Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Drive to a Funeral

Some day we mourn what is left behind...

My Aunt Sylvia Petra Solberg - 62 years the wife of my mother's eldest brother - died last week. Many of my best childhood memories have her and Uncle Harlan and their sons in them. I flew home Thanksgiving Day so that we could travel north to attend her funeral Saturday. On the 425 mile (680 km) drive from Minneapolis to Greenbush, Minnesota, we took a slight detour to see the farms in Norway Township, Traill County, North Dakota, where no Solberg lives anymore. It was a bleak day, on the way to a sad event. I was comforted by the company of my mother Kay, father Larry, and brother Steve. Sylvia's life was long and rich, her end was quick and perhaps merciful. Her lovely funeral and the fellowship that followed softened winter's gray chill.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Our Inner Ape

A leading primatologist explains why we are who we are...

Frans De Waal's excellent book draw undeniable parallels between the great apes - bonobos and chimpanzees in particular - and humankind. In the categories of power, sex, violence, and kindness our similarities are hard to ignore. Excellent reading for the naturalist or the moralist.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

My podcast listening these days...

Image result for iphone

1A from WAMU by way of NPR. Host Joshua Johnson has crisp voice and incisive ear for the news.

AM Joy with Joy Reid, is interesting, especially for an MSNBC program, in that most every panel seems include to include a conservative speaker.

Apologia after an invigorating run that started in 2006, the show was quiet for quite a while. Lately host Zachary Moore has rebranded the podcast as "a friendly forum for faith and doubt" and it's working.

Monster Talk, The Science Show About Monsters, is alway great fun.  Blake Smith and Dr. Karen Stollznow remain skeptical yet affable hosts.

On the Media offers a weekly analysis of how the media covers the news.

Rationally Speaking has not been the same since Massimo Piggliuci left, but Julia Galef is finding her voice and making the show her own.

Stoic Meditations with Massimo Pigliucci offers a daily contemplation drawn from Greek and Roman stoic philosophers.

The Broken Book Bible Podcast delivers the decidedly non-orthodox views of hosts Sam McConnell and Amanda Hays. They love their bible, but they probably don't read it like you do.

Unbelievable? With Justin Brierley, is a weekly pleasure for this non-believer.

You Are Not so Smart is a labor of love produced by the very smart David McRaney.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

We Visited "Canyons of the Ancients" for my 60th

Yeah, irony...

Saturday, the 14th

On the way to Cortez, Colorado, we made the obligatory stop at Four Corners. We were underwhelmed by the lack of anything happening at Four Corners - a spot on a map in the middle of nowhere where the boundaries of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico meet. Perhaps it was the low season?

We enjoyed very nice accommodations at Kelly Place, which has a fine collection of black on white ware and stone projectile points found on the premises over the years.

Sunday, the 15th

Vicky and I prepared for our explorations by visiting the Anasazi Heritage Center.

A half mile of paved switchbacks takes you to the 12th century Escalante Pueblo and kiva at the top of the hill above the center.

Next, we visited Lowry Pueblo, in Canyons of the Ancients.

Vicky at Lowry Pueblo. The modern roof in the background protects a small, very well-preserved kiva.

I am always fascinated by the 700-900 year old timbers that still serve as roof beams or lintels at these pre-historic sites.

Off to Painted Hands Pueblo.

The eponymous hands. We walked past them twice.

60 year old man meets 700 year old wall.

Sleeping Ute Mountain. McElmo Canyon, in which Kelly Place is situated, lies at its base.

The trail to Horsehoe, Hackberry, and Hackberry View in The Colorado portion of the  Hovenweep National Monument.

Monday, the 16th

The Hovenweep National Monument headquarters which is located in Utah, has a very accessible 1.5 mile (2.4 km) loop from which to see many well-preserved structures.

You can see all the dwellings at Square Tower Unit without the descent and ascent into the Little Ruin Canyon if you're willing to retrace your steps.

We returned to the Holly Group Monday. The road signs recommend a high clearance vehicle but a carefully driven Chevrolet Impala can make the trip.

Holly Tower and Holly House.

Holly Tower perched on its rock pedestal.

Three spiral pictographs, possible solar calendars.  The Ancestral Puebloans here had kivas but not nearly as much rock art as we find in the Agua Fria.

Back into Canyons of the Ancients for a ramble through Sand Canyon Pueblo. nterpretive signs offer visitors a sense of what once stood there.

You can walk the length and breadth of the pueblo on well-marked (but rough) trails.

The ruin is mostly rubble piles like we are used to encountering in the Agua Fria National Monument.

Spectacular views make it possible to imagine Sand Canyon in the days it was a thriving community.

Tuesday, the 17th

An artist's impression of the Sand Canyon Pueblo. We saw this at the Crow Canyon Archeological Center Tuesday morning.

Tuesday afternoon we drove home through New Mexico on Highway 491 so we could have a look at Ship Rock. It's on private property so we shot from the Red Rock Highway in a stiff wind. We took dozens of photos. I like this one best. "Ship Rock, known as Tse Bitai, or 'the winged rock' in Navajo, is a volcanic neck, or the central feeder pipe of larger volcanic landform which has since eroded away." From New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources

We came home by way of Gallup, New Mexico, and I couldn't resist stopping at the El Rancho Hotel for lunch.

Vicky wanted a cup of coffee as we left town so we asked Siri for directions to Glenn's Bakery. The somewhat befuddled AI directed us to a neighborhood featuring a tattoo parlor, barbed wire fenced yards, and houses with bars on their windows, and then delivered us to an Indian restaurant. We had given up when we accidentally ran into Glenn's on the way back to Interstate 40. Great coffee...

I Have a Chapter in a Book

In response to a book written by a man I admire...

I have a chapter in a book recently published at  It was written in response to a book authored by Justin Brierly, host of one of my favorite podcasts. Justin's book is titled Unbelievable?: Why after ten years of talking with atheists, I'm still a Christian, What follows was my proposal for the introduction to our book, Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we remain skeptics. Another intro was chosen, but this explains why I engaged in our modest enterprise.

I like Justin Brierly. I recall that I started listening to Unbelievable? With Justin Brierly in the summer of 2009, shortly after he aired an episode featuring second-tier angry atheist, University of Minnesota-Morris Biology Professor, PZ Myers. For ninety minutes Professor Myers rubbed me raw, much more so than the Christian guest, Denis Alexander. What amazed me most though, was the host of this UK radio program and podcast put on by Premier Christian Radio. Justin Brierly, though obviously a Christian, was genuinely even-handed. It was unlike any religious or skeptical podcast I’d ever listened to.

I began listening to the show’s back catalog. I was pleased. More importantly, I was impressed. Where most opinion programs erect a straw man representation of their opponent’s viewpoint and then take great relish in knocking it down, Justin actually put both sides of an issue on air in real time and then insisted that each side hear the other out. These discussions weren’t debates per se, more like spirited dialogues. In the main - there are exceptions - under Justin’s skilled moderation, each speaker treated the other with respect. I subscribed to Unbelievable and have been anxiously awaiting each week’s episode ever since.

Justin read out feedback - email responses, Facebook posts, and Twitter tweets - discussing previous episodes at the end of each week’s show. Again, Justin demonstrated his commitment to balance by giving voice to opinions from both sides of the topic. I wrote to him. He often graced me with a personal reply, answering points I raised. In time, Justin even read one of my comments on air. I must admit I hadn’t been that excited since the local TV lunch time personality read my name on the birthday’s list when I was in kindergarten.
After a couple years the program added a comments section beneath each episode at the Premier Christian Radio website. Over time many listeners and fans have come and gone, but a core group remains. For most us it is the only place we have ever met. The comments section becomes an “after party” where we assemble weekly for a debate which frequently lasts until the next episode is aired. These are the people who have written the book you are now reading.

“So what?” you ask. Radio personalities and talk show hosts have fans. You are just another somewhat odd fanboy. The thing is, when I discovered Unbelievable?, with Justin Brierly, I was not a believer and am not one now. I - and if I may speak for my fellow writers - do not share Justin’s religious faith but we have become and remain loyal listeners and avid fans.

The writers of this volume are varied in their perspectives, personalities, and passions. Some have never held any religious faith. While none are evangelicals a few are believers. Some are agnostic, still seeking any truth to be found at the core of the story. Others are angry, hurt by the experiences they suffered at the hands of fellow believers who turned out to be not very Christ-like at all. There is at least one mythicist, who believes the entire story is a fabrication. Most of us accept that there was a man named Yeshua, an itinerant Jewish preacher from the Galilee, who met a violent end at the hands of the Romans for inciting the rabble during a major Jewish holiday.
One might paraphrase the subtitle of Justin’s Unbelievable book, “Why, after ten years of listening to as kind and sensible and even-handed a Christian as Justin Brierly, why we are still not believers.” As Justin says. “Conversation matter.” We hope you enjoy our contribution to this decade long dialog. Perhaps you will even find it useful.

Note: Some time after my initial proposal for an introduction, we decided our response to Unbelievable?: Why after ten years of talking with atheists, I'm still a Christian, would be titled Still Unbelievable: Why after listening to Christian arguments we remain skeptics. Click on the link to enjoy it for free. See you there.