileage posted from the InReach mini, but it is highly inaccurate. Because it only takes a location every 30 minutes, it would be accurate only if I were walking a perfectly straight line without ups and downs. I could take my Garmin Explorer, which registers every few seconds and thus get a highly accurate reading on my hike, but that is much extra weight and totally unnecessary. My mileages will be reasonably accurately estimated from the trail mileage data of Guthooks, which is the iPhone GPS map system I use to stay on track on the trail.

Here is what I will be taking with me in my pack…

  • Backpack-Gossamer Gear 60Mariposa with rain cover
  • Tent – ZPacks Duplex
  • Hiking poles – ZPacks
  • Ground Pad – Thermarest NeoAir XLite – female
  • Sleeping quilt – Feathered Friends 20 Flicker
  • Pillow – down
  • Hiking gloves – Outdoor Research sun gloves
  • Buff & Handkerchief
  • Feathered Friends EOS down coat
  • Shorts, t-shirt (synthetic), socks, underpants, long underwear, fleece mittens/hat
  • Stove – Pocket rocket MSR kit with pot
  • Fuel canister
  • Camp towel
  • Long-handled titanium spoon
  • Bearikade bear canister (will change to UrSack at Kennedy Meadows) – an extra quarter to open and close the Bearikade
  • Personal paraphernalia – sunglasses, chapstick, wallet, pen, notepad, swiss army knife
  • Hydration bottle and tube
  • Rain jacket OR Helium II
  • Sawyer Squeeze water purification
  • 1 & 2-liter water bags
  • Suntan and Insect repellent, bug net
  • headlamp with extra batteries
  • Toilet paper, trowel, sanitizing gel
  • Pee bottle
  • First aid kit
  • Repair kit
  • Backup 10,000 MaH battery with charge cables
  • Medications: regular plus emergency meds
  • inReach Mini
  • iPhone

This is it. This will be my only “stuff” for 5-6 weeks. I have arranged for 4 resupplies, one at Kennedy Meadows South, one at Muir Trail Ranch, one at Tuolomne Meadows, and one at Kennedy Meadows North. I will also do a limited resupply at Reds Meadow and at Echo Lake resort. Here’s the contents of my pack…

Here is my resupply list for contents that I will have in the resupply boxes and food that will be on me…

PCT Resupply Box Contents July 2021

I will be leaving home anything that will not be used, save for hopefully a few emergency first aid supplies. Everything in the pack as well as the pack and on the pack have been weighed and re-weighed many times. Alternate items have also been weighed and the choice of alternates depended largely on the comparative weight of the item. I am doing a few things much differently. These include a) not using a fanny pack, but instead will be using a shoulder strap pocket on my backpack to hold my iPhone and sunglasses as well as permits and notepad. I will be using a Gossamer Gear pack. I’ve rigged up some straps to hold the bear canister to the outside of the pack. I may be trying out a hoodie rather than a button-down shirt. I will be using the right hip belt pocket for quick energy food—I used to keep quick energy food in my fanny pack until some chocolate melted and got all over my iPhone; not cool. I’ll be using a large zip lock bag for my daily lunch meal supplies since I am using the Bearikade bear canister which is a little hard to quickly access. I anticipate that I will be continuously modifying my style to best suit my changing needs.

The high Sierra and Washington are the two top-rated areas of the trail. I know the Washington section of the PCT reasonably well but have never been to the high Sierra. So, I’m looking eagerly for this phase of my adventure. This segment is also the part in which you MUST have a permit. Everywhere else on the PCT, you can hike the trail and camp the trail without a permit. If you camp in the high Sierra without a permit or without a bear canister, you WILL receive a hefty fine and curtly escorted out of the park.

I am finishing my pre-hike training with a few more hikes. On 24JUN I ran up to Thompson Lake, a 4000 ft climb and 14 miles of trail. Saturday I will be doing hiking around Mt. Si and Mt. Tenerife (the twin peaks of tv series fame). The weather has been hot, and I’ve been holding up, so I am feeling about as ready as I could be for this upcoming challenge.

I’ll be sending blog pages as often as possible, but in the high Sierra and all the way up to Donner Pass, there will be very few locations where I’ll be in cell phone range to download my blog pages. Thus, the only way you’ll be able to follow me is on the Garmin site. My PLB will receive messages, but I beg of you, PLEASE do not send me a satellite message unless it is most urgent. Rather, e-mail me ([email protected]), or comment on this web page, but do NOT text me or satellite message me. The reason is quite simple. I won’t have cell phone coverage to receive text messages. A satellite message eats up a massive amount of electricity for my PLB, and my contract plan does NOT allow for unlimited messages, which I’d like to reserve for Betsy.


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Jun 23

The Myth of the Lost Cause: Why the South Fought the Civil War and Why the North Won, by Edward Bonekemper III ★★★★

I have already read and reviewed a number of books on the civil war, including biographies of Lincoln and Sherman, as well as the magisterial biography of Grant by Ron Chernow. Those reviews can be found far below on my website. I still have on my bookshelves waiting to be read the classic (though abridged) biography of RE Lee by Freeman as well as tackling Shelby Foote’s 3 volume history of the civil war. Bonekemper, in this short volume, does an excellent though not complete work of countering the “Lost Cause” arguments of the South and present-day Southern sympathizers.

Bonekemper addresses a number of myths regarding why the civil war was fought and why the south lost. Most prominent of those myths was that the war was NOT about slavery, but mainly about other issues such as state rights. The author thoroughly dispels this myth from a number of angles. State rights were never a discussed issue until after the war. In fact, state rights were off the table when the issue of run-away slaves in northern states was brought up. The argument that the use and profitability of slaves were withering and would have been gone in a few years is countered by the increasing economic advantage of slaves as well as the demand of southern states to grow into the new territory. Bonekemper does not bring up a recent argument that issues of import/exportation taxes that were unequally affecting the south; yet, even this argument fails when doing a strictly historical examination of the export tax issues.

There were war issues. After the war, the argument went that the south could never have won the war against a numerically superior north. This statement misses the point. The south did NOT need to win a war. The north needed to win, but the south needed only to drag things out a few years, and the increasing unpopularity of the war in the north would have ended the conflict. Instead and against the advice of many generals, Lee decided to engage in a completely unnecessary offensive war, with two invasions of the north (Antietam and Gettysburg) which were both essential losses to Lee and most costly to him in terms of life and materiel lost, something that he did not have replacements for. Was Lee a great general? Was he the best general of the war? The answer is most clearly “no”. Though Lee was beloved by his troops and carried himself with an aura of aristocracy and of Christian exemplary nature, he made multiple failed decisions as a general which ultimately cost the south the war. Bonekemper details these decisions, so I will spare the current reader and encourage them to get a copy of this book and read it.

Against the apotheosis of General Lee was the charge that General Grant was a bloody, drunken hack that won the war merely by brute force. Oddly, no mention is made of the Vicksburg campaign, where Grant was at a severe numerical disadvantage on foreign territory but conducted a campaign strategy of such brilliance that he is easily identified as one of America’s greatest generals of all time. Further defense of Grant might be found in Chernow’s biography on Grant, another book very much worth reading.

Bonekemper also takes an interesting side discussion of the issue of Longstreet. The Lost Cause folk have decided that Longstreet was the cause of the failure of the Gettysburg Campaign, and thus the ultimate cause for the south losing the war. Unfortunately for this argument, this argument was NEVER raised immediately after the battle of Gettysburg, especially by Lee. It was Lee’s own incompetence, well discussed by Bonekemper, that cost the south a horrible loss. Perhaps it is because Longstreet became Republican after the war and worked to aid in the reconstruction of the south, that he was pounced on by the Lost Cause folk. Contrary to Longstreet, Lee did not end the war in an honorable fashion, but instead worked to develop the Lost Cause myth, and sink into a pity party that continues to this day about a glorious South with the noblest intentions, the most Christian of all possible cultures, but defeated by a savage, unChristian, barbarian North. Our pity is that many today still believe in the Southern myth, and fail to see that the resultant behaviors (the KKK, Jim Crow Laws, segregation, etc.) in the South have since contributed in large part to the race problems that the USA (and the world) are now experiencing.

Bonekemper’s text is heavily referenced and very well studied. One cannot fault him for conjuring up data. My only dislike for this book is its repetitious nature. His summaries, which are found at the end of each chapter and finally in the last chapter of the book, offer simple word-for-word restatements of the main points that were made. A concluding analysis would have been far more beneficial. I can heartily recommend this book; I enjoyed reading it, and it is short enough to be read in several evenings.

Jun 21

Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, by Voddie T. Baucham, Jr. ★★★★

Fault Lines is a presentation of the social justice movement from a black and Christian perspective. Baucham writes in an easy-to-read style, and offers a heavily researched account of the panorama of the social justice movement, from social “justice” to critical race theory to intersectionality to black lives matter.  Baucham brings into light how the social justice movement is intrinsically pagan and entwined with Marxist ideology while being in bed with the LGBTQRST! movement. Baucham details how the modern conservative church has fallen to the deception of critical race theory, and how it is destroying the church. At the beginning of the book, Voddie Baucham spends two chapters chronicling his early years growing up in Los Angeles and playing football. He goes to school in Texas, which is where he became a Christian. As a black man, Baucham has experienced prejudice against him and thus can speak from the heart. One chapter identifies events within his own Southern Baptist “denomination” that showed a strong leaning towards the social justice mentality. He also discusses the black lives matter movement in a full chapter.

A few years ago, it was very trendy to discuss the philosophical movement of post-modernism. The associate pastor at the church I was attended offered a lengthy class to teenagers discussing post-modernism. To me, post-modernism can be summarized in a short sentence, “Communication is not possible”. Such a sentence is self-negating, similar to the sentence “This sentence is a lie”. I bring this up because the basic tenets of critical race theory and the social justice movement are also self-negating. Critical race theory may be summarized by the statement “All whites and only whites are racist” is in itself a deeply racist statement, and thus self-destructing. Whether one is presented with questions of post-modernism or critical race theory, logical arguments can’t exist because the fundamental philosophical base for the two movements is nonsensical. What is amazing is how so many prominent Christians and Christian denominations have caved into the social justice movement.

Baucham is excellent at heralding the warning call to the Christian church about the devious and anti-Christian nature of this movement. Fault Lines offers a good summary of the basics of the social justice movement & critical race theory, and thus is a reasonable book to read. Baucham definitely has a heart for upholding the pure word of God, and his pleas for a true Biblical/Christian approach for issues of race are to be heeded.

Jun 18

It is now about 10 days before I resume my adventure. Since it has been nearly a year since I’ve last backpacked, and since much of my equipment has changed, I saw the need to do a trial run. To accomplish two purposes, I took Sam and Liam with me, letting them become more independent, including using their own tent. I brought about 5 times the amount of food that I would normally carry, and the Flanagans quickly went through most of it. We hiked into Ipsut Creek campground, about 5 miles of relatively flat terrain, so it was fairly simple and it gave Sam and Liam ample time to mess around and do their own thing. On the way and at the campsite, we diverted to two waterfalls, Chenius Falls and Ipsut Falls, both rather beautiful.

Chenius Falls



One of many logs across the Carbon River we crossed to get to Chenius Falls

Ipsut Falls, where we also got our water

Crossing a dangerous log, showing off to a couple of female park rangers

I have no photos of our campsite, but the tents were the Zpacks Duplex and Triplex tents. We all slept well overnight, and headed out about 8:30 am to head home. On the way back, we stopped at the mines of MORA, a short little climb off of the trail where, in 1899, serious efforts to find gold and other valuable minerals were made. 

The Mine of MORA

The kids were awesome, and on returning home, were rewarded to Jack in the Box burgers. Hopefully, more adventures will follow.


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Jun 16

Indian Wars: The Campaign for the American West, by Bill Yenne ★★★★★

This book is a historical recounting of the Indian wars that were fought on American soil. While the book focuses on the wars that occurred west of the Mississippi, it is impossible to chronicle those conflicts without looking at the precedent in American history. Yenne begins with the earliest conflicts with the first settlers on North American soil and uses the first chapter as a lead-in to the greater conflicts that occurred in the western USA. It’s not that the Indians were new to war. Even during the conflicts with the European settlers, the majority of Indian battles were Indian against Indian. The first chapter is titled “Clash of Cultures”, and indeed, the entire story of the Indian wars were clashes of two radically different cultures. Though there were a few settled Indians staying for long periods of time in one place, the life of the Indians throughout North America was mostly nomadic, and much of their activity was that of raiding other tribes and taking their “stuff”. The European settlers only provided another source of “income”. Many of the Indians possessed extreme cruelty, and it was better to end up dead rather than alive in Indian hands.

Yenne details the pre-civil war conflicts, the few conflicts during the civil war, and then the major battles that occurred between 1865 and 1890. I’ll not discuss the entire contents of the book but summarize a few points. The far-west conflicts of California, Oregon, and Washington were settled fairly early on, with few major battles. The notable exception was the Modoc War which occurred in Northeast California among the lava beds in 1872-3. There were scattered limited conflicts elsewhere, in Texas particularly, but also scattered throughout the southwest and in Montana and the Dakotas until a concerted conflict with the Sioux tribes occurred. This was in 1876, the year of the Custer massacre, though battles occurred throughout the year, as the US Military pursued the ever-evasive conglomeration of Indian tribes. A year later, a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings between the US Military and the Nez Percé tribe of Idaho, Southeast Washington, and Northeast Oregon led to what were previously relatively peaceful interactions, into all-out war. The Nez Percé tribe sought to escape from the US Military by fleeing to Canada. The Nez Percé were among the most skilled warriors to ever be faced, and Chief Joseph, educated in western schools, among the greatest of all military strategists. Yet, the unrelenting pursuit of the military on their fleeing tribe ultimately led to Chief Joseph finally throwing in the towel.

Indians in the southwest region of New Mexico and Arizona were a nuisance to both the USA and Mexico, both seeking to stop the raiding and slaughter of settlers. The culminating events were the pursuit and capture on 4 (four) occasions of Geronimo, finally leading to Geronimo’s imprisonment in Florida. Based on Indian actions and the cruelty of the Apaches and Comanches, it’s a bit hard to feel sorry for them. The final Indian battle, Wounded Knee, occurred in 1890, with an attempted re-hash in 1973. The Wounded Knee conflict, while often cited as raw evidence of US aggression against the Indians, really does not stand up to the historical facts. The US military was concerned about a new Ghost Dancers religion among the Indians, and seeking to avert another military conflict, attempted to intervene when a battle broke out. There were a number of both US soldiers and Indians slaughtered in the conflict, but the Indians were subdued into submission.

The Indian wars are hard to analyze. After reading this book, I am more sympathetic to the American settlers who migrated into and across the plains of the midwest. While many Indians were eager to assimilate into European culture, many were not. The Indian Wars were the story of those resisting assimilation. The solution for the “resisters” was to funnel them into reservations, which gave the Indians a defined plot of land to use and abuse as they wished. Often, a war was created when otherwise unruly Indians refused to stay in the reservation (or assimilate to the living style of the US). To placate the Indians, government largess was steadily poured out on the Indians, which persists to this day. Thus, it was perhaps a poor solution to create reservations and force Indians onto those reservations. Yet, I don’t see any other reasonable alternatives. The book is quite thought-provoking. It has applications for many other situations that we see in the world and in the US, where cultural clashes create conflict. From a Christian point of view, there is a hierarchy of cultures, and some cultures are better than others, in so far as the culture follows Scriptural norms. An abundance of faults could be found with both the US Military and with the Indian tribes. Yet, the ultimate judgment is a cultural judgment, which I will leave to the reader to decide.

Jun 03

Who’s Afraid of Classical Music: A highly arbitrary, thoroughly opinionated guide to listening to and enjoying symphony, opera & chamber music! by Michael Walsh ★★★★

This is the book that I should have read first before reading Who’s Afraid of Opera? This book was published in 1989 and thus is considerably dated. The Berlin Wall had not come down, and comments about “East” German abound. A lot happens in 30 years! He has no mention of any of the great performers after 1989, of which there are many. Walsh even admits that he is reluctant to make recommendations knowing how those in their prime in 1989 will be either dead or well past their prime in 2021. This book details how Walsh came to enjoy what we now call classical music. Walsh broadens the definition of classical music, though I find him missing the close character of modern classical music to jazz music. Walsh offers suggestions for attending a performance, and which performances to go to. He goes through a list of his favorite pieces, including symphonies, chamber pieces, opera, and then an assorted mishmash of other music that doesn’t fit a perfect category. He is quick to promote modern composers, suggesting that historical composers also were not greeted well by their contemporary audiences. There are reasons for that. First, contemporary composers are mostly coming out of academia, an institution that has truly lost its way. Secondly, like modern art, modern music no longer promotes the higher ideals, the organized, the structured, the better man in all of us. Minimalist music should not be surprised when it is greeted with a minimalist response. We listen to classical music because we wish to transcend the ordinary, and not to be dragged deeper into the mud of daily life. It is not the music so much as what the music is saying that I find repulsive.

Each chapter has an “interlude” that discusses a few favorite composers, providing their history, and a sampling of compositions worth hearing. Oddly, Baroque and pre-baroque music is nearly completely ignored. The reverence that is owed to Bach is missing, Walsh somehow placing Händel and Bach within the same category of “historical” or “pre-classical” composers—the plethora of wonderful composers, Buxtehude to Vivaldi, all go completely unmentioned. Walsh started his classical life with fairly modern pieces of composition, so it is no wonder that he is preoccupied with the contemporary drivel that we have out there. Even Walsh is willing to admit the serialism, atonality, 12-tone music, and the like, are mostly failed experiments with different tonalities. There are truly great contemporary composers, like Arvo Pärt and Górecki to name two, but they are unmentioned, perhaps because they are eastern bloc composers of no economic value to the west. If Walsh is going to throw Broadway musicals into the wastebasket of being opera or classical music, then much jazz requires similar treatment.

The book was fun to read and can be read in the space of one or two evenings. If one really wishes to gain an interest in classical music or opera, a MUCH better review, both in being entertaining as well as informative, will be found with Robert Greenberg’s Teaching Company series titled How To Listen To and Understand Great Music and How to Listen To and Understand Opera. Both of these series are highly recommended though they will occupy not just 1-2 evenings, but a whole month or two of listening pleasure—an activity of truly great value.

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