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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent 2008 & the Compass of the Soul

The Season of Advent usually fits my searching soul like a well worn leather jacket, keeping me warm, protected from the elements and ready to take on a journey. Advent 2008 comes at a most welcome time in my life.

Like most wondering souls, it is easy to get off course during times of exploration. Remaining open minded, as well as open to our basic KMSA principle of being Unified Through Our Diversity, also means that it sometimes becomes very easy to be shifted by the waves of exploration to directions unforeseen and unknown.

Times like these are when the Compass of the Soul is an important instrument to employ. As Captain Jack Sparrow says, "A compass is only broken if you don't know how to use it mate." This morning, listening to Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong, lighting my Advent Wreath Candle for Week One, and meditating on what is to come I feel the stirring in my soul of what makes me tick.

Everyone's Compass of the Soul is unique to their life, their experiences and upbringing. Sometimes its necessary to break the chains that bind us to a spiritual life that is inherited without thought, only to rediscover through our own experiences and explorations that the Course that your Compass of the Soul has set takes you back to were you started, only this time you know why.

Nobody but Captain Jack could read his Compass, only I can read mine and only you can read yours. Advent is a Season to launch the Pirate within us all who is not afraid to trust his Compass of the Soul and to explore new horizons and come to peace with old ones.

As Captain Jack also said, "All you need to be a pirate is a ship, wind in your sails and a really neat hat!"

Here's tipping my really neat hat in homage to Advent 2008!

Sir Hook the Pirate of Peace and Keeper of the Compass of the Soul of Warrick

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Off the Beaten Path and On Course

Yesterday, being "Black Friday", the self-proclaimed biggest shopping day of the year, and being stuffed like the unfortunate Turkey we consumed the day before, I thought it prudent to get off the the beaten path of consumer mayhem and take advantage of a beautiful sunny high 40's Saturday and return to Audubon Park to hike the wooden trails.

Armed with my trusty Bavarian Walking Staff, complete with removable rubber tip for a metal spike at the bottom, and an accurate compass on top, I set out on my journey. At first I took the Coffee Tree Trail behind the Museum into the woods. Shortly however, I remembered why I was here, to get off the beaten path. Remembering I had my compass, I set a course for southwest and made my own way to Wilderness Lake.

I arrived at this glorious perch on a crest above the Lake. Nearly exhausted from slipping down 45 degree leave strewn slopes and climbing back up the next one, I was pleased to take a pause in the journey to take in the sights, sounds and smells of this wooded paradise whilst sitting on a freshly fallen tree from the storms we had about three months ago.

I watched a herd of deer, a buck and two doe in tow make their way through the woods, a mother and daughter hiking around the lake, a father and son who where doing the same thing as I, came up the slope behind me to briefly disturb each other's peace. I felt a deep satisfaction of an explorer of the physical and spiritual as I said my prayers and meditated for an hour.

I made my way back to the Museum where I ran into an old friend, Pat McCormick, who I was a music major in college with, and now lives in Henderson, still playing music for a living. We always run into each other at the oddest places at least 4 to 5 times a year. Always makes for a great visit! He snapped this picture of me below my favorite land mark in the park.

After all the physical exertion, I was famished and decided to take on the Eagle for his catfish. Eagles always trump Turkey's, plus the catfish was made of bronze, so I decided to go for Sushi at Zuki's, a Japanese restaurant on the East Side of Evansville, owned and operated by Marvin from the Philippines and a Sushi Chef from Indonesia. Ah, Unity through Diversity never tasted so good!

Sir Hook the Reformed Turkey and Energized Explorer of Warrick

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving: Celebrating Selfishness!

Today's post is going to have, like a Thanksgiving banquet, several courses.

First, I took Sir Dayvd's advice / comments (from yesterday's post) to heart. I went to a nice liquor store here in Evansville to purchase a “variety” pack of beer for our Thanksgiving celebration. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any offering from the “Avoid Brewery.” I did pick up a nice sample of Samuel Adams Winter Selection. It's as American as Thanksgiving!

Second, is it possible that Thanksgiving is all about being selfish? Before you flip me the proverbial Thanksgiving Bird, let me explain. You want happiness and do not want suffering, right? What's the best way to increase your happiness? By showing other people kindness, love, and respect, they will probably respond in kind; incresing your happiness. This is what the Dalai Lama calls being wisely selfish. I know that our society laughs at this (like Stuart Smalley "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, And Doggone It, People Like Me"), but maybe there is something to first looking in the mirror and thanking God for ourselves – then going out and mirroring gratitude to everyone we meet.

Finally, Lady Suzanne commented yesterday on Thanksgiving and there being “empty chairs” around our table this year. That struck a nerve and prompted this simple poem – not meant to be a downer, but a reminder to live while our butts are still in the chair!

Empty Chairs

Thanksgiving Banquet
Gather, all those who are able
But, leave an empty chair
At our Holiday Table

For those who have gone before us
Their laughter no longer ringing

Bow our heads in silence
Do you hear the angels singing?

Yes, there is an empty chair
At this years’ celebrations
Looking about the room
Missing part of our foundations

Those who have gone before us
Memories still clinging
Now, among all the laughter
Do you hear the angels singing?

Celebrating gratitude and Thanksgiving
Celebrating a baby born in a stable

Yet, there is unquenchable heartache
As I see the empty chair at our table

A reminder to create in each moment
Memories worth clinging
For someday my chair will be empty, too
I pray you hear me singing?

DAK 11/27/08

Happy Thanksgiving

Sir Bowie “thankful his butt is still in the chair one more year” of Greenbriar

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a day that holds special meaning for millions of Americans
. It holds an even more special meaning for me.

You see, today we celebrate when my English ancestors crossed the pond to the New World to escape religious persecution, only to set up another oppressive religious culture. But wait, there's more!

They befriended my Indian ancestors who helped them to survive the winter with food and local knowledge only to have them take their land, their culture and their rightful heritage.

Americans, whatever their breed or color, have been masters of doing the same since Plym
outh Rock. Give us your tired, your hungry, your mindless masses and we'll f..k them literally and figuratively and make them our own.

For this my half-breed English and Indian spirit is thankful that out of the melting pot that is America, I can claim original ancestors from both sides of the pond. That and $58 dollars will buy the Turkey that my Squaw and Lady of the Estate staid up all night to get ready for this feast day.

Which leads me to the 58 Dollar Question...Which Big Bird will you be feasting on today?

Choose wisely and remember to always be thankful! It's our right!

Sir Hook the Chief Pilgrim of Warrick

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Celebrating With Beer

I wrote last year at this time about how the Mayflower abandoned its voyage and landed in Plymouth due to running out of…beer.

And did you know that one of the first establishments constructed within the Pilgrim colony was a brewery. So, what do you think they drank at that first Thanksgiving?

They drank beer!

(Yes, I know that the above is more myth than fact, but it makes for a great beer story).

Fortunately, there is no shortage of beer these days on our journey, especially quality craft-brewed beer. Now, I’m no expert on the pairing of beer with foods, so I did what any self-respecting blogger would do – I stole the following information from various sources:

Here are some brief suggestions ...

Apéritif (before dinner)
Don’t kill the palate too early in the day; start off with a nice light-bodied Pilsner or Lager. You know, something that will arouse appetites and slowly awaken the senses.

Hors d'oeuvre Hour
Kick things up a notch with a moderate level of hops. Pale Ales will pair nicely with salads, a slew of cheese varieties, fruits, and many hors d'oeuvres, without overwhelming any flavors. But don't go too bitter.

A strong Belgian-style ale goes great with the main spread. Their higher alcohol percentages cut through fats and starches, provide an edge of sweetness, and boast very diverse and complex flavors that lend themselves very well to this pairing.

Another recommendation is to reintroduce more Pilsners and Lagers, as they will not only act as a palate cleanser in-between bites. (I know what you’re thinking, he’s suggesting pairing certain beers with other beers. Why not!?).

Rich and big Stouts work very well.

Digestif (after dinner)
Time to loosen the belt a notch or two and take a nap.
Before long it will be “before dinner” time again. what a wonderful cycle.

Just remember to be experimental and have fun doing it!

To paraphrase a popular quote:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways – BEER in one hand – Turkey leg, yams (marshmallows on top, if you must), cranberry sauce (that cylinder kind from a can), Pot Stickers, Pumpkin (or pecan if you're feeling a little nutty) pie, in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, WHOO HOO, what a ride!"

May you each have a “WHOO HOO” Thanksgiving

Sir Bowie "pass me another bottle, I mean salad" of Greenbriar

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Structured Procrastination

I have been intending to write this blog for months. Why am I finally doing it? Because I finally found some uncommitted time? Wrong. I have admin to do, a new website to design, Christmas cards to draw out, and several screaming deadlines to hit.

I am working on this blog as a way of not doing all of those things. This is the essence of what I call structured procrastination, an amazing strategy I have discovered that converts procrastinators into effective human beings, respected and admired for all that they can accomplish and the good use they make of time.

All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important. If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him to do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.

Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

Procrastinators often follow exactly the wrong tack. They try to minimize their commitments, assuming that if they have only a few things to do, they will quit procrastinating and get them done. But this goes contrary to the basic nature of the procrastinator and destroys his most important source of motivation. The few tasks on his list will be by definition the most important, and the only way to avoid doing them will be to do nothing. This is a way to become a couch potato, not an effective human being.

At this point you may be asking, "How about the important tasks at the top of the list, that one never does?" Admittedly, there is a potential problem here.

The trick is to pick the right sorts of projects for the top of the list. The ideal sorts of things have two characteristics, First, they seem to have clear deadlines (but really don't). Second, they seem awfully important (but really aren't). Luckily, life abounds with such tasks.

The observant knight and Lady may feel at this point that structured procrastination requires a certain amount of self-deception, since one is in effect constantly perpetrating a pyramid scheme on oneself. Exactly. One needs to be able to recognize and commit oneself to tasks with inflated importance and unreal deadlines, while making oneself feel that they are important and urgent. This is not a problem, because virtually all procrastinators also have excellent self-deceptive skills. And what could be more noble than using one character flaw to offset the bad effects of another?

Now should I send this now, or go and look up on wikipedia the biography of the beautiful B-list actress I saw in a film the other night.

Sir Dayvd ( Okay okay I'll do it ) of Oxfordshire

Monday, November 24, 2008

Seek And Ye Shall Find

The word geo-cache came up in a blog the other day. Its not a word that is known here in the UK, but it struck me as a cute name for what we do have here; an ancient rural landscape that is literally covered in metallic debris from early Celtic times up to today's messy society.

Over twenty years ago I treated myself to a top of the range metal detector, and immediately it married my love of history with my love of the outdoors. Suddenly, the green and arable world around me became a treasure trove, not in monetary terms, but in insights to how our forefathers trod these self same places that we now tend to drive through at great speeds on our own daily fight for survival.

Even the simplest field will throw up old horse shoes and brass tack. Musket balls ( below ) from Georgian landowners out shooting for the pot,

and even lead tokens, that the farmworkers used to be paid in, that they would save up and cash in at the end of the week for a wage, this to keep them from going to spend a days money in the Pub and not turning up the following day through being drunk.

For the more interesting finds you have to become a historian, and landscape detective. To narrow down your chances of finding the good stuff, you pore over the old nineteen sixties Ordnance Survey maps that still contained references to ancient sites (the modern maps , wary that Detectorists do this, tend to not show the pre-medieval sites), seeking out where two country footpaths cross between three or four villages (a favourite site to hold transient weekly markets, where people would typically drop coins in the mud and grass) or south facing hills near the routes of ancient Roman roads, where the warm blooded Romans would build their villas and dwellings in the limited British sunshine.

You also scour the online aerial maps and good old Google earth, for likely fields and bridle paths with interesting crop and grass markings, evidence that ancient dwelling once dotted the site. (we are prohibited on threat of prison from Official Heritage sites, but England is just one big heritage site anyway so it doesn't matter.)

Then, with the farmers permission, you set out. But before you get your detector out of the van, you walk the prospective site, the best ones being newly harrowed, pre- seeding fields, where you look out for shards of pottery amongst the stones.

You become very practiced at this, and over the years I have taken friends with me on expeditions locally...and amazed them by turning up Roman,Medieval & Tudor pottery within the first few stride of entering a field. You look for high class pottery, kitchen pottery, decorative stone masonry, bearing in mind all the time that the modern plows and horse drawn plows have been stirring the field, like a big cauldron for hundreds of years, breaking the surface up and turning it over and over.

And then you are ready. With evidence that you are on a "hot" site , the detector is withdrawn from its bag, tested by throwing your own coin on the ground, and satisfied that you get a healthy, sharp signal when you encounter anything small and metallic, you are away for an afternoon of adventure back in time.

And anywhere back in time is where you might end up. Of course you dig up your fair share of modern nuts and bolts and shotgun cartridges, tractor keys and fence staples, but over the years, if I do my research first, I have amassed pocketfuls of buttons, belt buckles, shoe buckles, broaches, rings, sword and sheath parts, gun parts,bullets and coinage from every period right back to Roman times.

The Romans were in England from 1 AD to around 400AD...though by that time they had started to slink away, as their Empire was collapsing, leaving behind a whole society of Romano-Britons who had liked and assimilated the Roman affluent culture, it was difficult to tell when the Romans actually did leave.

Two of my favourite Roman pieces are a Dolphin Pin (so called because it was shaped like a surfacing dolphin) that held cloaks and clothes in place (who said the safety pin was a modern invention)

and a tiny Sesterius from the period of Emperor Valentinian I ( 364AD ~ 375AD ) (chipped by the plow for nearly 2000 yrs , these are worth just cents.)
Whenever I get the detector out, the average Joe, will say..."Oh you going Treasure Hunting then?", thinking that you are going to immediately unearth a pot of gold coins, hidden away in the days when there were no such thing as banks, by someone who was later killed, before they ever returned for them. It happens, once every blue moon.

But that's half the point why myself and a few other acquaintances do it, to suddenly unearth an object dropped and lost on some day, long ago, by somebody with the same human frailties as our own, and to hold it for the first time since that distant moment, and afterwards in a local Inn, by a black oak beam fireplace with a glass tankards of local ale, we'll concoct likely tales between us till late in the evening, of how our finds came to lay for thousands of season in the soil, and how we ourselves, are but a simple generation in time.

Sir Dayvd (the Gold Digger) of Oxfordshire

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Wings of Eagles & Soaring to Your Full Potential

Sir Bowie's blog yesterday about Thomas Edison got me thinking, our actually rethinking, about one of my favorite Bible passages and images for me to aspire to my full potential. That image is the Eagle.

The image of the Eagle first became dear to me as a child when my father and great grandmother (who was a full blood squaw) would tell me stories of our Cherokee ancestors. We actually visited distant Cherokee relatives in Oklahoma, New Mexico and North Carolina.

I now have a bronze statue of an Indian Warrior praying to the Great Spirit while he is surrounded by soaring Eagles above my desk. It is there to remind me of who I am, where I came from and where I can go if I truly believe in my dreams, visions, and destiny.

As I've stated before, my Cherokee blood, exposure to its culture, and further study of our belief's played a key roll in molding me to be open minded about different spiritual belief's. For that I am most grateful to God the Great Spirit! Recently, the image of the Eagle has been reoccurring in my life.

This fall I have been taking walks in the woods of Audubon State Park, located in Henderson, KY, just across the Ohio River from my house. It's a special place and is located on grounds that John James Audubon lived and walked on while he lived there. Many of his first wildlife paintings where produced here. There is a museum located there with alot of his original works, personal items, journals, etc. The outside reminds me of a French Villa, but the most impressive item is the tower. It appeals to that other part of my heritage, the English Knight!

Recently, they have cast a bronze statue of one of Audubon's paintings of an Eagle on top of a big catfish with his Talons extended, ripping into the flesh of his next meal. The soaring hunter never tires of his quest to exist to his fullest potential.

Isaiah 40:31 says, "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." It is my favorite passage from the Bible and a Mantra for me when I do grow weary and faint.

One such time was the last evening of my recent road trip. A mission accomplished, my excitement to visit McGrath's a now distant memory, I began to focus on what's next in this uncertain climate we now live in. I went to bed wrapped in a blanket of apprehension. At exactly 11:30 pm while I was having a particularly disturbing dream I was jolted awake by music from my iPod. It just decided to play, and the strangest thing was it didn't play where I had left it off. In fact, it picked up on an entirely different play list section and was playing Third Day's version of the scripture above, "Eagles"!

It was kind of freaky, but I decided that I was meant to listen to the words and I laid in bed and prayed along with the song:

My pain and problems keep me chained
And my troubled heart makes me weak
I'll wait for You to comfort me
And in You I know I'll find my strength

I will soar on the wings of eagles
I will learn to fly high above this world
And I will soar on the wings of eagles
I will learn to fly
I will learn to fly high above this world

Today's Positive Thinking devotion says, "The truth is that there is much more strength and power in the individual than he has ever known or even visualized as a possibility."

Now is the time to visualize your strength and power and to soar on the wings of Eagles!

Sir Hook the Shaman Medicine Man of Warrick

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Journals, Big Ideas, and the Answer to a Trivia Question:

From time to time we discuss Journals and Big Ideas on this blog. This is a brief story about both.

If we had been around on this week in 1877, we might have heard a young journal writer and great thinker announce his first major invention had come “off the pages of his notebook” and into reality. The American inventor Thomas A. Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a way to record and play back sound.

Edison stumbled on one of his great inventions--the phonograph--while working on a way to record telephone communication at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His work led him to experiment with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, which, to his surprise, played back the short song he had recorded, The first recorded song? (answer below). Public demonstrations of the phonograph made the Yankee inventor world famous, and he was dubbed the "Wizard of Menlo Park."

Edison, who acquired an astounding 1,093 patents in his 84 years, died in 1931.

Today, Thanks to the tireless work of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the daily record of Edison's extraordinary life and achievements is coming to light (pardon the pun). There, they have over five million pages of documents chronicling one of the most creative technical innovators in the history of the world.

In addition to being highly creative, Edison also had a lot of other great Knight-like qualities: He was a savvy businessman and shrewd manager with enormous talent for transferring technology from laboratory to market. He designed economic considerations into nearly all of his inventions and recognized the critical role that promotion and hustle play in a product’s success. His insight sets a powerful, instructive model for corporate leaders even today.

So, fellow Knights, What will you invent with your life today?

It's time to get out those Moleskines (or whatever journal you use) and start creating. Be savvy. Be a shrewd manager of resources. Promote and Hustle.

The first recorded song? A) "MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB".

Sir Bowie “off to put an old Harry Chapin album on our phonograph” of Greenbriar

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just North of Gettysburg and Dear To My Heart

Just north of Gettysburg, the Civil War Battlefield mentioned in Sir Bowie's blog yesterday, one will find McGrath's Pub in Harrisburg, PA, where I met Sir Dayvd of Oxfordshire and where the Knights of Moleskine, Spirit and Ale began its more serious mission to "Endeavor to Engage". I recently made another business trip there and visited the "Hallowed Halls" of McGrath's and reunited with many Knights and Lady's from our North Eastern Realm of the Kingdom.

When you go there, make sure to ask Sir Christopher of Westover (Chris the Bartender) for the official KMSA Moleskine Journal he keeps behind the bar and make your journal entry. Sir Dayvd and I leave messages for each other there. Your turn ole chap!

Here is Sir Hook with Lady Flo of McClay, the first Lady of the Realm outside of Indiana. Lady Flo is also a business associate of Sir Hook.

Here is Sir Hook and Sir Fox of Hops, another great friend I've made over my many journey's there. Sir Fox and I share the exact same birthday 10 years apart. We also find that we share the same thoughts, taste for beers and many other things in common. This was the first time I've seen him in over a year and since he had heart surgery, another thing we share as brothers! Another thing we share is the love of a local brewery called Troegs.

Here's the Troeg Brewery, located on 800 Paxton St. in Harrisburg, PA. Founded by two brothers, Chris and John, they brew Hop Back Amber Ale, Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale, Troegenator Double Bock (recently received an A rating in Brewer's Art), Troegs Pale Ale, Dream Weaver Wheat Beer and the Seasonal's Dead Reckoning, Nugget Nectar, Sunshine Pils and Mad Elf Holiday Ale (an 11% alcohol twister that will make any man a Mad Elf).

Inside the Brewery is a tasting room where you can sample scratch batches and well as fresh taps of all their beers.They give away free samples in small glasses and you can buy pints to drink there, fill up a jug to take home, or purchase six packs and cases from their cooler.

I left behind some KMSA coasters for the owners and enjoyed a couple of fresh ones before I made my last visit to McGrath's before returning home.

Just before I left I noticed all the brew staff gathering to sample beers that one of them had brought in to talk about what kind of beer they would like to make next, discuss what they liked and didn't like about these beers they were sampling and to figure out how they might have been made. Now that's my kind of brain storm session! I often joke with Sir Bowie that we need to open a KMSA Brewery. That thought was chasing down my last shot of Rugged Trail after I snapped this picture.

Sir Hook the Troegenator (I'll Be Back) of Warrick

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who was Edward Everett?

Yesterday was the 145th Anniversary of one of most stirring public speeches in world history. Also, one of the most important lessons for Knights:
1863 : Edward Everett delivers his famous two hour speech!

First, a little background:

The Battle around a small Pennsylvania town(U.S. Civil War), was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing. The battle also proved to be the turning point of the war: General Robert E. Lee's defeat and retreat marked the last Confederate invasion of Northern territory and the beginning of the Southern army's ultimate decline.

Charged by Pennsylvania's governor, Andrew Curtin, to care for the dead, an attorney named David Wills bought 17 acres of pasture to turn into a cemetery for the more than 7,500 who fell in battle. Wills invited Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators of the day, to deliver a speech at the cemetery's dedication.

If you think I’m loquacious (yes, I own a Thesaurus)…

At the dedication, the crowd listened for two hours to Everett. Two hours!
Now, I’m sure that each and every one of you can quote all, or at least part, of that famous speech, can’t you?

Well, there was one other person there that day who spoke a few words.

In the planning of the day, and almost as an afterthought, Wills sent a letter to President Abraham Lincoln--just two weeks before the ceremony--requesting "a few appropriate remarks" to consecrate the grounds – a dot on the map called Gettysburg.

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln got up out of his chair -- after Edward’s two hour oration -- and he spoke just a couple of minutes. 272 words brilliantly and movingly reminding a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth

It’s interesting that he noted “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…”

While true, the world doesn’t remember the eloquent two hour speech given by a one Edward Everett (though he did do tremendous work in his lifetime), Lincoln’s two to three minutes Gettysburg Address will never be forgotten; his words helped win the war and remind us to never forget that we “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Thank you Mr. Lincoln for your words, and for the lesson that it doesn’t take volumes to deliver a powerful message. Sometime it takes just 272 words, thoughtfully crafted and humbly presented.

Sir Bowie of Greenbriar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mr. Holland, A Compass, and An Old Dam Band.

In the musical world this would be known as improvisation. In other words, I’m going to start this, not really knowing how it’s going to play out. But here goes, One, two, three, four.

Last night, Lady Suzanne, our daughter Amy, and I attended a holiday performance / practice of a little community band called The Old Dam Community Band of Newburgh, Indiana. My brother-in-law plays baritone horn and another friend plays trumpet. It’s made up of musicians who are from recent high school graduates all the way up to an 84 year old baritone player (no, not my brother-in-law).

Now, these guys and gals will be the first to admit that they’re not perfect. Basically, they’re a group of musicians who volunteer to play for community functions. In other words, they play because the love to play and make music.

As I watched The Old Dam Community Band, I couldn’t help being reminded of the group of misfits at the end of the classic movie Mr. Holland’s Opus. If you’ve never seen this flick, it’s a must see (be prepared to cry like a baby). Anyway, it’s about a guy who wants to play and write music, but takes a job teaching to help pay the bills. No matter how hard Mr. Holland tries to get out of teaching high school music and get back to writing that great symphony, he keeps getting sucked back into teaching kids.

At one point, his friend and principal gives him a compass:
A teacher has two jobs; fill young minds with knowledge, yes, but more important, give those minds a compass so that that knowledge doesn't go to waste.
(See post the other day about directions)

As John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Mr. Holland finally retires. On his last day, as he's walking out of the school, he hears a commotion in the auditorium. There, to his shock, he finds many of his old students – all ages, sizes, colors, talents – sort of like the Old Dam Band. They have all gathered to play Mr. Holland’s Opus which he has been working on for 40 or so years.

One former student (Gertrude Lang) rises to address the room and Mr. Holland:

Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn't rich and he isn't famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. But he would be wrong, because I think that he's achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.

So, there we were last night listening to a merry little band of musicians playing Christmas music; yet, they weren’t being asked by the director to play the music perfectly, just with heart and passion. The audience – mostly loved ones, but a few strangers – weren’t there to judge, just listen and enjoy.

Isn’t it that way with life? No matter what we Knights create – music, poetry, essays, paintings, doll houses, recipes, interior designs, advertising, photos of ducks on a lake – we’re here on earth to create our opus and PLAY!

When Sir Hook and I first discussed this merry little band of Knights, one thing I made sure we believed was “We are free to create without Judgment.” In other words: Play. Sour notes be damned!

So, if you ever get a chance to hear The Old Dam Band (or a school, or community band, or group of kids singing on the playground, or…) don’t focus on the sour notes – focus on their hearts and passions!

Oh, remember Gertrude Lang from above. When she was a young student who just didn’t get it, Mr. Holland finally asks:

Mr. Holland: Let me ask you a question. When you look in the mirror, what do you like best about yourself?
Gertrude Lang: My hair.
Mr. Holland: Why?
Gertrude Lang: Well, my father always says that it reminds him of the sunset.
Mr. Holland: Play the sunset. Close your eyes. One, two, three, four.

Here's the good news. It's never too late to get out your compass and become a "Mr. Holland."
Go out and Endeavor to Create Your Opus. Write your greatest song in the key of life!

Sir Bowie “typos and misspellings be damned” of Greenbriar

To read more about The Old Dam Community Band:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Word in Your Ear...

Sir Dayvd, Sir Hook and Sir Bowie in Their Youth

It's a very KMSA thing that Sir Bowie did in his Blog "Hidden Treasures"; November 17th, that of taking up a 'challenge' and being 'baffled'.

Those who take up a challenge are described as having "entered the lists", but the expression doesn't refer to a name being added to a roll of competitors.  The "lists" in question were the practice alleys at the side of the medieval jousting arenas where knights would wait to enter the fray.  The name comes from the old German "lista"-meaning a strip or boarder.

Once a competitor was in the lists, there was no turning back without disgrace, and this is where a knight would be baffled.

As a word "baffle" has come a long way from its original meaning-to publicly humiliate someone through mockery and a bit of good old-fashioned GBH (grievous bodily harm).

The word derived from an attempt to represent the sound of blows delivered to a disgraced knight, who would have been strung up by his heels and battered about with axe handles by his peers.  When released, the dazed miscreant would have been confused and disoriented, hence the usage today.

With such rules you knew where you stood in those honourable times.  The ancient code of chivalry dictated that no knight could refuse another hospitality for as long as required, and then just as now, there was always some comedian out to milk such a rule for all it was worth.

If the indolent knight showed no signs of moving on, the host could hint it was time to go by giving him a cold shoulder of mutton-food normally reserved for castle staff.  And that's why we still give the cold shoulder to those we dislike.

Sir Dayvd (the semantically challenged) of Oxfordshire

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hidden Treasure

“Maps are central to the human experience... In many ways, the history of maps and mapmaking is the history of human society.”
-- The World Through Maps by John Rennnie Short

I’ve been working with our graphic artist here at work to create a logo for a new client. The first “direction” we were given was to include, in some way, a world map – perhaps even a treasure map.

Unfortunately, four weeks later, we’re still frantically searching for the hidden treasure of a perfect logo buried somewhere deep in our creative sand. Let’s just say that we’ve successfully dug up many empty chests and fools gold.

The process has got me thinking a lot about hidden treasures and creating. Not too long ago, we had my family over to my house for dinner; one of the things I did to keep people occupied was hide a dozen our so items throughout the neighborhood and handed out a “treasure map” complete with landmarks, hints, and GPS coordinates. One child and a couple of childlike-adults enjoyed the search for hidden trinkets.

There are a couple of popular global “treasure hunt.” One is called Geocaching, which involves finding hidden caches/treasure by use of a GPS. There is also a similar game called Letterboxing that involves clues just as starting at a point and walking x# paces to a landmark. Both ways are great for not only finding the prize, but also finding new locations you never knew existed or landmarks you’ve seen a thousand times but never really stopped to take notice. Some are deep in the woods, some are right out in the open near a busy road. In both cases, it helps to have with you one of the greatest inventions in the world -- the magnetic compass. If it’s not the greatest invention that changed the world, it’s certainly the one that heralded a revolution in medieval mapmaking and exploration.

Creative Knights, too, need good maps and a compass to navigate our daily world. Without clear directions, we’d be lost with no direction known (like a rolling stone) and creative ideas would just stay lost in the mental world of uncharted waters. Without a compass to give us some clear direction, how do we know if we’re heading in the right direction, if not running around in circles?

When creating whatever it is we Knights create, it’s fun to be given some directions and start out hunting. Of course, it’s also exciting and necessary to go out and explore beyond the known mapped limits of the universe (or imaginations). How else does the unknown become known and, well, mapped? Or, asked a different way, how else does a new idea get on the map?

Sir “Cartographer” Bowie of Greenbriar

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Christian Ministers Support Every Knight's Fantasy (Possibly a Few Ladies as Well!)

Usually when I attend Church I hear things proclaimed from the pulpit that I agree with and disagree with.  As of late, the separation of Church and State has decided to have an affair with each other and the results are horrid; like, a South Carolina priest who told his congregation that if they voted for Obama they couldn't receive communion, and if they did they would be going to hell.  Unbelievable!  He would do well with the Taliban.

But here's a spiritual message that we can all sink our teeth, or any other part of our body into, with "con mucho gusto"...HAVE SEX EVERYDAY FOR 7 DAYS!!!

According to an AP report on November, 12th, a pastor of a mega-church in  Fort Worth, Texas, says he will challenge married congregants during his sermon tomorrow to have sex for seven straight days-and he plans to practice what he preaches.  (I bet!)

Young, 47, said he believes society promotes promiscuity and he wants to reclaim sex for married couples.  Sex should be a nurturing, spiritual act that strengthens marriages, he said.  (I agree!)

"God says sex should be between a married man and a woman," Young said. (Interesting the "a" here, could legally be interpreted a married man and any woman.  As Bill Clinton would say, "It depends on what your definition of "a" is?)  "I think it's one of the greatest things you can do for your kids because so goes the marriage, so goes the family."

Earlier this year, a southwest Florida pastor, perhaps having more faith in his congregant's stamina, issued a 30-day sex challenge.

Of course, being Catholic, I would propose a 40 days and 40 nights sexual vigil twice a year for Lent and Advent.  Now that's stamina!

How BIG is your faith?

Sir Hook Who's Hanging on a Prayer of Warrick

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Matter of Survival

Without alcohol, how would man ever breed??

I am delighted to find that the Committee of Advertising Practice has got absolutely nothing more important to think about than whether or not there should be bald men in booze commercials.  There should, it turns out.

A poster for Lambrini sparkling wine has been rapped for depicting a group of women attracting a handsome young fellow, thereby suggesting that the drink may bring sexual/social success.   The CAP would advise that the men in the picture should be unattractive, overweight, middle-aged, balding, etc.  But that would be nonsensical.  If a woman wanted to seduce a fat, bald, old man,  you wouldn't need to get him drunk first.

The wine company immediately challenged the CAP's idea of beauty, asking, "Are Jack Nicholson and Sean Connery unattractive to women?"  Well, yes, frankly, and I've never understood the conspiracy which claims they aren't.  Jack Nicholson is a raddled, lecherous, sexually incontinent old horror; and going to bed with Sean Connery would be, as said by many a young English gal, like shagging Father Christmas.  (I await the Lady's opinion on all of this.)

If I were the owners of Lambrini, I would have taken issue with the more fundamental point made by CAP, whose new code insists that; "Links must not be made between alcohol and seduction, sexual activity or sexual success."  Now that really is Big Brother.  The link between alcohol and seduction is absolutely undeniable.  

I have conducted my own small survey among friends and colleagues, and discovered that a telling 100 percent of respondents first kissed their current partner while drunk.  they first went to bed with them, it transpires, while only "quite tipsy", but first said they loved them when "totally insensible on booze."  It makes you wonder how people in the United Arab Emirates ever manage to breed?

Sir Dayvd (Doing his bit for the Human Race) of Oxfordshire

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bio Beer!

'Bio-Beer' Designed to Extend Life
Eric Bland, Discovery News (edit for length)

Nov. 10, 2008 -- Here's a reason to raise a pint; scientists at Rice University have created beer that could extend your life.

BioBeer, as it's called, has three genes spliced into special brewer's yeast that produce the same chemical in red wine that is thought to protect against diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's and other age related conditions.

The only problem, from the students' perspective, is that many of them aren't old enough to legally consume their creation.

"We started out with a strict policy that we aren't supposed to drink anything in the lab," said Peter Nguyen, the team's graduate adviser. The eight graduate and undergraduate students created BioBeer as part of the upcoming International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition.

The iGEM Jamboree, as the annual meeting is called, took place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology November 8th and 9th. This year 85 teams from around the world signed up to bring the tools of the nascent field of synthetic biology (now that’s a mouth full) to bear on a variety of problems large and small.

…the Rice team plans to continue their project far beyond the Jamboree; they hope to publish their results next year, and will continue to test and refine their strain of yeast, donated from a Rice alumnus who now runs the St. Arnold Brewing Company in Houston.


So there you have it. Knights have always knows that beer is good. Now, we know that we have a dedicated team out there working for us to make it a life-extender!

Go Rice!

Sir Bowie of Greenbriar

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A million bottles of beer on the wall…

And the roof, and floors, and the toilets, and…


Thai monks from the Sisaket province have used over one million recycled glass bottle to construct their Buddhist temple. Mindfulness is at the center of the Buddhist discipline and the dedication and thoughtfulness required to build everything from the toilets to their crematorium from recycled bottles shows what creativity and elbow grease can accomplish.

The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple is about 400 miles northeast of Bangkok in the city of Khun Han close to the Cambodian border. Using Heineken bottles (green) and Chang Beer bottles (brown) the monks were able to clean up the local pollution and create a useful structure that will be a visual reminder to the scope of pollution and the potential we can make with limber minds.

The water tower and tourist bathrooms are even made from beer bottle litter. The monks were able to have the local people bring them the building materials which beautifully reflect the Thai sun.

To see awesome photos at:


Seems that one man’s trash is another Knight’s castle – or, in this case, a temple.

Sir Bowie "off to work on a room addition" of Greenbriar

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guy Fawkes Night and New Knights!

Lady Suzanne and I had the privilege of attending our first ever Guy Fawkes / Bonfire night.
Our gracious hosts were Sir Steve and Lady Mary Ann of Powers (they don't know that they're Knights yet, but the invitation is forthcoming -- plus, they've already paid half their dues by buying us ale). Below is Sir Steve (Sorry, didn't capture an image of Lady Mary Ann).

Even though it was held a few days after the official night of November 5th, everyone chanted:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and Plot.
I know no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Then we tossed old Guy into the bonfire...

and lit the sky with rockets.

I imagine that Sir Davyd himself would have been very proud of Sir Steve and Lady Mary Ann's party which included ale, lager, mulled beer, fizzy pop, and copious amounts of food and sweets.

For those of you who missed the complete story of Guy Fawkes / Bonfire Night, check out Sir Dayvd's excellent post of November 5.

Sir Bowie and Lady Suzanne "A penny for the Guy" of Greenbriar