Jan 01

The New Year is a good time to reflect on life, including the past, present and future. This New Year brings particular note, in that it is the first year I enter as a retired person soon to be on Medicare and social security, and making the transitions in life that are ultimately an end to a long journey. It remains a mystery as to how long the ending will be. I could die as I write this piece (okay, I’ve finished this piece, and remain alive), or I could live to be past 100. If I had my choice, I’d live for a full but short life, rather than a long life.

In the past month, Betsy (my wife) and I have purchased our funeral arrangements, caskets (the cheapest wood casket on the market!) and burial plot with stone—the only absence from the headstone is the dates of our death, and that’s something that only God knows. Funeral preparations remind one how fleeting life is. As I look back on life, I cannot help but think that it is but for the grace of God that Betsy and I are still here, more madly in love than ever, and yet so different from each other. We’ve had some very difficult times in life, though the blessings have been so much greater, and it overwhelms any of the trials we may have had to bear. I know of a certain that I could not have made it without her, and I don’t think any other person in the world could have filled her shoes.

This coming year offers some exciting times for us. 1. We have to figure out how to do Medicare. We’ve already applied for social security, which will start in March. 2. I am very busy making preparations, including planning, packaging resupply mailers and doing training hikes, for my 2650 mile walk on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs in the mountains, through desert, and follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges from Mexico to Canada. I face it realistically, and realize that it may end up being nothing but a section hike, but it is a dream that I will pursue until circumstances possibly prove otherwise. 3. Betsy begins a year of babysitting our youngest grandchild Rachel, daughter of Sarah. This little Fleischklopps is cuter than cute, and a precious little kiddo. 4. Our youngest daughter Diane graduates from Nurse Practitioner school with a doctorate in nursing. We are so proud of her. I call her a “noctor” (not a doctor), but I feel comfortable that Diane is brighter than many of the doctors that I know. She will do well. 5. We celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on 20OCT. I’m not sure what we will do. Betsy and I love to go to Jamaica to vacation, but this year is something special that I will leave undecided for now. 6. Reading… I have a veritable stack of books that need to be read by me. I love reading history, and have large volumes awaiting on the founding fathers and civil war era. I really want to get back into Herman Bavinck’s magisterial four volume work in systematic theology, titled Reformed Dogmatics. Ever since I took a systematic theology class from JI Packer, I have had a love for reading through systematic theology texts. Bavinck’s is the most challenging one I’ve encountered. 7. Getting back into long-distance cycling. I’ve taken a short pause from cycling in order to be prepared for the PCT, but have an endearing love for cycle touring. 8. Refreshing my language studies. I have taken German, Russian, French, and Chinese in my life. I no longer have an interest in Russian, and Chinese is interesting but maybe a little too challenging to pick up. I’m reasonably good at German but would like to become semi-fluent. I’m passable in French, but would like to be better. Some day, I’d like to hike the Camino de Santiago with Betsy, and so would maybe want to learn passable Spanish. 9. Trying to spend a little time a day practicing my trumpet. 10. Possibly start writing a Memoirs. My father wrote a short book on the history of his life, at the behest of us children of his. It was awesome. It may be perhaps time to do the same, before my memory fails me too badly. 11. Last, but definitely the most important, I would like to have this year as more consecrated to my Lord Jesus Christ, more devoted to His word, more diligent to walk in His ways, and more eager to have entire being, thought, word, and deed centered around Scripture and obedience to Him. Soli Deo Gloria

The things that we love tend to be our motivation for doing things in life, and there are three things that I identify that seem to be my loves, and motivation for still living. They are listed in order of my priorities.

1. Scriptures —I’d offer a lengthy quote or perhaps wax eloquent here, but perhaps the best statement is to encourage the dear reader to just go over Psalm 119. May I also regard God’s word as more important than silver and gold and everything else most precious to me.

2. Family and friends. First and foremost is my wife Betsy. We have been together nearly forty years now. We’ve had our hard times and good times. We’ve had fights, but most overwhelmingly, we’ve had cherished moments of loving each other, ravishing each other, enjoying each other, and pleasing each other. I could not think of another person who could better fit me as a lover, friend, helpmate, advisor, companion, support, wife, mother, grandmother or human being. She truly has been a gift from God to me. My children, all four of them, have been the joy of my life. The grief and trials they have brought us pales in the light of all the joy they have given us. I am grateful that they all are Christian, and have been very successful in life. Plus, they have given us the most adorable grandchildren. It is now Opa’s (grandpa’s) duty to teach them to walk rightly and to help them enjoy life. I wish to have special time taking each one separately backpacking and on outings. My siblings also have been a delight. Now with retirement, I am able to make better contact with them, and it is wonderful to be able to enjoy their fellowship once again. I think long about many of my current and past friends and the change of year causes one to focus particularly on past friends. One would love to be in perpetual contact with them, yet it is humanly impossible. Sadly, I have many past friends, all of which are cherished by me, and often thought of. The words from a wonderful song “Blest be the ties that binds” come to mind “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” My pastor has been a source of strength and encouragement, a soul coach, but also a good friend. On a slightly darker note, I also think of what I would call false-friends—those friends who were friends in appearance only, but then revealed their true self, who used you, who gained your trust, only to mislead and betray your trust. They are the Judas’s in one’s life. Even King David had such experiences, and reflects on it in Psalms 55,

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.

Memory of these false-friends sometimes bring deep grief and sleepless nights, wondering why a person would act and behave the way they did. I’m thankful that there have been few of these in my life. I truly pray that I have not been a false friend to anybody else.

3. Nature. This is my Father’s world! The heaven’s declare the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork. God has given me the strength and capability to delight in his world, and I will do that to the fullest possible. From the seashore to the desert to the mountains, all are wonderful. My favorite spot is in the mountains. I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Whether on a bicycle, on foot, or in a car, I love adventuring into wilderness. It is my best chance to reflect, meditate, and wonder over the goodness of our God. soli deo gloria! 

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Mar 20


Car Camping with my brother Gaylon 16-18MARCH
OK, you are correct. I normally don’t do car camping. But, Gaylon was thinking about SAGing a segment of my TransAmerica bicycle ride, and hadn’t camped in years, so wanted a trial run. Besides, it would get me in tune to tent camping. I think I planned too much for the trip, as will be explained below. We decided to do two nights, in a loop around the Olympic Peninsula, somewhat similar to what Jon and I did several years ago on our bicycles. Gaylon had flown over the Olympics when he had a private pilot’s license, but he had never been physically on the ground in the Olympics, so this was a first for him. The first night was at Fort Flagler, a retired military compound, designed to guard entrance of enemies through the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

The fort complex is large, with military type barracks on the hill, and campgrounds below on the beach.


 

The Olympics were clearly seen from the beach, as well as Mt. Rainier when looking in the opposite direction.


 

Signs and exhibits describe the history of this park. Here are shown devices strung across the bay to Port Townsend, designed to stop subs and torpedos.


The next day, we headed off for Port Angeles. As a diversion, we ran up to Hurricane Ridge. The road was clear, and the views were spectacular.

New visitor center on Hurricane Ridge


The High Divide could be seen, with Mt. Olympus in the far distance off to the right of the photo. They had put in a small ski hill to our backs, which was quite busy.


We finally arrived at our planned destination of the Kalaloch Campgrounds.

The tent was just a 100 feet from the stairs down to the beach.


Am Strand. The beach as beautiful as always.


 

Camp kitchen


I created the camp kitchen, expecting to do a bit of cooking. I discovered that Gaylon really doesn’t like to cook, and if he does, uses disposable plates and utensils, so that no dishwashing or other formalities of camp care would be needed. I’ll have to save the car camping stuff for when Betsy and I go out on excursions. Gaylon needs only a single burner stove to heat water for coffee, or for single dish meals with a simple clean-up. So, I way over-packed for doing nothing but boiling water. We did have a lot of time to chat and catch up on various matters. He was inspired to possibly put in some applications to be a campground host, a means of getting himself away from Lake Merwyn for cheap.
All in all, the adventure was a success, Gaylon and I both had a great time, and it was nice spending time with brother Gaylon.
 

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Feb 27

Scan 2016-2-27 20.59.06
Just A Farm Boy, by Samuel Jacob Feucht ★★★★★
First of all, I don’t dare rate this as anything less than five stars, since my father wrote this book. As he was getting up in age, we talked him into writing a book of his life, and the two oldest brothers Dennis and Lewis helped him get this produced and printed. Sadly, I only have one copy of this book, and the binding is falling apart. I will probably have it spiral bound, and then try to get the word processing file from Dennis. I hope that he still has it.
Dad had a very interesting life. He loved to tell stories, and this book reads very similar to how dad used to tell stories about his life. He was born in the northwest corner of Iowa on a farm with 14 siblings. He left home in his early twenties, first going to Illinois, then California, then back to the midwest, then a brief time back in southern California, before settling in to Portland, Oregon for the rest of his life.
Dad was a wonderful man. He was multi-faceted, and was able to survive frequent poor health with stomach problems, had some very unfortunate bad luck, such as being zoned out of business in Baldwin Park, CA, but overall, troubles did not seem to keep him down, and his faith in Christ sustained him.
Dad expressed a number of times how he often wished that he could have remained in southern California. The family couldn’t have been more grateful that he got out of California and settled in the beautiful northwest.
Though I had glanced over this book a number of times, I found that this reading of the book, complete at one sitting, filled in a number of episodes in dad’s life that I had either forgot about or simply glossed over. There are many areas of his life in which he should have given more details, such as details about his parents, his life in California, his coming to faith, his meeting mom, and their early life together, as well as events that surrounded our lives when we were very young children.
I wish that he had imparted to us more of his skill at the care of farm animals, but that wasn’t to be. It is not uncommon for me to be sitting around and realize that I miss my parents, both dad and mom. I’m grateful that dad took the time to chronicle at least part of his life for his children and posterity.
 

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Jan 03

Christmas2014-624
Weihnachten 2014
Many of you readers are wondering why I took so long to post a Christmas report. Why didn’t it come on late Christmas? Or, at least, on 26DEC. Well, if you are asking, go suck on green persimmons. My top priority in life is NOT to provide the world instantaneous reports of what I just happened to do in the last hour, or what one of my children/grandchildren/nephew-niece or other relative just said that was cute. I will enjoy their cuteness in a hedonistic fashion, realizing to the rest of the world, my child/grandchild/whatever will be viewed as a solipsistic spoiled brat. No, I’m also not going to tell you what I just happened to cook, or what I am currently eating (I just happen to be taking my Abendmedikamente geschluckt mit Bier und eine Dose Rosarote Lachs für Eiweis Anhang); and if you can’t read German, you really don’t need to know what I eat/ate/will eat.
So, today, I went for a short bicycle ride (41 miles) with Russ Anderson and had an inspiration to write this post. The ride was at freezing point, and we returned quite cold. It took about 2 hours to thaw out. I don’t mind those sort of experiences. I get more annoyed when it is too hot, and I am borderline on a heat stroke. But, thinking about Christmas, Christmas tends to be melodramatic. We spend a lot for presents which don’t seem to be appreciated commensurate with the money spent or the time taken to select and purchase those items. This year, we avoided the mall altogether (Betsy and I went once just to visit the Apple Store several days after Christmas-we didn’t buy anything). We had the Hastings over, and sang Christmas carols, which we all really enjoyed.
Christmas Evening – Jon and I attended the 11 pm Gottesdienst. Bei Mitternacht gibt es Kerzenanzundung mit dem Raumlicht aus und das Stille Nacht Lied singen. Und dann, zu Hause. Every year, I make up cinnamon rolls from scratch, make about 8-12 platters of them, and then freeze them, giving them to friends, fiends, and family as gifts (aber, nicht giftig!). You simply set them out the evening before, and they unthaw, and then rise by morning, allowing you to stick them in the oven and have fresh cinnamon rolls in the morning. I made up a prime rib on the Trager grill and we had all the kids over (except for our dearest Rachel and Alex and kids). We had just installed an outdoor fireplace, into which we got a fire going, while the older kids played with the bb gun. Then, dinner.
 

Patrick as marksman on the bb rifle.

Patrick as marksman on the bb rifle.


Sammy as competitive marksman.

Sammy as competitive marksman.


Dean smirking at Patrick and Sammy, knowing that some day he will whip their Arsch on the firing range.

Dean smirking at Patrick and Sammy, knowing that some day he will whip their Arsch on the firing range.


Me cutting up the prime rib.

Me cutting up the prime rib.


Die Kinder devouring the Christmas Dinner.

Die Kinder devouring the Christmas Dinner.


Dean wanted prime rib but enjoying what he got.

Dean wanted prime rib but enjoying what he got.


The adult table.

The adult table.


Then, it was time for the kids to open up presents.
Elizabeth showing off her doll.

Elizabeth showing off her doll.


Elizabeth with mutant Frozen character themes.

Elizabeth with mutant Frozen character themes.


Sammy loves rocks.

Sammy loves rocks.


Dean wasn't sure at first what to do with the presents, but soon figured things out.

Dean wasn’t sure at first what to do with the presents, but soon figured things out.


Afterwards, we decided on S’Mores for dessert. The outdoor fireplace was the perfect place for that.
Roasting marshmallows on the campfire.

Roasting marshmallows on the campfire.


Roasting buttocks on the campfire. Left to right, Doug, Diane, Sarah, Andrew

Roasting buttocks on the campfire. Left to right, Doug, Diane, Sarah, Andrew


It was a wonderful Christmas, with a focus on God and family. Hopefully, each Christmas could be all the more so. By the way, I got the shirt in the first photo from my favorite German patient. It seems to sum up matters in few words.
The Feucht family wishes you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
 

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Apr 29

China2014-586

I have had a flurry of writing at the beginning of the year, but it has now been two months since I’ve written a review or commentary on my life. So, away we go with a trip to China. Together, Betsy and I took over 1200 photos, so, you are seeing only a small sampling.
Dr. Liao invited us to go on a trip with him to China. He had been suggesting this to me for quite a while now, and we have finally gotten around to going. The trip lasted from 10-26APRIL, and we visited 5 cities, representing central China. The weather was cool, with intermittent rain. The atmosphere was not smoggy, but actually quite hazy, making for less than optimal photographs. Click on the individual photographs for a larger view. Here is the blow by blow of our travels…
Friday Diane tok us to the airport, and we met Mike, before getting on the Hainan express to Beijing. The flight went 1 hour shorter than expected, and eleven hours later, 4:50 the next day, we landed in Beijing. After finding our hotel and checking in, we went out for a quick dinner, and crashed.
Sunday: Mike had arranged a guided tour for today, which included first a visit to the Great wall. It was  great. According to Mao, anybody that visits the Great Wall is a hero, so, Betsy and I are now heros. After that,  we visited the tombs of the Ming dynasty emperors, with a focus on the third, Yongle. We then visited a silk factory and purchased a silk comforter, a jade factory, and a tea specialty house for a tea tasting. That evening, we decided to do some Chinese cuisine, which we enjoyed. This was on what was called “bar row”, where we met a friend, XiaoDong, of Mike, who joined us at dinner. This restaurant was on a lake, which we then walked around before heading home. XiaoDong is a biomedical scientist, possibly in line for the nobel prize, but very delightful in personality.

Dr. Liao at the Great Wall - a real hero!

Dr. Liao at the Great Wall – a real hero! 


The tomb area of Yongle

The tomb area of Yongle


The restaurant menus come as picture books. Here is an example.

The restaurant menus come as picture books. Here is an example.


Out for tea

Out for tea


Monday: first, Tian’nanmen square, which is just a large plaza. We wished to see the Chairman, but his tomb was closed, as well as the Forbidden City. So, we opted for seeing a flower garden next to the Forbidden City, and then going to the Summer Palace. The Summer Palace was build by the Ming dynasty, but burned by the British, and then again by the British and the French, and each time rebuilt. It was massive, with a very large lake in the center. The Buildings were all over the hillside and very ornate. After dinner, Betsy and I were exhausted and crashed.
The gardens next to the Forbidden City

The gardens next to the Forbidden City


Ming dynasty architecture at the Summer Palace in Beijing.

Ming dynasty architecture at the Summer Palace in Beijing.


A stiff climb up to the top of the hill in the summer palace area.

A stiff climb up to the top of the hill in the summer palace area.


Boat trip across the lake at the Summer palace

Boat trip across the lake at the Summer palace


 
Tuesday:   A quick breakfast first was followed by a trip back to Mao’s grave, and then the Forbidden City.  Mao’s grave was most interesting. There was an hour long line, as roughly 200,000 plus people visit the grave each day. You pass through security, and are not allowed to have bags or cameras, no photos were obtained. You are sold white flowers to leave at his grave. In the building, you enter a large room where his statue is sitting in a friendly pose,  carved in giant white stone, similar to the Lincoln memorial. In the next room, his body lays in state, reasonably well preserved. Mao has had a comeback in China, remembering him not so much for his colossal mistakes (the great leap forward and the cultural revolution)  but for his absence of corruption and for uniting the Chinese people.  We then went to the Forbidden City. Mein Gott! This made any European palace system, including Versailles, look like kid’s stuff. The palace and grounds were huge. There were over 8,000 rooms. There were huge squares. Sadly, Chaing Kai Shek looted most of the treasures of the Forbidden City. Schwein! They now sit in Taiwan, and don’t belong to them. Every building was exquisitely decorated in the most ornate fashion. It all made you feel quite small. The evening was spent having Peking duck, and then cha he pijiu (tea and beer) on a rotating restaurant on top of our hotel.
At the enclosure leading to the Forbidden City.

At the enclosure leading to the Forbidden City.


Inside the Forbidden City

Inside the Forbidden City


A small section of the Forbidden City showing its immense size

A small section of the Forbidden City showing its immense size


Wednesday:  Today, we say goodby to Beijing and hello to Xi’an. After breakfast, Mike and I first visited the Beijing Hospital, the best hospital in the country of China. It was a zoo. There were wall-to-wall people lined up various activities, such as waiting to pay for an appointment, waiting for the doctor, etc. There is no such thing as an appointment time as it is first come, first served. The hospital was nice, but just miserably crowded. After that we went to the Beijing Cancer Hospital, the best cancer hospital in the country. We met a doctor friend of Mike’s, and toured the place. It also was a zoo. China needs a better system—they have great doctors but no system. From there, we checked out of our hotel, ran down to the other end of Chang’An Jie (Long Peace Street) caught our high speed train to Xi’an, was picked up by a driver, and delivered to our hotel after having dinner. This hotel would have been a $4-500 hotel in the US, but we paid slightly more than $100. Throughout the travel, including the high sped train, and the hotel, it did not seem like we were in China, as things seemed to be nicer than in the USA. Construction was occurring everywhere you looked.  There was an unbelievable dynamism occurring.
A crowded waiting room at Beijing Hospital

A crowded waiting room at Beijing Hospital


Thursday:  this was another hectic day. After a quick breakfast, we headed off to the terra cotta soldiers of Qin She Huangdi. The site was massive and overwhelming. We then went to a site that had the swimming pools of the emperor’s favorite concubine. After a massive lunch, we headed to the museum and burial site of China’s only female emperor, Wu Zetain. Dinner was again held, with a bit of overeating, but meeting some of Dr. Liao’s acquaintances in Xi’an.
Main area of the Terra Cotta warriors. There are over 6000 that have already been excavated.

Main area of the Terra Cotta warriors. There are over 6000 that have already been excavated.


Terra Cotta soldier wanna be's.

Terra Cotta soldier wanna be’s.


A typical lunch scene.

A typical lunch scene.


Today we got to try duck's feet and duck's heads

Today we got to try duck’s feet and duck’s heads


Mike practices his calligraphy at Mr. Yeung's office

Mike practices his calligraphy at Mr. Yeung’s office


Our most gratious host, Mr. Yeung.

Our most gracious host, Mr. Yeung.


Example of instructions everywhere not to walk on the grass, in poetic form.

Example of instructions everywhere not to walk on the grass, in poetic form.


At the swimming pool of the emporer's concubine. She was reportedly the most beautiful woman in China (next to Betsy, of course)

At the swimming pool of the emporer’s concubine. She was reportedly the most beautiful woman in China (next to Betsy, of course)


Friday: another quick breakfast, and then we headed off to a local Xi’an hospital. This was a private hospital, and they were in the process of building an entirely new hospital, which we toured in the construction phase. It is 27 floors,  1000 beds, with both in and outpatient facilities in the same structure. They then held a conference to ask our ideas on forming a more American style service to the hospital. The hospital is private, in that it was owned 80% by the doctors and nurses in the hospital, and 20% by other investors. After lunch, we went to a museum of ancient history, where relics from s far back as the Shang dynasty were on exhibit, going up to the Tang dynasty. I was amazed at the exquisite character of the workmanship in the bronze material. Xi’an has the largest complete still existing city wall in the world. It was huge, 15 km in length, and bounded by a river. We looked at the gate which was essentially the starting point for the silk road. There were amazingly no tourists there, but it was an impressive site. After paying a visit to a local Catholic church, where they were having a Bible study, we headed off to dinner.
Part of the 15 km wall of Xi'an. It was very large on top, room for 4 lanes of traffic.

Part of the 15 km wall of Xi’an. It was very large on top, room for 4 lanes of traffic.


Saturday: We checked out of our hotel, which was probably the nicest hotel that I’ve stayed in ever. There was even a private sauna in our room. We went to breakfast, and then visited the large Buddhist temple in town. Xi’an was one of the main towns that promoted Buddhism early on in its introduction to China, so it was a significant town for Buddhism. The restaurant experience for lunch was most unique, as Betsy and I saw foods that we never dreamt to be possible. Duck feet and duck heads, chicken feet, squid, frog legs, and vegetables that I have never even heard of before. The food was Anhui, which I’d probably avoid in the future.  We later stopped at the largest hospital in Xi’an, and drifted around. It certainly was large enough for over 2000 in-patients. Next stop was the airport. So far, we’ve been in a city of 22 million, and 8 million. We are now heading to Chongqing,a city of 11 million persons. Small towns just are a bit hard to find. Dr. Liao’s two older brothers met us for dinner. Dinner in Chongqing was at a hot pot, where each seat has a hot plate that has a sauce pan with boiling water with spices. You take various items and cook them yourself to eat. The hot pot was first done done in Chongqing.
Our hotel, on the banks of the Yangzi river.

Our hotel, on the banks of the Yangzi river.


The cross-walk just outside of our hotel.

The cross-walk just outside of our hotel.


Sunday- this was a lazy day. We started out by hitting a McDonalds for Betsy’s sake for breakfast. Mike left us alone to tend to family issues, and we were able to spend a relaxing morning in our hotel room. We took a long walk along the Changjiang (Yangtzi River), while Mike went to help resolve family issues. Later, we met Mike’s brother, who is a physics professor at the University and Susan, who took us to a historical museum in Chongqing where the forces of the Kuomintang slaughtered a large number of Mao supporters who were in prison here. The evening was a family get together, where we met Mike’s parents, and had a large, real Sichuan dinner. Nothing was recognizable except for the kung pao chicken, which was super-hot.
Historical museum of the Chongqing prison.

Historical museum of the Chongqing prison.


Old shopping district in Chongqing.

Old shopping district in Chongqing.


Les Trois Mousquetaires - Two of Mike's three brothers

Les Trois Mousquetaires – Two of Mike’s three brothers


The Liao family gathering in Chongqing. Mike had the sweetest parents.

The Liao family gathering in Chongqing. Mike had the sweetest parents.


Monday- breakfast was at Starbucks! We took a walk again along the Changjiang before checking out of the hotel. Mike’s brother, the physics professor, picked us up from the hotel, and we went down to the center of town, which was a large shopping center with super-rich shops such as would be found in Bellevue, or on the Kö. Lunch included the standard Sichuan cuisine, which was quite hot and spicy, but very flavor-able. Much of the food was unrecognizable to us, and contained very strange creatures. We then dashed to the airport, flew to Hangzhou, and was picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law, who taught traditional Chinese medicine at the medical school in town. This includes using acupuncture, herbal medicines and things of the like. Every hospital has traditional medicine doctors, who are used in treating select illnesses. We got to our hotel by 9pm and collapsed. The area of the hotel is called the Xihu Qu, or the Westlake District, the most expense real estate in all of China. I’m told that Hangzhou was an area of the first experiments in capitalism in China, and there was clear success.
Mike's sister-in-law outside one of the pagodas on WestLake

Mike’s sister-in-law outside one of the pagodas on WestLake


Pagoda on WestLake

Pagoda on WestLake


Tuesday—after breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law, and toured a number of museums and places of interest. The museums in Hangzhou were all free, making it nice. We first went to a silk museum, where they had on display historical silks from many mons ago. They also had a nice display of the silk making process. We went to a large experimental farm established by one of the emperors from several hundred years ago. We toured a ceramic museum, which showed the development of porcelain from ceramics many moons ago. We went to one of the large pagodas on the banks of Xihu. There was lunch, and the took a long walk around Westlake, including a boat ride to one of the islands in the lake. The Xihu (Westlake) area is like one massive park on steroids, very popular and thus very crowded even in slow times, though not often visited by foreigners. It is meticulously cared for, massive flower beds, and most beautiful. We had dinner on the lake. Hangzhou is known for its particular cuisine, which is not hot, but distinctly different from other Chinese cuisines. The food tends to have more fish in it, and tends to have a more slimy character. After dinner we were tired, stuffed, and wanted to crash.
WestLake area

WestLake area


View of part of WestLake from the top of the pagoda

View of part of WestLake from the top of the pagoda


Scene on WestLake

Scene on WestLake


Mike searching for directions

Mike searching for directions


Wednesday—This was a slower day for us. We spent much time walking along Xihu, people watching, buying tea and other things, eating at Burger King (not as good as the US), and then drifting on back to the hotel. We then met Dr. liao’s brother-in-law, who is working on a PhD in constitutional law in Beijing. He took Mike and I on an extended tour of our hotel side of the lake (Xihu). We again visited a number of museums, and then tried this famous local dessert made out of the powder of the lotus plant root. It tasted good, but was a bit slimy in texture, but is well liked by Chinese. We had dinner in a very popular restaurant along the shore of Xihu, and the restaurant where Mike was married. Dr. Liao’s nephew Andy was with us, 11 years old, and who will be starting boarding school in Connecticut this August.
Elderly couples dancing in the park in Hangzhou. This was commonly seen by us.

Elderly couples dancing in the park in Hangzhou. This was commonly seen by us.


Mike's brother in law, talking seriously with Mike.

Mike’s brother in law, talking seriously with Mike.


Outside of one of the museums with Mike's brother in law.

Outside of one of the museums with Mike’s brother in law.


Lotus schleim. I actually tasted good.

Lotus schleim. I actually tasted good.


Scene from the WestLake park.

Scene from the WestLake park.


Girls loved to have their photographs with Betsy.

Girls loved to have their photographs with Betsy.


Thursday—today we were picked up by Mike’s sister-in-law and taken to the train station. The ride was one hour from Hangzhou to Shanghai. In Shanghai, we first found our hotel, and then took a cab ride to the international district. We saw the building where Mao and twelve people wrote the constitution for China, and then we went out to eat at a faux-German restaurant. The beer was good, food very so-so. Afterwards, we walked along the riverfront, looking at the buildings of Shanghai, and slowly drifted home. Hangzhou was a small town of only 3 million people and 8 million in the metropolitan area, but Shanghai had 10 million in the city and 20 million in the whole area, a little bit larger city.
Shanghai architecture across the river from Mike and I

Shanghai architecture across the river from Mike and I


Friday—today is a lazy day, with a focus on shopping. We went to two shopping areas, where we focused on buying tea, porcelain, and gifts for the kids. The first shopping district was close to our hotel, anf a very long shopping road, off limits to cars, and with very fancy shops. We then hopped in a taxi, and went to a very large shopping center with a Ming dynasty architecture motive. This place was huge, we spent all of our renminbis, and had an awesome time. We then got ready for dinner, hopped the subway to the other side of the river that runs through Shanghi, and went into a very large shopping center, larger than anything that I’ve ever seen in the US. It was a total of thirteen floors. Before entering, we got an appreciation for the building architecture of the new Shanghi, which is beyond anything found in America. Dinner tonight was with Drs. En and Mrs. Li. He taught biochemistry and did biochemical research at Harvard University, before getting a job working for Novartis, back home in Shanghai. China, because of its burgeoning economic status, is extremely favorable for scientists, and it is very easy for me to see why. Dinner, by the way, was probably the best meal we ever had in China, though entirely Chinese. En has apparently lived long enough in the US to know what the American taste would like.
Ming style architecture in large shopping district in Shanghai.

Ming style architecture in large shopping district in Shanghai.


Typical buildings in Shanghai

Typical buildings in Shanghai


More very creative architecture in Shanghai

More very creative architecture in Shanghai


Family at a small tea shop where we purchased tea and tea cups

Family at a small tea shop where we purchased tea and tea cups. Note that Oma cares for the baby.


Inside the large shopping mall. This only a small view of the whole mall.

Inside the large shopping mall. This only a small view of the whole mall.


Dinner with our gracious host in Shanghai, Li En and wife.

Dinner with our gracious host in Shanghai, Li En and wife.


 
Saturday—we are eager to get home, though we have most thoroughly enjoyed China, and it is sad to say goodbye. A cab ride got us to the train station, and the train from Shanghai to Beijing was 5 hours, with 5 stops. It was mostly through very flat farmland. In Beijing, a friend of Mike’s picked us up and shuttled us to the airport, a little over an hour drive, and giving us our last taste of crazy Chinese driving. The flight home was 9 hours. We left Beijing at 4:30 pm and arrived in Seattle the same day at noon. It was two days packed into one. After saying goodbye to our dear friend Mike, Sarah shuttled us home. We unpacked, and noted piles of tea, as well as no broken porcelain. It was good to be home.

Thoughts on China…

Just a few minor observations. Cars… Brother Dennis purchased a Chinese vehicle in Belize, which was a total piece of junk. I anticipated that I would see cities full of junky cars and rickshaws, bicycles, and baby taxis, like in India. Instead, there were no rickshaws or baby taxis, almost no bicycles, and the most popular car was the Mercedes Benz, followed closely by the other German cars, BMW and VW. Chinese cars are reportedly next in popularity, followed by American cars,  and Korean/Japanese cars were the least frequent. I did not see a single Chinese made car until Chongqing, but it was a nice looking sports utility vehicle. Supposedly, they have vastly improved the quality of their vehicles. At the end of two weeks, we saw less than five Chinese built vehicles.
Secondly, the big cities do not have slums. They do have poorer parts of the city, but nothing that I would call a slum. The countryside had some very poor areas, but no worse than found in Belize, Jamaica, Cameroon, or Bangladesh, the “third world countries” that we’ve been to. The dress that people wear is identical to the western world. There was no ability to recognize that you were not in the US or Europe except for the Chinese writing, and that everybody was oriental. There is minimal unemployment in China, as there are no unemployment checks, welfare, food stamps, or anything of that sort. In a strong sense, it is more capitalistic than America! Regardless of your status or education, if out of a job, you will take anything in order to survive. The state will not be your nanny. There are no messy employment laws, and you can fire an employee at will. Employers tend to treat their employees well. One morning, we saw at a clothing store and then at a restaurant all of the employees out in front of the store doing Zumba like exercises. Many larger firms will have a cafeteria for free lunch. Our friend also had a large library at his firm for employees to encourage their continued education.
Thirdly, traffic is absolutely horrid in China. Why most the cars do not have bumps and scrapes is a total mystery to me. An American traffic cop would find violations literally every second. People use the shoulders of expressways as a passing lane. People run red lights. Cars do not yield to pedestrians but vice versa. People will aggressively violate every traffic rule on the books to pass a car in front of them. I watched my taxi driver pull into the on-coming lane of a four-lane road in order to beat a traffic light. I could not ride in the front seat of a car. Historically, I feared the taxi drivers of NYC. Now, China has exceeded that 10-fold. Next time I go to China, I bring mass quantities of Valium if I anticipate an automobile ride.
Fourthly, the Chinese put a very high value on family and relationships. This is a little odd, since their value for human life is less than in the US. Everywhere we went, we saw grandparents with grandchildren. I was surprised to see that the state was not raising the child, but the grandparents. In family relationships, the grandparents are usually asked permission for any major decision, such as marriage.  The eldest son held priority in family decisions. Nursing homes did not exist, as the children were expected to care for their aging parents. I did not expect this.
Fifthly, the language and poetry are important. Everywhere you go, you see poetry. Apparently, the Chinese language lends itself easily to poetic expression. We would see signs not to walk on the grass, and it was written in a poetic fashion (so I am told by Dr. Liao).  The Chinese hold those who are masters at poetry in the highest regard. And, the person in recent history who excelled in poetry was none other than Chairman Mao.
Sixthly, Mao Ren Zi (Chairman Mao) is the most poorly represented person in the west. Before my visit to China, I viewed Mao as nothing but a beast who slaughtered millions of people. That is perhaps true, but it lacks the full impact of who this man was. Why is it that Mao now has a near 100% acceptance rating in China? Why is he generally appreciated everywhere in China, and not because it is forced on the Chinese people? As mentioned above, the Chinese knew that Mao was most brilliant, and had a mastery of the language beyond most intellectuals. His poetry is everywhere, because it was very well done. During the years that Mao was chairman, he changed the Chinese language for the good, like having the symbols simplified. The Chinese now read and write right to left, like we do. Why? They used to write up to down and backwards, but Mao had that changed. Mao not only liberated the farmers, but also women, stopping crazy practices like feet binding, and giving them more rights. Secondly, the greatest problem with all Chinese emporers and rulers was serious corruption. If one faulted Mao for anything, it certainly was not corruption. Chaing Kai Shek was very corrupt, and the peasants knew it well, which is why they flocked in support of Mao. Mao had no love for the privileged elite, and exalted the poor peasants to a better living. That is seen well in China nowadays, with there being many multi-millionaires, but the farmers in the countryside have a reasonably good living in comfortable circumstances, and not as it was before 1949. With the current corruption in government, there is a sense of nostalgia for a leader who could act for everybody’s best interest without corruption. People often cite the fact that Mao murdered millions ruthlessly. Actually, most of the deaths under Mao’s watch were from serious mistakes that he made, and most people in China acknowlege that. I am referring to the great leap forward, and to the cultural revolution, which were truly stupid mistakes, which led to millions of Chinese dying, though not intentionally by Mao. One cannot forget history. China is a somewhat diverse group of people, with 56 ethnic groups, multiple religions, and multiple languages. In my reading of Chinese history, I don’t know of a single emporer that did not have to do a major “purge” to acquire unity and control of the country. Now, perhaps unity in China is not a good thing, but that is not something that I would propose—I don’t wish to be like the French, who felt the a united Germany (back in 1870) was not a good thing, since they would lose control of the weak individual German states. In any case, power was used consistently to achieve unity in the country. Finally, many in China view there to be two major revolutions in the country. The first was with the rise of the Qin dynasty, a very short dynasty from 221 to 206BC, and best known for the terra cotta warriors. What most don’t realize, was that the Qin leaders were quite ruthless at leading to the unity of the country. They also unified the language, and standardized many things, such as the width of wagon wheels. Important? Think about India, that has 5 different gauges for the railroads. That wasn’t to happen in China, because of wise but strong leadership. The second revolution was with Mao. Mao is now gone, and we are able to speak freely about him. There is much wrong with Mao, and I don’t think that the ends ever justifies the means. No doubt, Chairman Mao is a complex person, and my attempt to understand why he has such a pull in Chinese society at this time now has a little better insight.
Finally, what about “communist” China? Are they “communist” only in that the leadership is not necessarily elected, and that they do not permit criticism of the government? In China at this time, that is not bad, because the leaders have been capable of brilliant leadership. What about restrictions of speech? Facebook is not allowed in China, as well as many other forms of social networking. But then, homosexuality and pornography are also not allowed. Is that bad? I wish it were so in the USA. Meanwhile, the USA is far more communistic and socialistic than China. Perhaps we need to re-think the corruption and evil than rules strong in Amerika?
In conclusion, this trip to China was fantastic, and Betsy and I thoroughly enjoyed ourself. The food was sometimes slightly wearisome, but was always quite good – just not what we are used to. The mass crowds were also a little challenging. China was nothing like we expected, and the wealth and immensity was overwhelming. I now have a feel for Marco Polo returning to Italy only to find that nobody could believe his fantastic tales of China. China truly is dazzling, and the people everywhere were friendly. Most signs had English translations, suggesting that we Amerikans are still welcome in China. Hopefully, we don’t create an artificial war that treats China like an enemy. They have no interest in war, as their internal problems are great enough. I would hope that politicians could see China as a friend, understanding the differences that separate our two countries.

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Jan 01

Happy New Year! The year has had some great trials, as well as bringing supreme joys.
Joys? Not only has Rachel given us Lily Mae and Adalyn Grace, but Diane also have given us Dean, leaving us with 8 grandchildren. It’s an odd thing to think how much joy one gets out of the grandchildren.
The trials (and trial, literally) last year has been hard, but has been good for both Betsy and me. We have acquired a rich discovery of each other that has been a blessing. It is typical to have the empty nest turn on parents as a strenuous time for each other, but we have found it just the opposite. It has been fun traveling together, and just living together.
The trial from last Spring has been elaborated in a blog entry from April and can be read about there. The supposition is that one gets over a lawsuit, knowing that they are going to happen, and one gets on with life. That has not happened to me. I have felt the horrible injustice of the court system that does not seek after truth and rightness. When a physician does everything right, he still is legally culpable if a problem arises. In response, I have backed down considerably in what I do in my practice, and plan on retiring sooner than later. I see God’s hand in all of this, as it is otherwise quite difficult to slow down one’s practice and yet be able to remain in practice. It feels as though the entire system has you trapped.
Trips have included a bicycle ride with the ACA in Death Valley, a trip with Dr. Tate in upstate Michigan on bicycles, a trip to Germany with Jonny, and a bicycle ride on the eastern side of the Sierras with the ACA and also with Jonny. All of these trips are chronicled previously on this website. I took a brief trip to San Antonio (not recorded in a blog entry) in early December for the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. There were other small trips.
Last year, I noted that I was working through all of my classical music. I have since acquired about 20 days more music, including a complete Wagner (with 2 sets combined), a nearly complete Haydn set, a complete Verdi, and multiple other works. My classical collection is now 66633 songs, consisting of 418.3 Gbytes, which would take me 204 days, 10:22 hours to listen to. At the end of the year, I am now left with 4189 songs, 29.5 Gbytes, and 14 days, 11:31 hours of music. I have acquired a set of the complete Bach organ works by Marie-Claire Alain that I have yet to load. So, I should be completely through my classical collection some time in late February or early March.
Plans for the coming year include more bicycle rides. More people from church have become interested in cycling, including Rick DeMass, the associate pastor. I am planning a week loop in Washington with Jonny, as well as a ride in the Black Hills with the ACA. Before the Black Hills trip, Betsy I plan on driving to Sioux Center to see Alex and Rachel and Lily and Adelyn, who will then meet me in the Black Hills for several days.  Betsy and I will be traveling to China with Dr. Liao in April. I am trying to put together a church trip to Israel with John Delancey for early 2015.  I also plan on going with Betsy to Phoenix in March to meet Dr. Tate and attend the SSO. I might also go to the American College of Surgeons meeting either this year or next. This year, I’d like to do the STP (Seattle to Portland bicycle ride), as well as a ride in Oregon with an old friend Aaron Hughes. There are no plans yet for Germany this year, though a trip in the fall is appealing. I really appreciate my time with all my German friends, including Dr. Herbert, Dr. Hannes and Katja, and Dr. Carsten and family. For 2015, I’d really like to do a 2-3 week Danau Radweg ride (Danube bicycle route) from Danaueschigen to Wien. I have no current plan to change my practice as it is right now, but will be working on forming a more cohesive atmosphere for cancer at Good Samaritan Hospital.
I still have a large stack of books to get through. Some time this year, I plan on reading Calvin’s Institutes, translated by Battles, as well as reading Hermann Bavinck’s 4 volume set on systematic theology. Neither of those books are available (yet) on Kindle.
Most of the sleepless nights that I and Betsy have had have been related to the troubles that close friends have had. Sometimes, it can be harder to endure watching a friend suffer, than to be going through such suffering yourself. Relationships to friends, family and God have become more important over the past year. Sundays at church remain a defining moment in Betsy and my lives. All else becomes meaningless before an infinite, personal God.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever… as for me, it is good to be near God: I have made the Lord God my refuge. From Psalms 73

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Aug 24

SalemHoodRCycle-2

 
Salem, Oregon to Hood River, Oregon on bicycles with Aaron Hughes 21-24 August
Day #1 – Salem to Detroit
I stayed overnight with Aaron and Anita, so that Aaron and I could be on the road by 9 am. We took off, following the main highway out of Salem and across Santiam Pass. Our first stop was in Detroit.

The "other" Detroit, which is not going backrupt

The “other” Detroit, which is not going bankrupt


The Garmin map and stats of Day #1 are here…

We stayed in a motel in Detroit, and generally rested up that evening.
Day #2 – Detroit to Timothy Lake
This was the most challenging day, with over 6000 feet of climbing (according to the Garmin). The started at Detroit, heading up the Clackamas River Road past Breitenbush, until the turnoff logging road took us straight up to Timothy Lake. At Timothy Lake, I set up camp, while Anita met us and ran away with Aaron for the night. I camped out at the lake. I did my homework, and learned that the Cove Campground was intended for bicyclists and hikers. When we arrived there, it proved to be anything but that, and the campground hosts rudely informed me that I wasn’t welcome, since everything was full. Fortunately, there were three guys with their kids who immediately offered to let me stay on a corner of their campsite. I had a few beers with them, and offered them cigars. It was a nice evening. The photos were from the lake the evening and morning of my stay.
Riding along the Clackamas River road

Riding along the Clackamas River road


My one man tent and bicycle

My one man tent and bicycle


Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake


Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake


More Timothy Lake

More Timothy Lake


The Garmin data for day 2 are here

Day #3 Timothy Lake to Hood River
Overnight, it had rained quite hard, with thunder and lightning. I stayed dry, but most everything else got wet. I slept in a bit longer than I should have, since I knew I had to meet Aaron and Anita at the junction of highway 26 and 35. Putting away a completely soaked tent, I headed off at about 8 am, saying goodby to my kindly hosts. It was a rather persistent climb to our treffpunkt, but arrived only about 6 minutes late, feeling like dogmeat. I was really tempted to have Anita shuttle me to the top of Bennett Pass, but ultimately decided against that. I had already gone over Blue Box Pass, and we had two more passes to negotiate, that over Barlow and that over Bennett Pass. My legs hung in there, though I did have to walk short distances just to utilize other muscles. Here are photos of the day…
Summit of Blue Box Pass

Summit of Blue Box Pass


Mount Hood from the road

Mount Hood from the road


Meeting Aaron at the junction of 26 and 35.

Meeting Aaron at the junction of 26 and 35.


Barlow Pass Summit

Barlow Pass Summit


Aaron showing good form

Aaron showing good form


Mount Hood from White River

Mount Hood from White River


Aaron patiently waiting for the tortoise to catch up

Summit of Bennett Pass


Mount Hood from the fruit orchards of the Hood River valley

Mount Hood from the fruit orchards of the Hood River valley


The Garmin stats for day 3

Our grand total stats are as follows… total distance 165.89 miles, 12,651 feet of elevation gain, and minimally 7000 calories burned. The road would be rated as five stars from Stayton on, but maybe would have gone backroads out of Salem. The arrival into Hood River was also slightly off of our planned route, putting us into the heart of nasty traffic in Hood River. The entire trip had enormous beauty, and was a superb choice. So, we are already planning a trip for next year. If we could get a SAG vehicle, then Aaron and I will do the Pacific Coast starting in Astoria. We would ride lighter bicycles, and do more distance. We’ll see. In two weeks, I do an ACA tour with Jonathan on the east side of the Sierras, so you’ll be seeing a blog of that trip soon.

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Jan 01

Another year has gone by. The time is now for letter writing and receiving lengthy chronicles from your friends as to their activities over the last year. The chronicler must not only detail accurately the past year, but make life interesting enough that other people will be interested in reading the narrative. Bragging and hyperbole tend to force a loss of interest in the reader, yet is what is thought by the writer as the characteristic that makes the recall of a year interesting. I’ll try to avoid that. I’ll be following the rough outline from last year, so if last years’ post bored you to death, stop reading immediately and find something more interesting to gawk at.

Last year…

1. In March, the Miami breast cancer conference and SSO meeting both occurred in Florida close together, so I went to both. The Miami conference was a bore, and SSO conference in Orlando was fun, only because Peter Tate was there.
2. I went to Dayton with Russ in late April, and a week later to the ASBS with Betsy in Phoenix. Another ho-hum meeting was attended, though I did go to every talk and paid close attention to all.
3. June was spent enjoying Germany. Betsy went with, and got to meet Katja and Hannes, as well as Hille. We spent time with Robbie Rayburn and with Heinz and Debbie Fuchs. It was a super trip.
4. July had the occasion to do Eagle Creek with Patrick and Andrew. Later, Betsy and I flew to Iowa to see Alex and Rachel. It was a delight.
5. August was the month for Diane’s wedding. Herbert came to visit. It was a delight having him around. Herbert is like a brother. I can talk to him, have fun with him, ask him advice, yet he is not offended by our differences.
6. September was started with the plan to ride bicycles from Eugene to Missoula with Russ. For various reasons, the trip was terminated prematurely in Grangeville, Idaho. It has caused me to re-think how I do tours.
7. The first part of November was the trip of a lifetime to Israel and Jordan with Betsy. Dr. John Delancey was a wonderful tour guide and made the trip particularly interesting.
Each of these trips has a blog page that you could surf to, so I will not reiterate what has already been said.

Plans for next year…

1. Betsy and I hope to visit the Heins in Oklahoma in February.
2. I will be doing a bicycle ride with the ACA in Death Valley in March.
3. In late May, early June, Jonny and I will be going to Germany. The goal is mostly to visit the Bach sites with Jonny, as well as touch base with old friends.
4. I plan on meeting Dr. Peter Tate and Dr. Ara Pridjian, old friends from residency, in July, to ride bicycles in Northern Michigan. Peter may throw in some sailing, which I’d love to try.
5. In September, Jonny and I will be doing an ACA ride called the Sierra Sampler, riding along the east side of Yosemite.
6. I’ll throw some meetings in there.
7. I was invited to China to teach surgery and English. This is in the tentative stages, and so have no definite plan yet. Meanwhile, I am vigorously learning Mandarin. Ni hau!

Music, Reading, Bicycle Riding, etc.

As of 31DEC2012, I yet have 57 days, 15 hours and 06 minutes of “unheard” classical music to listen to. I have heard everything at least once, but am working through my entire collection. Last year, I had over 90 days of music, and have added 5-7 days of music since to the collection, which has been listened to, including the Teldec Complete Bach (reviewed previously). Betsy and I will spend several evenings a week watching movies. We worked through the Joan Hickson editions of Miss Marple, and should be reviewed shortly. We are working on the Poirot series now, and detecting patterns in the writing of Agatha Christie. We have also watched a large portion of the Tom Baker years of Dr. Who.
For reading, I have gotten to I Kings in the through-the-Bible read, starting in mid-November. I am also reading Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology. A review will follow, but I will note that Hodge tends to address contemporaries that I have never heard of, making it less interesting than I had hoped. I am only about 20% through, so it might pick up. I wished to read Reymond’s systematic theology next, but was highly encouraged by Pastor Rayburn to attack Bavinck’s 4-volume set.  I’ll be reading more photography and photoshop books, and also want to have a slight mastery of Filemaker. That’s for next year.
Betsy and I made a fairly monumental decision to return to Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, under the pastorship of Dr. Rayburn. It was a tough decision since we had friends at Resurrection Presbyterian Church, and appreciated the work of pastor David Scott. Going back to FPC gave Betsy and I the sense of returning home. There are those who might suspect a multiplicity of motives for our change of churches, but those suspicions would simply be conjecture that would probably not be true, so please do not read too much into our actions.
There are a few other details coming up in our lives that would be best recounted after they occur rather than before. We anticipate another grandchild with Diane, and look forward to the day when Rachel and Alex successfully adopt Lily. That will mean another trip for us to Iowa.
I now have an updated model of the TacX trainer (bicycle virtual reality trainer) in the garage which works better than the last, by not crashing so often. It has allowed me to use the bicycle I usually ride on to train, while giving me many strenuous, sweaty hours during the rainy season to still be riding my bicycle. The other “toy” of note has been my dream for a while. I got a Canon 6D for Christmas. I originally wished for a Canon 5DMarkIII, but the 6D had some options, such as gps, which makes it an ideal travel camera. It is full frame, and 20 megapixels. I hope to use my bicycle riding and hiking to be opportunity to get many more photos.
With Obama still in office, it has left some uncertainty regarding medicine. Medicare reimbursements are dropping by 29%, which means that we learn to live off of less, and consider other alternatives to medicine. With an insane tax structure, I have no interest in supporting Obama’s government, and so will take off as much time as possible to still maintain a surgical practice. Already, I am giving away nearly all of my abdominal cases, doing abdominal surgery only when I take call. ObamaCare has a way of taking the joy out of medicine.

 Pastor Rayburn last Sunday emphasized the wish that each of us grow stronger in Christ, and walk closer to Him. As I age, the days of my life look shorter and shorter. Rather than going out with a bang, I seek what John the Baptist said of Christ, “He must increase, and I must decrease”. That is my prayer for all that read this blog.
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Nov 26


Jordan/Israel Tour
Here is at last a brief summary of our Jordan-Israel tour. We took many photos, over 1300 actually, so only a few will be shown. Because of the length of this, I decided to split it up into three parts, published in reverse chronological order to make it flow normally.
Day 1/2—awoke at 3:30 am to get ready to go. We got to the Seatac airport by 6 am, and was hassle-free getting on the plane. The flight toDulles-Wasghington DC was 4.5 hours, and we then got to meet our companions. We lost three hours from jet-lag. The flight to Wien was overnight, an 8 hour endeavor, with another 5 hour jet-lag loss. The final trip from Wien to Amman was another 4.5 hours, 2 hours more jet-lag loss, and we hit Amman a bit tired, but ready to tour. Our first encounter was with Mo, who would be our guide for the Jordan duration of the tour. He was superb. We had dinner buffet style in the hotel, took a walk around town, and then crashed.
Day 3—awoke at 5:30 for breakfast at 7. We needed to be completely packed for breakfast, since the bus left immediately after breakfast., Our first stop was at the excavasion of  the large Roman Decapolis city of Jaresh, just outside of Amman, it was rather impressive for its size.

Mo


Amphitheater at Jaresh


Part of the group


From there, we went on to Mt. Nebo, where Moses viewed the promised land, The sky was a bit hazy, so you couldn’t see the best’. Jerico and the plains of the Jordan River stood out. The evening ended with a long ride through the desert in darkness to our hotel at Petra. A few people took a night walk through Petra, but Betsy and i decided to lay low and catch up on Jetlag.
 

Foggy view of Jericho from Mt. Nebo, standing exactly in the spot where Moses stood.


Day 4 Petra—  We were up early for our Petra adventure. They did a light show walk the night before, but Betsy and I turned it down. Petra is much different than I imagined. The Treasury is the most famous building, known to Indiana Jones fans, but the narrow passage is much longer than I thought,, and goes way beyond the Treasury. Betsy and I went beyond, up to the Monastery, where one could see the Negev, and the whole region. I also climbed up to another site, which was called the high place, where the Petra folk would hold sacrifices. It was about 15 miles of walking, and most of that was climbing, but well worth it.
 

Begin of the walk into Petra


Graves on the way into Petra


The walk into Petra, not with Indiana Jones but with Washington Betsy


The Treasury – actually a mortuary site


Camels guarding the Treasury

Trail up to the Monastery


Jon, Betsy, Lynn, Peta, and Ward resting from the climb


Still climbing


A view from higher up the Monastery trail


The Monastery


A marvelously beautiful lady waiting for me on top


Man with Hooka on the trail


Donkey on the Trail

Day 5—Aqaba and the Red Sea.  From Petra, we headed south on the main trade route across the mid-east, headed toward Aqaba. Half-way there, we stopped for a truck ride into the desert at Wadi Rum, made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. There is actually a mountain there called the seven pillars of wisdom. We stopped to visit some Beduins and buy tea from them. We Finally made it to a fancy Radisson hotel in Aqaba and enjoyed the sunset. We also learned of Obama making it a second term.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Wadi Rum


Desert Jeep ride


Bedoin Tent


The Desert


Betsy loved the camels


 

Aqaba, the Red Sea


Continued in Part 2…
 

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Nov 26

Day 6—we took off from Aqaba to the Dead Sea by a circuitous route. The crossing into Israel demanded a change in buses. Our first stop was at the southern copper mines, with the pillars of Solomon. They had a mockup of the wilderness tabernacle here. We then traveled northeast to several very large craters south of the Negev. I was fairly overwhelmed by the irregularity of the landscape. I have no idea how Moses with a million plus people could have made it through. We stopped at the grave of Ben-Gurion,and was able to overlook the valley of Zin, where Moses sent out the spies to the land of Canaan. Finally, we made it to Dead Sea just as the sun was going down.

 

Temple mock-up

Overview of tabernacle


Wilderness of Zin


Day 7—An early rise and breakfast was followed by travel along the west coast of the Dead Sea. First, we stopped at the Masada, where in AD73 a group of Jewish zealots were finally brought to an end by the Romans building a massive siege ramp up to the fortress. This was followed by a hike up En-Gedi, where David encountered Saul in a cave. We stopped at Qumram, the site of discovery of the Dea Sea scrolls. Finally, there was a stop at the archeological dig at Jericho, where one could see the fallen walls of the old city. By then, nightfall had hit, and we drove up in darkness to Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee for our hotel.

 

Cable car to the top of the Masada

The cliffs off the top of the Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea


The Springs of en-Gedi


Rock Coney, at En-gedi


Jericho ruins


Day 8— This was a busy day. It had started raining, so that everything was quite muddy. We started out by going to the top of Arbel, a peak with a very steep cliff, and a similar adjoining mountain with a narrow canyon between.  It is in this canyon that the road from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee runs. We then went to Yardinit, where they have a commercial production of getting baptised or re-baptised. I was a bit astonished to find that Betsy and I were the only people in our group that said no to this. It is like suggesting to get re-circumcised. It cheapens baptism to a simple show or action that we do. Anyway, from there, we traveled to the town (excavation mostly) was Magda, which used to be one of the larger cities on the Sea of Galilee and from where Mary Magdalene came. Traveling north, we saw a boat which had been discovered in the mud of the sea of Galilee, and showed what a typical fishing boat it Jesus’ time looked like. We went out a short ways on the sea in a wooden boat, a form of crass commercialism that they called the Jesus-boat. We went up to the mount of the beatitudes, and, first avoiding the “church” the Papists built in the 1930s, but rather sat on the slope where Jesus probably gave his sermon. It was interesting that the stony ground of basalt amplified the voice in that area so that one could speak to a large crowd and be heard. Going inside the church was a small comedy that was more an idol to the Papists than a reverential area. We last went to Caperneum on the north side of the sea of Galilee, to see the synagogue where Jesus taught, and to see the alleged house of Peter. The Papists built a giant flying saucer over the home to protect it, which they also called a church. Back to our hotel in Tiberius, we were a little exhausted, enduring many crowds and a constant rain.

On top of Arbel, overlooking the Sea of Galilee


Tree and beautiful Frau on summit of Arbel


It rained all day, leaving a very wet John


Drei Engeln am Jordan Ufer


Schöne Frau am Jordan Ufer


On the Sea of Galilee looking back at Capernaum and Arbel


Slope where Jesus probably taught the sermon on the Mount


Unmasked caped crusaders at the Beatitudes mount church


Day 9—    And yet another very busy day. I hope I can remember everywhere we went! We started by heading north of Tiberias into the Hula valley. On the right, you could see the hills of Naphthali, which border Lebanon. We visited the archaeological dig at Dan, seeing mostly Old Testament history, notably the high place that Jeroboam created. From there, we headed up into the Golan Heights, stopping at Castle Nimrod, a Crusader era Castle built by the Muslims, and fortress on the Damascus Road. We skirted the side of Mt. Hermon, stopping at a Nature Preserve of one of the three sources of the Jordan River. We drove up to the top of Mt. Bental,  where we were able to look onto Syria. There had been some Syrian fire toward Israel yesterday, and as we left the mountain, we saw two attack helicopters flying over us, only to learn later that there was more fire toward Israel, and that Israel launched a retaliatory return fire. We visited a partially restored Talmudic house from the time of Christ, and then an olive oil factory. Lastly, we stopped by the ruins of Bethsaida, home of Philip and Andrew, and probably where Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5000.

In the area of Dan, at one of the three sources for the Jordan River


The high place at Dan, built by Jeroboam. The metal frame attempts a reconstruction of the possible form of the high place.


The entrance of the ancient Canaanite city of Dan. Abraham probably walked through this portal.


Schlomo on Mount Bental overlooking Syria


Day 10—  It was sad leaving the peaceful serenity of the Sea of Galilee. We drove through the town of Cana, which is now a fairly large town, and skirted Nazareth, an even larger town. We did not go into Nazareth itself, since nothing there resembled what might have been found in Jesus time. Instead, we went to the precipice outside of town, a very steep cliff that drops off into the Jezreel valley. It gave a great view of Mt. Tabor, Mt. Gilboa, and the whole Jezreel plain. You could also see where the town tried to through Jesus off the cliff. We ventured from there to the Archaeological digs at Mediggo, having both Canaanite as well as Solomonic and post-Solomonic findings. The next stop was the top of Mt. Carmel, where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. Traveling down the coast in the plain of Sharon, we arrived in Caesarea, a town with harbor. Built by Herod, and visited often by Paul, but also where Peter met Cornelius.  We arrived by nightfall in Jerusalem, where we took a walk that evening into the old city, and  visited the wailing wall. We wailed.
 

Mount Tabor and the Jezreel Valley from the precipice


Jezreel valley looking back to Nazareth from Mt. Carmel


Remains of seaport at Caesarea


Mediterranean Sea from Caesarea


Aqueduct which brought water to the city of Caesarea


Continued in Part 3…
 

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