And Let Them Have Dominion

This just shows how humans are the top of the food chain.

You decide to attack something under our protection? We don’t just chase you off or kill you, we’ll put you in a cage for the amusement of our offspring all the rest of your days.

We will keep your children as well.
Source: The Blade (Newspaper based in Toledo, Ohio)

But hey, hat’s off to you, Mr. Eagle. You saw an opportunity and took it, damn the consequences, and no truer representation of our great American values could there be.

This story ran in the Saturday issue of  The Blade, a newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, on October 20th, 1962.

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Harry Potter and the Psychometric Examination

Some people love talking about Myers-Briggs personality types. Some people love the colorful cast at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Here’s a little something for those who love both.

(Disclaimer: Most of this does not belong to me. Those talented people have their names written across the bottom.)

Voldemort's MBTI
For those wondering where Voldemort fits into all this.

Good ol’ Voldy. We can always count on him to pleasure himself.

Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus

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My Utmost For His Highest

This daily devotional gets trotted out in many conversations about growth as a Christian, and for the past few months I’ve been [at least semi-] regularly reading the neatly presented daily writing. For the first few weeks, it was pretty nice; the short 2-3 paragraph entries were often thought-provoking and would challenge me to take a good look at my personal priorities and perspective. As time went on, however, I began noticing that sometimes there were exhortations or instructions that struck me as a bit odd; it was at this point that I began wondering about the way we take and use biblical scripture, both in our lives and applying it to others.

For the most part, I just brushed it off and told myself that there was probably something wrong with how I was approaching the writings. However, reading today’s entry was jarring enough to spur me to drop what I was doing and put my thoughts into writing. As usual, the daily entry begins with a verse, in today’s case, from Romans 8 – “It is Christ…who also makes intercession for us….the Spirit…makes intercession for the saints…”

I had noticed the frequent use of ellipsis in the past; though I sometimes found it odd or even a little bit of a reach it wasn’t something I dwelt on. In today’s case, however, something else caught my eye. The citation for the passage reads ‘Romans 8:34, 27’ which is, as is plain to see, out of order. I don’t know about you, but that just strikes me as odd, and makes me feel more than a bit wary. Of course I can immediately reason to myself why the author may have chosen to do that, but that doesn’t change the fact that the author just created a ‘scriptural reference’ by picking words/phrases out from different places and arranging them.

This is not to say I think the author has any ill intent. On the contrary, I can even see how these out of order verses to tie together in this case. What does give me pause is that I feel like a very fine line is being trod and it raises questions in my mind. On what authority do we base our interpretation and understanding of the Bible? Typical answers range likely range from the institution of the Church, to divine inspiration/confirmation from the Holy Spirit, to a personal conviction within our own being. Yet I’m sure most any Bible-believer would say the authority ultimately comes from God (likely the Father, in Trinitarian circles). If the authority of the Bible comes from God, then how much liberty is Man allowed to take with scripture? If a human takes words from the Bible and simply rearranges them, does the idea or assertion that comes out of those recombined words still carry the authority of God?

Here is the full text of Romans 8 (NKJV) if you wish to see it. Like I mentioned already, I don’t think the author’s intent was to mislead people in any way. Seeing today’s entry was just a catalyst that caused many different things I’ve been thinking about to snap together into the questions above – questions that I feel are very important for me to chew on.

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London Blitz, Day One

Upon arrival at Heathrow Airport, I purchased a London Pass.  It’s supposed to save me time and money, basically a sort of prepaid bulk-entry rate deal. After I saw the majority of places I wanted to see were on there, and more significantly, seeing their entry prices, this card seemed like a good idea.

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I then headed to the Underground and got excited as I saw the train pull up. The subway cars here look really low and compact, but I think it’s mostly because the roof tapers in on the upper coeners. Looks kinda cool. Seems I arrived on a bit of a tricky weekend, since a few key lines are not operational this weekend. Tourist season is over, so maintenance season has begun, I suppose. Finally getting to the place I’m staying at near Battersea Park, I ran to a local pub for a square meal and a beer, washed up and went straight to bed.

Day One begins. I set off into the crisp, cool cold morning air under beautiful partly cloudy skies. After scrutinizing the bus schedule (first on the wrong side of the street), I hop onto a red double decker and away! Victoria Station, end of bus route 44 – I step off and start walking with a vague notion of going to Westminster Abbey, turn a corner and what do you know, I’m at the gates of Buckingham Palace. And loads of tourists taking pictures. Time to move on. Alas, Westminster Abbey, and basically all the church places are not open Sundays. So I sit in on the services. Very regimented, but interesting to be a part of. Plus I got to hear the choir singing.

Writing my day this way is going to take forever, and I need sleep. Now for the blitz to be recorded as a blitz.

Day One

Buckingham Palace – veni vidi exeunt.
Westminster Abbey – found it by following sound of church bells. Quite a lovely sight in morning sun. Sunday service, sat in Alecicus Opecum chair in Quire, special service sung by Choir to commemorate the dedication of the Abbey 13th October 1269. Exited through the Nave and gates into a massive crowd trying to peer in and taking photos. Odd feeling.
Parliament Building – saw as I walked around Abbey. Its grandeur caught me by surprise. Turned to my left and saw
Big Ben – thought to myself “gee, these Brits sure know how to build their buildings large.”
Churchill War Museum – In the underground war rooms used during Battle of Britain/Blitz and WWII. Many rooms left just as they were at the end of the war in 1945.
The Fox and Anchor – went looking for a pub to have a Sunday roast. found it. Beef roast with potatos, pudding and veggies. Ale out of a metal stein. Talked to some Germans who wondered what the pudding was.
Tower of London (attempted) – crucial Underground line not running = lengthy detour resulting in me trying to get there on foot from the wrong side of the river. Arrived too close to closing time for it to be worth using my entry pass. Need bathroom, nearly gave up and went on grass 5-6 times. Finally let in to paid toilet by nice guard.
Bicycle – got a Barclays 24-hour usage key, rented bicycle in attempt to make it across London Bridge for last exhibition of day. Could not find entrance and struggled with riding on the wrong side of road. Did get to ride back and forth London Bridge twice, though. Gave up and headed towards St. Pauls, where I docked the bicycle.
Millennium Bridge – stumbled across while wandering small alleys near river. All metal and futuristic looking. And hey, there’s the Tate Modern! I should try to go to that.
Tate Modern (Closing Time already) – gg
South Bank – wandering westward along riverside promenade. Man in top hat playing flaming tuba. Nearly everything interesting is closed. Apparently that’s how Sundays are here. Bookstore! Stop to read. (Retrospect: mistake, should have secured a meal before kitchens close)
Jubilee Bridge – back up to North Side of Thames. All dark now. Cold. Hungry. Need bathroom.
Embankment Station area – food places don’t look so great. Hurry on.
Charing Cross Station area – restaurants all closed. Mostly dark and empty of pedestrians. Pubs open, but kitchens closed.
Trafalgar Square – quiet and darkish, but not empty enough to use the fountain as toilet.
Leicester Square – bright lights and people again. Lots of theaters. Finally a restaurant that is still open.
Fiore Cafe – apparently a bit of a tourist trap, but service was fast and food decent and available. Pizza with shrooms, olives, artichokes etc. EMPTY BLADDER.
Homeward – it’s past 11pm, need to get back before Underground stops. Many seem to share idea = third rush hour. Line closures make life difficult. Takes nearly 1 hour to go 4 stations and take a short bus ride. Still feel a deep sense of satisfaction walking up the dark and sleepy road for making it back to where I started the day.

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I’ve arrived in London. Stepping onto the platform for the Underground and looking at the people around me, I couldn’t help but grin.

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Crossroads Of The World

Spending the past two weeks in Turkey has been very educational. I’ve mentioned how knowledgeable the guide and other people in the group were, but the main thing I come away with isn’t some historical or archaeological fact. The thing that stood out most during the trip is how even today Turkey cannot be neatly classified as part of Asia or part of Europe, but stands as a unique culture on its own.

I think there’s a reason for that. Throughout the ages many different civilizations have brought their laws, customs and cultures into what is now Turkey. The Hittites liked to write things down. The Hellenistic folks brought their statues and columns. With the conversion of Constantine people took up crosses; when the Sultanate rolled in many switched from chapels to mosques. However, each new civilization that lays claim to the lands sees the culture they bring morph into something unique to the region. I think it’s because the people there have a history and culture of their own.

They are Anatolian. They have been there long before each new empire and will remain there after the kings and cultures are far in the past. Technology, art and communication have evolved radically since the Neolithic, but the core activities of life remain little changed for these people. Each day they wake up and greet their neighbors, who were all nearby because their homes are grouped together in a town, go out to the fields and farm their land and, after a hard day’s work, return home to their families and sitting down to a communally-prepared meal, setting some food out for the neighborhood cats before going to sleep.

Anatolia truly is a crossroads of human cultures. Sitting at the junction of Asia, Africa and Europe, trade goods and ideas flowed through the region and enriched it in every imaginable way. At the same time the culture here is not merely a conglomeration of outside influences. The Anatolians’ own culture and values served as the framework for assimilating all these different flavors. Melting pot indeed.

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Why I Like History

The last post about the Achaeology Museum got me thinking about how I seem to be so interested in history. Over the years I’ve noticed some people share a passion for it while others see it as stuffy sleep medicine or a bunch of pointless facts.

To me history isn’t just a list of facts and figures, but a story. I guess that’s the key; I don’t see historical information as useless, but rather a meaningful and insightful look into human nature, relationships and desires.

It always amazes me what people were capable of creating with what would now only be considered rudimentary technology. We are definitely not more intelligent, creative or civilized than humans in the past. To think otherwise is self-delusion. We simply stand on the shoulders of either giants or many, many of our predecessors. I think that’s part of why I like history so much; it’s humbling to see the achievements of the past, yet inspiring as well to see how people really can build off previous generations. It’s also like a cautionary tale of folly that could well be within me as well – literally the stuff fables are made of.

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Istanbul Archaeology Museums

This place is pretty awesome. I spent five hours there today.

After visiting the Basilica Cistern I headed over to Topkapi Palace, where the museum is located, while the crowds were still thin and the streets relatively quiet. 10 TL to get in. Since I managed to beat the crowds, the museum grounds had this stately tranquility – I could almost feel the gravity of history emanating from all the artifacts tucked within the walls of the columned buildings around me.

Stepping in to the Museum of the Ancient Orient was a breath of fresh air from the past month of gritty travel and bustling crowds. It was like being in a well-lit library of three-dimensional pages – quiet and loaded with information.  After trying to decipher some Ancient Egyptian stone carvings for a few minutes, I went back outside to rent an audio guide. Another 10 TL, plus depositing an ID.

The audio guide was disappointing at first, but on some exhibits would actually fill in useful information not written on placards. If I ever go there again, I’m definitely bringing a detailed guidebook or an expert. Plus setting aside the whole day and packing a lunch.

Looking through the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian exhibits, I was amazed at the level of detail put into many of the pieces. Seeing pictures online and in textbooks is cool, but being able to move around to see how the changes in lighting bring out different details is second only to actually handling the artifacts. Wish I could read cuneiform.

The main museum building has huge collections of Classical-era and Byzantine (i.e. Roman) objects on the expansive ground floor. So many sculptures. So much marble. Audio guide came in handy. The second floor is just artifacts from Istanbul itself, starting from its Neolithic origins, and other floors exhibit Palestine/Syria, Cyprus and Troy in all its incarnations. It’s amazing how long these places have been settled.

It got a bit overwhelming after a few hours, with the sheer amount of information to take in covering a span of over 3000 years of human history. Sure beats sitting in a lecture hall with slide printouts, though. The nice part about these museums was that they pretty much only cover the Near East, so it was much more focused and comprehensive view of the history in the region. I heard the Istanbul Archaeology Museum is among the best in the world, and seeing the sheer amount of finds they have, I can believe it.

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Jouney To The Sea

Today I laid eyes on the Mediterranean for the first time. We were coming around a bend from the Taurus mountains, and all of a sudden it was before us, a glittering sheet tinted pink by the setting sun. I can see why civilizations rose and fell along its shores since the dawn of history – just seeing it makes you want to sit down and stay a while.

Our route today felt like some epic journey story. We started the day in Konya, the heart of a bygone empire which is laid out in a circle to commemorate a famed past religious teacher, and made our way up into the Taurus mountains. After winding our way to the crest of that rugged range, we ventured into a cave, creeping along damp and creaky boards through open chambers and narrow passages. The multicolored lights scattered throughout the caverns made the rock formations look like magical crystals and visible but inaccessible branching passages teased my imagination with the possibilities of ancient treasures or dragons, especially after we reached a vaultlike space that towered above us and dropped far below us. After spending nearly an hour picking our way gingerly through the dank and dimly lit caves, we finally emerged from the mountainside to a grand vista of sprawling forests and a bubbling stream dropping over a ledge into a small, clear pool. Success! Stage complete! Cue uplifting music as hope springs until the next plot twist.
As we continued on, the aroma of grilling meat drew us rapidly down the mountainside to where a hearty lunch and our other companions were waiting for us. We feasted, we swapped stories, we cleaned the ichor off our blades and resharpened them for the next adventure.

So now we’ve arrived at the inn where we will shelter for the night, just a short walk through town from the sea. Our guide gave us a quick orientation ([Town Map] acquired!) And then we went our separate ways. All that’s missing for today to be straight out of Tolkein’s daydreams is some wood elves or orcspawn; I guess the wall climbing ninjacats prowling all around the courtyard are ambiance enough.

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Touring Turkey

For the past several days, I have been running around with a tour group in Turkey. So far we’ve gone through Istanbul and Ankara, and have just arrived in Cappadocia. It’s been a pretty full schedule since arriving, but here in a nice little bed and breakfast (converted from an old Greek-style house) we have some downtime before dinner.

It’s been interesting traveling with this group, which, with one exception, is made up entirely of people at least twice my age. I have no problem with that, and sort of expected it signing up for this particular tour. It’s always an experience being around people from a much different demographic and I actually enjoy spending time around more experienced folks.

Being around this particular crowd has been encouraging to me in several ways. Firstly, they’re all active and healthy, which is always good to see in light of all the media and news about how unhealthy Americans are. Second, even though most of them are just normal folks the amount of knowledge they’ve accumulated with a few extra decades is pretty eye-opening, and definitely encourages me to keep on learning the rest of my life. Thirdly, I realize I’m incredibly fortunate to have been to as many places as I have at such a young age – most of them have only ever been to Western Europe, and for some, it’s their first time really taking a big trip. They think it’s pretty cool that I have an opportunity like this in my youth and would probably do the same if they had the chance. Some of them also joked that I would care more about creature comforts as I get older and creakier. I completely believe them.

So yeah, that settles it even more – I’m not going to waste this window of opportunity.

Hm, I didn’t really talk about Turkey. More on that later then; just heard a car pull up, most likely to take us to dinner.

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