Just a Matter of Time –– Until the End of Time

From the first Chapter.

Janice Amwestson carefully steps between the rows of vegetables in her backyard garden alongside the greenhouse. She looks over the roof of the greenhouse, her ears tuned for a whirling noise. She directs her gaze over the house, into the blanket of treetops, as the rising sun illuminates the scattered white fluffy clouds. “Another beautiful day.” Her husband, Robert, hollers out the back door, “Honey, I’m leaving. I may be a bit later at the office. I’m taking the bike. Got that meeting tomorrow evening.”
“Be careful,” Janice replies as the screen door squeaks.
Janice has a wicker basket over her left forearm that holds a few of the selectively chosen first ripened tomatoes, an immature head of iceberg lettuce, and a few cucumbers. She methodically bites into a tomato concentrating on the taste. Looking at the other half, she wonders at the complexity of the intricate design. “How magnificent this is.”

That’s the title and sub-title of my new novel soon to be released. Yippee, I scream in delight. Finally, after penning the original draft for about a year, then another year of changes, edits, corrections, and more edits to this finality.

Dark Cloud

The last two days have been numb, a dark cloud hanging over me. Couldn’t get away from the TV. College Football? Who won? The Cubs, yeah, they lost another. Movies. Huh? The chair was comforting, nice and soft, within easy reach of the coffee cup and snacks. Sunday Professional football. Who won? Who cares? When will I hear from that publisher? Been working on that novel for two years. If yes, then what? Requirements from them to publicize the book. Yuck, not my cup of java. Finally, had enough and got out of the house. Saw a good friend and shared burden. A smile and the dark cloud started moving away. Back to the chair and more movies. Finally, prepping to crawl into bed when a remembrance of a hymn broke across the numbness.

“When I in awesome wonder, 
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; 
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, 
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, 
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, 
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!” 

Yes, all is well with my soul.

Is Christianity a religion?

I’m beginning to dislike the word ‘religion.’  Whenever I see the word ‘religion’ in an article, I think of all those religions of the world; Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, etc., as a choice one makes to accept, to believe in, and to follow those ways and means. Is choosing a religion the same as the choice of a Chrysler over a Buick, a Ford, Chevy or Volkswagen? A cup of coffee in the morning instead of hot tea or milk. What basis do we use when choosing which to follow? Do we have to accept one or the other? Or, nothing. Atheism is considered a religious belief.

So let’s start by looking at how Webster defines ‘religion.’

“Religion is:

  • a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
  • a body of beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural and the worship of one or more deities.
  • the service and worship of God or the supernatural
  • commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance.

We don’t and can’t see the law of gravity, but we see its effects when a coin falls out of our pocket. We don’t see, taste, smell, feel or hear the air we breathe, yet it’s there. We don’t see the waves of sound moving from the lips of another to our ears, yet it happens, and we don’t feel it either. We don’t see the aroma of a rose bud reaching our nose. These sensations are invisible, but yet, they are just as real as these fingers of mine pushing on the keyboard. Are these sensations we don’t see just a system of religious attitudes?

Jesus was a real physical human being in a body like ours: two legs, two arms, eyes, ears, a nose as part of the head with hair, two lips, all together connected by a neck to the shoulders, chest, hips connected by bones, arteries, muscles to the knees and the same to the ankles and toes. He breathed, ate bread, and smelled the roses just like we do.  His seed was planted inside a woman’s egg to make a human, which grew as you did within your mother’s womb. He was born and given that first breath of air. After some thirty years of physically moving here and there upon this planet, He was whipped and hung on a cross, where He gasped and exhaled that last breath of air. His life-less physical body was wrapped as the custom was then, laid to rest and secured in a tomb.

But then that unseen dimension, the spiritual element intervened, and the spiritual Jesus entered that same dead body. The stone rolled away, and He walked and talked again on this physical earth. There are eye-witnesses to it. We have their testimony. We can read about it, just like we read about Thomas Edison and the invention of a light bulb. It’s historical. It was real. His life changed the world and people like us for the last 2000 years.

 

Christianity is more real than a system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new One.

The newest novel is finished, but not yet published. Yee Gads, to get something published nowadays is like walking , thumbing one’s way through ten-feet high bales of hay.  But anyway, it’s still one day at a time, one key punch after another and then the end comes with a big shout followed by a deep breath of relaxation. Yes, the title is: “Just a Matter of Time.” Subtitled: “Until the end of Time.”

We all rise to a world of technology advancing faster than a Nascar Corvette. Where will it take us five, ten, twenty years down the road, or even just two years. How will this technology of iPhones doing more than a desk-top computer of three years ago affect our communications, our social network (which used to be just extended families), and our daily work lives.  Huh? Think about it. That’s what Just a Matter of Time delves into. The daily lives of a family of four over three months.

Election Noise

“Make some noise, let’s hear it.” The electronic sign bellowed out to the 50,000 fans watching the ball game.

That is my summary of the election yesterday. Noise.

We still have the rule of law. We still have Two houses of Congress. In two years we’ll vote again.

There are two kinds of noise; natural and manufactured.

It’s the loud, consistent rumbling on the airwaves that gets our attention. It’s the thunder that causes us to look out the window. It’s noise, it’s the alarm clock that wakes us from slumber. The loud arguments between relatives disturb the kiddies. The media and what we hear on the tube, see on videos, hear from the media, from Hollywood, from Washington, and locally is manufactured noise that has the effect of dividing us.

Then there is the natural noise of nature. Thunder and lightning, volcanoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, the roar of a lion or bear, the woofs of a rabid dog, the hissing of a snake. We run to take cover. We huddle together. We reach out for a solid safe hand to hold onto. It’s the natural noise that draws us together.

The Psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Five Senses.

Here’s a test for you. Take out a sheet of paper, a #2 pencil or your favorite paper mate pen and write down these words: Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth, and Touch. Now choose one. Choose your favorite.  The one you like the most. Is it your nose because you love the aroma of roses. Is it your mouth that continually smiles and tastes the sweet tea? Is it the sight of a rainbow. Is it your skin so smooth and soft? Or, do you hate your ears because they stick out too far? Or, do you really hate your nose because it reminds you of a camel’s back?

Choose the one you’d agree to have disabled, removed so you could not see, could not hear, could not speak, could not smell or touch. Which one would you agree to do without? Place a big X over that word. Now, imagine what everyday life would be without that sense. No eyes seeing the moon, without your ears to hear your favorite words, without your nose to smell, minus your mouth to taste and smile, or without that sense of feeling you get when you scratch your back.

Which would it be? The sense of touch, smell, sight, taste or hearing?

Look at the animals; at your pet dog, your pussycat, the parakeet locked in the cage, your hamster running on the circular treadmill, at the horse in the barn, at your gold-fish tank. All of these creatures must be fed each day, provided with water, and a place to rest and play. The dog barks, the cat meows, the bird mimic your words, the hamster, well, I’ve never been around any, so I’m not aware of the sounds they make, and the goldfish no voice I assume. Every one of them has eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth or beak to eat with, and yes, that parakeet would not find the perch to stand on without that sense of touch.

Say something drastic happened to you. Perhaps a car wreck, a fist fight with a neighbor, the subway crashed, or you were in a train wreck. The flight to LA caught fire and had to land in the desert of New Mexico, a tornado tore the roof off your house, or an Alien broke through your back door demanding all five; eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and ability to feel the touch.  They are needed by the aliens to replicate the likeness of humans. Imagine any kind of scenario that would remove one of those five elements.  Choose the one you’d keep, choose the two you deem impossible to live without, the three or four most important ones to you. Or if you’re lucky, the Alien would only demand one be removed from you. Your choice, and then he’d go to your neighbors home.

Which would it be?

No doubt, you’ve seen a blind person navigating the street with a white stick he uses to strike across the path in front that he cannot see. You stop and talk, and his eyes appear to be looking out into space. He hears you wink and the honks of vehicles. He can hear the click of the red light changing to green. He can smell your perfume and is able to talk back to you. He just can’t see you. He can touch the shape of your face, feeling the soft smooth or the rough, wrinkled hands.  Would you willingly give the alien your eyes, if you could keep the other four, or beg or bargain with him to choose something else?

How about the person who’s born deaf, the veteran who lost his ears, or the aged man who operated loud, noisy machinery most of his life without ear muffs, slowly losing that ability to clearly understand words spoken in a restaurant or a small room where the sounds vibrate off the smooth walls. That’s my dilemma. Yes, there are hearing aids that magnify sounds, but it’s still not as those ears were designed to operate. No longer can I hear a pin drop. I could learn to read lips. I could learn sign language. Sure, when watching TV, I can choose closed captioning. Spending an evening out at the theater is useless. Would you give the Alien your ears?

The two nostrils of your nose enable you to smell the rose or choose which perfume you’d like best. You can inhale the aroma steaming off the dinner plate. And, also those smells you find visiting a farmers outhouse. Put a clothespin over your nostrils, and your mouth is forced open to breathe in the fresh air. Okay, Alien, you can have the nose. I can still breathe and smelling a rose is no big thing to me, but would the shape of my nose still be there? Huh? Would you enjoy looking in the mirror and see just smooth skin between your cheekbones?

Have you ever seen a person without a mouth? Just a continuation of the skin from the nose to chin? Nope. No doubt you’ve seen various shapes to the upper or lower lips. The mouth provides us the ability to smile exposing the white teeth. It can grin, and cause the lips to droop and the tongue to stick out when you wish to express your emotion to a friend you suddenly hate. With the mouth, you separate the two lips and with the teeth chew your food. The ability to eat and drink that coffee first thing in the morning would be removed. You exhale and breathe through those two separated lips. You taste that java and the roasted bar-b-que hot dog, and the, oooh, hot spicy jalapeno pepper. The words you speak are propelled out of your mouth. Would you give it up? The Alien wants your mouth. Tough buddy, get one of those needles inserted into a vein to provide you with sustaining food.

Hey neighbor, the Alien greets you and holds you down and removes the sense of touch as you swap the fly. No big deal, or is it? Now, you wonder what’s going on as you walk barefooted to the Living room and you can’t feel the difference between soft carpet and the hard slippery ceramic tile you so carefully placed together.  You raise your hand against the wall to help your balance, hearing a thug. Your fingers do not sense the difference between cotton fleece or sandpaper, the hot pan or ice cubes. You want to operate the remote that your hand is holding and you’ve got to look to see if it’s really in your hand. You turn on the water faucet not knowing when the water is cold or blistering hot. You spend some time outside breathing in the steaming hot 105-degree afternoon wondering why the sweat is pouring off your forehead. You go to scratch the itching back but, did your hand reach the spot. You lay down in bed and pull the covers over. You see it over your shoulder, but you don’t feel the warmth and comfort. You jump into the pool and see it splash, but can not sense the touch of the cool water surrounding you.

Unlike the others, the sense of touch is without a single physical object like the nose, your ears, eyes, or mouth. It’s not confined to just your fingertips, the skin of your cheeks feeling the raindrops, or your ankles being cooled in the rushing waters of the creek.

“Nope, sorry,” the Alien says, “but we’re going to disable all those itty bitty nerves at the roots so we can finish our project. We’re taking that sense of touch, as you did not choose one of the others.?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball, the American pastime sport of sports.

What is it about baseball that attracts so many loyal fans to watch a three-hour slow moving game? Slow, yes, compared to most other team sports such as basketball, football, soccer, and rugby. The seven players standing and waiting for the pitcher to receive the signal from the catcher squatting behind the batter. He fingers the ball, winds up and throws the hard small white ball at 95mph. The batter swings and misses. Ball one the referee calls, and the catcher throws the ball back to the mound. The four infield and three outfield players shuffle their legs and arms, rubbing the mitts getting in position for another pitch and swing for the ball to be hit in their direction. Possibly.

The game in various forms has been played since the 18th century or even before, but it wasn’t until September 23, 1845 when its first official rulebook known as the Knickerbocker Rules were formulated by Alexander J. Cartwright. Many updates and modifications have been agreed upon since then.

The baseball is 2.8-2.9 inches in diameter and weighs 5 to 5.25 ounces. The bat cannot be thicker than 2.75 inches with a maximum length of 42 inches.

Imagine the instincts and skill the batter must have looking at that ball approaching the strike zone in less than a second. Does he swing or not? Will the ball be down around the knees or up above his belt? Will it be inside or on the outside corner of the 17-inch wide plate? A fastball or curve, a slider or change-up at 78 mph?  The batter wants to swing the bat fast enough to hit that ball square-on with the full force of the swing to cause the ball to roll or fly between the infielders or outfielders or, out of the park. And the picture wants to strike him out or cause him to hit into a double-play. Three missed swings, and he’s outta there. Four balls outside the strike zone without a swing, and he gets a free walk to first. Pop-ups, sending the ball high into the air, is caused by the bat striking the bottom quarter of the ball, when the batter wanted to hit it square on. On ground balls, the bat meets the ball a bit above center. A good hard line drive is when the batter has swung the bat at the right speed interpreting the speed by the perceived vision of the pitcher’s performance. If he swings too soon and he pulls it foul. Too late and the ball goes into the other stands. Just a tag later or sooner and the ball will be in fair territory.

Summary: A star player hitting the ball safely one-third of the time entices the fans to purchase jerseys with his name on it.

Three hours of this, when you may have gone to get a beer, and a hot-dog, that one swing of the bat determined the game. You missed it, but oh, there it is on the replay screen. Twenty to forty thousand watching in the stadium and thousands, perhaps millions watching it on TV. Yes, a one to nothing game can be boring if all the concentration is on the hitting and running the bases.

Fielding is another practiced skill aspect trying to accurately throw a ball from deep left field to the catcher to get the guy out at home plate as he slides into or around the catcher who’s concentrating on catching the ball on the bounce and turning to tag the runner before his hand tags the plate. “Safe,” the umpire signals. “No hold on a minute,” the manager signals. “I want a review.” The umpires signal to the people upstairs to replay and study the videos, while the players and the fans anxiously wait for the verdict. “Nope, he’s out.”

A long, long time ago, I hid on the back seat floor of the Plymouth, when dad and my older brother got ready to drive all the way north to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs get beat. Somewhere on the drive, I was discovered, and he had to stop to use the pay phone to inform mon where I was. Hmm? I don’t remember a thing about that game.

Wrigley Field is revered in Chicago as a landmark. It’s one of the oldest original stadiums, opening under the name Weeghman Park in 1914 at Clark and Addison at the Lakeview area of the near northside. The Cubs played their first game at Weeghman Park on April 20, 1916, besting the  Cincinnati Reds 7–6 in eleven innings. In the early 20’s the yearly attendance recorded 542,283 fans watching the Cubs play. It was not until 1988 when the Wrigley Family added lights to the ballpark. In 2017, the paid fans at the Cubs home games was recorded at 3,199,562.

Baseball is played in nine innings of three-outs for each side. Runs, whatever the offense can muster. According to data, the most runs scored in any single ballgame was 49 in August 1922 when the Cubbies beat the Phillies 26-23. In 2007 The Texas Rangers scored 30 runs in the first game of a double-header against Baltimore Orioles. Baseball can also be a game with lots of excitement viewing them safely hit the ball and run around the bases.

Currently, the teams play a 162 game season starting around the first of April, with the last game the end of September.  Then the post-season begins. The final seven-game (if necessary) World Series is between the winner of the National League East, Central and West divisions against the best of the American League 15 teams occurs toward the end of October.

Okay, enough about the game itself. Imagine yourself a 30-some-year old player, married with children spending eighty some nights away from the home field sleeping in motels, flying to the next city after the game for three nights in another motel. Then getting up early to go practice before the afternoon game, or an evening game that may end after ten pm, then flying to another city for another three-hour game starting at 1:30, thirteen hours later. Hardly enough time to get a good nights sleep. This past June, the Cubs played 17 games without a day off.

Currently, there are organized leagues teaching, coaching and playing baseball/softball for kids as young as Five. If the interest is still there, the kids work their way through the various age group leagues and into high school ball and possibly college. If a player proves his skill there, he may be drafted into the majors to advance to the A level, the AA level, the AAA minor league level and finally to the majors if an injury does not force him out. Players are recruited from as far away as Japan, South Korea, South America and our neighbor Canada. A bunch from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Venezuela and just a few from Europe and elsewhere. China and Russia, none so far.

Injuries in baseball are quite common. A strained muscle or an ankle, knee, arm, hand or shoulder sprain can sideline a ballplayer onto the Disabled List for some time. There have been broken bones. There have been concussions. Some pitchers have been injured by a ball coming back at them at 140 mph. Some catchers have been injured by a ball slightly hit causing the catcher to miss it, and the ball knocks off his helmet or bounces up into his thigh and crotch. “ouch.” Umpires have been hit by the ball. Fans have been injured trying to catch one of those foul balls.

Each team must have a support staff of base coaches, pitching, fielding and batting coaches, medical personnel, and all those who clean the uniforms to have them ready for the players entering the locker room. There must be drivers of the busses to take the players back and forth to the airports, as well as people to pack the uniforms, the bats, balls, gloves, helmets, shoes, hand gloves and protective equipment they use when facing the ball coming at 95mph. There must be cleaners for the locker-rooms and dugout areas, not to mention the number of people it must take to pick up the trash left by spectators under the seats. A ground crew is needed to cut and mow the grass decoratively. A crew must be available to rake the infield dirt and roll out the carp when the rains come. The grass must be fertilized and watered to maintain the field in excellent shape without ridges and bumps. 162 times a year they play, plus practice sessions and games in spring training in the warmer climates, which stars in mid-February lasting to the beginning of the regular season.

Hmm, the players are at the daily command of the manager and owner for seven and a half months of each year. What do they tell the players to do during that time away from the ball-park?

“Yeah, good, four and a half months off to do what I and the family want. Ah, that three-week cruise you planned was wonderful, but I’ve got to get back into shape or I won’t be able to swing that bat, or chase after the ball as well as I have been, or I might be traded to NY or LA so far away from home. “Sorry honey, I’ve got to go to the gym today, and the media has requested an interview, and the charity ball is right around the corner. Thanksgiving, then Christmas and New Years. “Oh man, I ate too much, enjoyed the desserts like never before.” Five weeks away and a new season starts. “Let’s take a trip to Rome before the team’s golf outing in Florida in three weeks.”

The next possible technical change being investigated is eliminating the behind the plate umpire calling the balls and strikes, as there have been many controversies as to the correct call. “Oh, no, that was off the plate,” the player huffs and puffs in anger, “You are capable of making mistakes Mr. Umpire.”

The future may be in the digital world of calling strikes and balls.

Is Baseball still America’s pastime?