Tuesday, July 17, 2018

100 years ago today a boy was murdered

100 years ago today, Czar Nicholas II and his entire family were executed in a bloody basement room.

Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, ordered the murders. The tragedy of this murdered family paled in comparison to the tens of millions murders throughout communist history. Nicholas and his family were just the start decades of carnage because of the Communist Party.

Nicholas was incompetent at best. He was an inept demagogue. He was vain, isolated, and relatively stupid.

Romanovs also killed many people during their 300 year reign. Certainly I am not excusing the brutality of Russian life.

Nevertheless, the backstory was a personal family tragedy. They had five children and the youngest was the only boy.

He was born with hemophilia because of his mother, one of Queen Victoria‘s granddaughters.

The royal houses of Europe were ripe with first cousins marrying first cousins. Hemophilia was the result.

This personal tragedy was kept secret because of political implications.

As Nicholas and Alexandra cared for their son, they became even more isolated and out of touch. They tried everything. In a vain attempt to save their toddler’s life, they met the "mad monk" Rasputin.

Alexandra was convinced that he would save their son’s life. In the midst of this, World War I started.

As an aside, the three rulers at the start of the war were first cousins: Kaiser Wilhelm, King George of Great Britain, and Czar Nicholas. Cousins often fight at Thanksgiving, but these people had armies!

Nicholas was always incompetent as ruler. But leading his troops during the war was even worse. Indecisive and arrogant, Nicholas finally had to abdicate.

Unfortunately the damage was done. When Nicholas was leading his troops into defeat for years, Alexandra tried to govern. In reality, her sounding board was Rasputin. He was the puppet behind the throne. There were riots and famine. It got worse over time.

In this awful power vacuum, Lenin swooped in (fronted by Nicholas’s first cousin - yet enemy - Kaiser Wilhelm) and took control of the whole country.

 I have always been a Russian history buff. Hundred years ago today, a small family was murdered in basement.

It was a personal yet a political tragedy.

I often wonder about that little boy. He was murdered when he was 14 years old, shot in the head first, shot multiple times and then bayoneted.

My son is 13.

If Alexei Romanov had not been born with hemophilia, perhaps the whole world would’ve been different.

Perhaps. Idle speculation.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

CT scans and bruising

My two strokes were 6 1/2 years ago. Ever since I’ve had headaches.

Recently, I have had a new kind of headache which caused my neurologist to order another CT scan. Usually a CT scan is about a 15 minute process.

However, I’ve always had "difficulty veins." Nurses have always had difficulty finding a vein to insert an IV.

As an elected official and a former lobbyist, I have a thick skin. Who knew underneath that tough skin is a mishmash of bad veins!

Recently, I was poked and prodded for three hours. Finally a neurosurgeon used an ultrasound to find a vein. He still had difficulty.

As a result, my bruises have a wide range of colors!
The doctor, nurses and the radiologists kept saying that I am "such a kind and patient man." It’s not their fault and screams are overrated.

The good news is, the CT scan showed NO new brain damage. The bad news is six years of headaches with no relief.
But I’m still alive!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The sounds of silence

Recently, my wife mentioned started my blog 10 years ago. She also noticed but I have not really bloggod for months and months. That is completely true.

I started my blog to keep track of memories of our son. My blog changed focused years ago when I had my strokes.

Since my stroke 6 1/2 years ago, I’ve tried to write about my stroke experience. Honestly, gotten feedback that I should just "get over it." It is time to move on.

At the same time, I was subjected to Internet trolls. For a while I thought about fighting back, because I am a middle aged white male, my opinions don’t really matter because I am "privileged."

A year ago when I was confronted with Internet trolls, I had to find a definition:
"A troll will use shock value to promote arguments in conversations, commonly in Facebook threads and in public online discussions. Named after the wicked troll creatures of children's tales, an internet troll is someone who stirs up drama and abuses their online anonymity by purposely sowing hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, or just simple bickering between others."

This is a really good definition. However, my Internet trolls were not anonymous. These trolls blatantly called me out for my opinion.

The reaction was swift and horrifying. Responding to a friend’s social media post, I suggested that her words would hurt her reputation. It was a very benign post.
In response, I was subjected to disgusting Internet troll. Laced with profanity, the bottom line was my opinion doesn’t matter at all because I am "A white privileged middle-aged male." Therefore my opinions don’t matter.

I endured the trolls for a while. I actually thought that some of the comments were pretty funny because the trolls are so hypocritical. I found it ironic when women would tell me that I was mansplaining. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Here is my new term: "womanspaining."

But it did not stop.

Therefore, I took a pause on social media for a couple of weeks and now months.  I used the time to reflect on the situation. I thought about my own biases.

I do completely understand that I am pretty lucky because I have not had to deal with a lot of prejudice in my life.

I also started to research social media privacy settings. I only use Facebook and Twitter. I researched those settings to make sure that I felt safe online.

I deleted hundreds and hundreds of so-called followers and friends. I made sure that I had strict protocols and privacy settings.

And finally, despite all of this, I still feel that my views don’t matter anymore. Throughout my life, tried to be a good person and to be fair to all. But I am again I am a middle-aged white male so I am to privileged unless progressives agree with me.

I do know the strokes cause emotions to change. Maybe I am too sensitive or too paranoid.
But I will try to blog again. But I do feel that my opinion is not valid anymore.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Poseidon adventure

We left Greece and bordered a ship at Patras. It was supposed to be an overnight trip leaving at 7 PM arriving by noon the next day arriving at the port of Acona, Italy. Then a three hour bus ride through Tuscany to Florence.

Instead, the ferry left at 8:00 PM and in the middle the night we stopped Albania for a couple of hours. There is mix up with food.

The cabin were incredibly claustrophobic. It was almost oppressive.

We basically have the whole day on the shelf for the kids played Uno and lounged around. That night the high school kids enjoyed the onboard disco. Heather did win €125 in the casino.

After a 22 hour boat ride, we boarded a bus for a 3 1/2 hour ride. 

It was an exhausting ordeal actually. 

The next day we explored Florence. Stay tuned for the next blog post.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Greek orthodox and Catholic‘s

Being a history buff, I’ve always understood that the Catholic Church was split in about 1000 A.D. Our Greek tour guide mentioned the differences a little bit yesterday, but she did not capture the full history.

Today I saw a small Greek orthodox by the roadside and I’m going to insert about the history.

Eastern Orthodox Catholics and Roman Catholics are the result of what is known as the East-West Schism (or Great Schism) of 1054, when medieval Christianity split into two branches.

The Byzantine split with Roman Catholicism came about when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, King of the Franks, as Holy Roman Emperor in 800. From the Byzantine viewpoint, this was a slap to the Eastern Emperor and the Byzantine Empire itself — an empire that had withstood barbarian invasions and upheld the faith for centuries. After Rome fell in 476, Byzantium was the only vestige of the Holy Roman Empire.

Charlemagne’s crowning made the Byzantine Emperor redundant, and relations between the East and the West deteriorated until a formal split occurred in 1054. The Eastern Church became the Greek Orthodox Church by severing all ties with Rome and the Roman Catholic Church — from the pope to the Holy Roman Emperor on down.

Over the centuries, the Eastern Church and Western Church became more distant and isolated for the following reasons:

Geography: The West encompassed Western Europe and the northern and western areas of the Mediterranean and the East took up Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Northern Africa.

Ignorance: The Byzantine Church knew less and less Latin and even less Latin tradition, and vice versa. So most patriarchs in Constantinople couldn’t read any Latin, and most popes in Rome couldn’t read any Greek. Byzantines in the East used leavened bread in their Divine Liturgy to symbolize the Risen Christ, and Latins in the West used unleavened bread as was used by Jesus at the Last Supper.

Different theologies: Both were valid, but each had its own perspective. The West (Latin) was more practical and, although fully believing in the divinity of Christ, put emphasis on his humanity when depicting Jesus in art — especially by making realistic crucifixes. The East (Byzantine) was more theoretical and, although fully believing in the humanity of Christ, focused on his divinity, which was much more mysterious.

Personalities and politics: Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Pope St. Leo IX weren’t friends, and each one mistrusted the other. Cerularius crossed the line when he wrote in a letter that the Latin use of unleavened bread was Jewish but not Christian. He was denying the validity of the Holy Eucharist in the Western Church. Leo countered by saying that the patriarchs had always been puppets of the Byzantine emperors.

In the end, Pope Leo and Patriarch Michael excommunicated each other and their respective churches. But more than 900 years later, in 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople removed the mutual excommunications.

Eastern Orthodox branches include the Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Greek Catholic, Melkite, Romanian, and Italo-Albanian Byzantine Churches. In addition to the Byzantine, Eastern Catholics also include Maronite, Coptic or Chaldean Catholic Churches.

In any event, the schism that divided Christendom right down the middle exists to this day. Although both sides accept the validity of each one’s orders and sacraments, no inter-Communion exists between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox. That means that normally speaking, Catholics aren’t allowed to receive Holy Communion in Orthodox Churches, and conversely, Orthodox shouldn’t receive Holy Communion in Catholic Churches.


Today we arrived in Delphi after the three hour bus ride. The scenery is amazing. This is Greece I’ve heard about: Cobblestone streets, quaint shops and restaurants, and crazy one-way streets! And the smallest bathroom we’ve ever seen. 


We had the opportunity to go to Europe for spring break. Yesterday on Saturday, we toured Athens. 

We saw the temple of Poseidon which was stunning. 

The temple of Poseidon at Sounion was constructed in 444–440 BC. This was during the ascendancy of the Athenian statesman Pericles, who also rebuilt the Parthenon in Athens. It was built on the ruins of a temple dating from the Archaic period. It is perched above the sea at a height of almost 60 metres (200 ft). The design of the temple is a typical hexastyle, i.e., it had a front portico with six columns.[6] Only some columns of the Sounion temple stand today, but when intact it would have closely resembled the contemporary and well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus beneath the Acropolis, which may have been designed by the same architect.

As with all Greek temples, the Poseidon building was rectangular, with a colonnade on all four sides. The total number of original columns was 34: 15 columns still stand today. The columns are of the Doric Order. They were made of locally quarried white marble. They were 6.10 m (20 ft) high, with a diameter of 1 m (3.1 ft) at the base and 79 cm (31 inches) at the top.[7] At the centre of the temple colonnade would have been the hall of worship (naos), a windowless rectangular room, similar to the partly intact hall at the Temple of Hephaestus. It would have contained, at one end facing the entrance, the cult image, a colossal, ceiling-height (6 metres (20 ft)) bronze statue of Poseidon.[8]

After that we toured the Parthenon and the acropolis.

The Parthenon (/ˈpɑːrθəˌnɒn, -nən/; Ancient Greek: Παρθενών; Greek: Παρθενώνας, Parthenónas) is a former temple,[4][5] on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power. It was completed in 438 BC although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the zenith of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and western civilization,[6] and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. To the Athenians who built it, the Parthenon and other Periclean monuments of the Acropolis, were seen fundamentally as a celebration of Hellenic victory over the Persian invaders and as a thanksgiving to the gods for that victory.[7] The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a programme of selective restoration and reconstruction to ensure the stability of the partially ruined structure.

Today we are headed to Delphi on a three hour bus ride.

We are chaperoning about 20 Borah high school students. They have been great kids so far.