Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That time of year again...

Once a year a plague is visited upon me and that time is again drawing nigh. The first full week of August sees the serene beauty of the Black Hills shattered by a ravenous horde of doctors, lawyers and retirees astride their overpriced Harleys. Yes, I am speaking of the Sturgis Rally, or as I like to call it: Bad-Ass Fantasy Camp.

And what better way to show what a tough guy you are than to have your $15,000 piece of crap Harley shipped to Sturgis while you fly in first class... wouldn't want to get any bugs in your teeth now, would you? And just to make sure everybody knows what a tough guy you are (if they didn't pick up on it by the fact that you're riding a Harley), be sure to cover yourself from head to toe in official Harley brand clothing, because until we saw your Harley headband, Harley T-Shirt, Harley Leather Jacket and Harley Leather Pants, we weren't really sure what kind of bike you owned.

Of course, there are a few actual bad-asses to be found. During the rally last year I was enjoying the buffet at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Spearfish when a real live Hell's Angel let me have the last Original Recipe drum stick... no doubt he realized that a man eating chicken during the Dormition Fast was someone not to be trifled with.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gourmet Tonic Water?

I'm not opposed to pricey spirits by any means. Though I drink my Jameson's without shame, were it within my budget, Laphroaig would find itself a regular place in my liquor cabinet. But the mind recoils at the prospect of a drink with Q Tonic in it. Perhaps if it were the last mixer on earth, and it was a particularly hot day, it might see the inside of my highball glass. Until that day arrives, however, I'll take my G&T with Canada Dry, please.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Thinking of this post from Frontier Orthodoxy got me to thinking about the liturgical moments in my life outside church. For me, these are almost always connected with fishing. I don't claim to be a great fisherman or even a good one but I do claim to have caught some fish and if, at the end of all things, something similar can be said about my soul, I'll be happy to count it as win.

Whitewood Creek is close. So close, I can see my home up on Houston St. as I fish in the valley below. With a toddler and an very pregnant wife at home, this is about as good as gets. When I walk the dog, I can hear the rush of the water and the sound makes me think of fishing, which is almost as good as fishing itself.

You have to watch your step wading up Whitewood Creek. The stream bed is what my dad would call "an ankle breaker", strewn with rocks, logs and the detritus of 100 years of mining and railroading. There are fish in this creek, pretty little brown trout that leap into the morning air chasing bugs so small you can barely see them. They aren't the biggest fish you can catch in the Black Hills and some anglers I know would find a trip to Whitewood a waste of time. A big catch in this fishery is 10 inches, something they wouldn't roll out of bed for. That's why I like it here. I like it too because the fish are dumb and hungry. So dumb and so hungry that they will take my flies, no matter how badly tied and how poorly cast.

There is a feeling that is like no other and that feeling is this: Fishing on a chilly September morning and seeing a fish rising up-stream. Looking down at your feet, seeing a caddisfly float past and knowing in your heart of hearts that this is the bug that fish is eating. Looking in your fly box and seeing a fly that you tied 3 months before and suspecting that this little bit of hook, feather and fur just might fool that fish. Tying on and feeling that pesky headwind dwindle and die as you start to cast. Not hurrying, keeping the four count rhythm, ever mindful of the tree behind you that has shattered so many moments like this in the past. Making the best damn cast you've made all morning if not the whole damn summer. The fly touching the water for an instant before it is pounced on in a strike as pretty as anything you'd imagine. In the brief, lopsided struggle that ensues, the fish flings itself skyward and you can see its a good one. The fish is in the net and you have a few seconds to admire the vibrant red spots that the brown trout get close to spawning time. The hook comes out easily and the fish swims away to be caught on another chilly September morning.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hey Little Darlin

Some college acquaintances of my wife's at Celtic Connections in Glasgow.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Troubled times for a church that has been troubled more than most in Ukraine, according to the NCR, via the Anastasis Dialogue.

Friday, March 12, 2010

How something becomes kitsch, Soviet style

Interesting to see how this, from a popular Soviet musical (?!?) of the 1960s (The Blue Spark)

turned into the Brezhnevian version of a Lawrence Welk number:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Food for Thought

An interesting article on the Freakonomics blog regarding the primitive food movement:

Responding to the increasing complexity of food in 1870, John Cowan, author of What to Eat; And How to Cook It, lambasted Americans for eating “conglomerate mixtures”—ingredients “mixed in all shapes, in all measures, and under all conditions.” He insisted that these overly processed foods not only led to “a clogged brain” but also a “sickly and unenjoyable life.

And yes, this is yet another attempt to relaunch this blog.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Oh No!" I heard her cry from the other room and in that instant I knew you were gone. I would never get to hold you or even see you as a ghostly outline on a screen. The only proof that you were ever here are some results from a lab test and our broken hearts. I stare at Icons on the wall and feel nothing: She looks disappointed and His eyes are inscrutable. Well wishers say all the wrong things: "Be happy for what you have"... "You can try again"... "It wasn't meant to be"... I don't want platitudes, I want to hold you, read to you and embarrass you in front of your friends. Will I see you at the end of things? Will you know me?

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Eye of a Needle

The comments on this post at the Ochlophobist remind of the words of Lady Marchmain:

"Now I realize that it is possible for the rich to sin by coveting the privileges of the poor."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring is sort of here

It is almost the end of April and spring is here... sort of. Snow still lurks ominously at the tail end of the 10 day forecast and happy are the days when the mercury reaches 60 degrees, but the trend is definitely springward.

As the 15 feet or so of snow we received this winter starts to melt and swell the streams and creeks with run-off, one's mind turns naturally to the subject of trout and how to catch them. Catching them is an impossible dream at this time of year as even the most bucolic streams are swollen and raging torrents, overflowing their banks and sweeping all before them. I am biding my time, restocking my emptied fly boxes with feeble self tied brassies, copper johns and caddis fly imitations and, when the itch gets bad, I drive to the fish hatchery to look at the monster trout in the display pond. If I squint, it is almost like they are pouncing on my dry flies and not on the brown food pellets the tourists buy for a quarter and toss to the already over sized fish.

The mule deer have had it rough. Winter came early, covering much of their grazing area with 4 feet of snow and those that survived hunting season also had to contend with mountain lions and a pack of timber wolves. The fauns that last spring looked innocent and cute with their white spotted coats and spindly legs now have a world weary look in their dim-witted eyes. Instead of looking at the world with wonder, they seem to ask it "how could you do this to me?" This makes me sad because my daughter is just old enough that when I take her outside, I can see the wonder in her eyes. I know that it won't be long until, like the fauns, she is betrayed by the world.

By the middle of May, the snow will be gone, the creeks will return to normal and newborn fauns will stumble through my backyard.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Still Alive

It has been almost six month's since my last post and though lots has happened in that time, I haven't been able to muster much enthusiasm for posting. But recently I have felt the tingle of logorrhoea stirring in my bowels and so I find myself here again, ready to foist myself on the 2 or 3 people foolish enough to still subscribe to my RSS feed.

It has been an eventful six months. My daughter continues to grow and thrive, despite my ineptitude as a parent. Every day brings new feats of childhood development and new opportunities for me to give her something to talk about in therapy when she's older. Though it is not what I expected, parenthood has been the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Yet it is terrifying as well, as I grapple with the fact that I simply cannot protect her from everything, even myself.

I was laid off in January when my company, like so many others, succumbed to the global economic melt down. Unfortunately, being an out of work computer programmer in South Dakota is a pretty grim situation. The technology sector was not exactly thriving here during the boom times and now that economy is bust, I'll be lucky if I can get a job doing anything at all. Sadly, I am spectacularly unsuited to the industries that are surviving here, like tourism and timber. On the bright side, my wife is still employed and likely to remain so and we are able to eek out a living on less than half of what we were making together.

It has been a long winter, and not just spiritually. 3 blizzards in as many weeks dropped 7 or so feet of snow where we live during the month of March. But spring is in the air and I managed to get out do a little fishing between major winter storms. Flooding from the melting snow has rendered most of my favorite streams unfishable for the time being but I am eagerly tying flies in anticipation of summer.

I'm not sure how long this re-launch will last. Frankly, I'm not even sure what I want to write about. Blogging about religion is a near occasion of sin for me, since I am unable to write about it without being obnoxious, tedious or a bore. My extra-curricular interests are so disparate that combining them in one place would be strange, so if you want to read my thoughts on backgammon you'll have to visit my backgammon blog, The Bar Point. Readers of this blog will probably still have to put up with ramblings about fly fishing, gold prospecting and my dismal employment prospects.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Boring Baby Video

The first of many boring baby videos, sure to drive off what remains of my readership!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Grace Pilar Roberts

Grace Pilar Roberts
5lbs 9oz
19.25 inches long
Born on 9/27/2008 at 12:34 AM

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nature, red in tooth and claw

Last week in my backyard:

Friday, July 11, 2008


There was an interesting discussion in Owen's comboxes a week or so ago that touched now and again on the use of CFL bulbs. I admit to being swept up by CFL fever until quite recently and at one point almost all bulbs in my mountain fastness were CFL. To their credit, I did see a significant savings, both in my electric bill and in the cost and frequency of replacements.

Then my wife got pregnant.

One day a few weeks after we learned this, I was putting a CFL bulb into a new lamp. Klutz that I am, I could not manage to hold a bulb, a lampshade and balance on a step ladder at the same time. As I swept up the shattered bits of glass that just moments ago were a 6 dollar lbulb, I recalled something I'd read on slashdot about cleaning up the home after a CFL breaks. You can read these articles here and here... as you can see, cleaning up after a breakage is no joke: Carpet removal, throwing away clothes and bedding, etc.

So, no more CFL bulbs for me or mine.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Claim Jumpers!

Apologies for the extended absence. Two weeks in Kansas City along with some visiting relatives have made my already infrequent bloggings even more rare.

Since getting back to the Black Hills, I've been playing catch-up with all my summertime hobbies, including gold prospecting. I don't claim to be any good at it, but I can tell you that there are few things as thrilling as finding a bunch of gold flakes at the bottom of your pan (especially when gold is over $1k an oz!).

For the last week or so, my buddies and I have been panning at Potato Creek (where Potato Creek Johnny made his great find) with good results... even our amateurish efforts yielded gold flakes in every pan. Apparently, our efforts did not go unnoticed, because a local mining operation filed placer claims up and down the creek last weekend. We have only ourselves to blame, I suppose... it only costs $150 bucks and some paperwork to file a claim and we certainly could have done so.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ghost Towns

Recent posts by Fr. Greg and Owen have set my mind to wandering and thinking about my beloved, abandoned Dakotas. Abandoned mining camps, forgotten towns and the ruins of earlier greatness litter the landscape like Ramen Noodle packages litter the floor of a college dorm room. Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are gone, never to return. The Sioux stay on their reservations. Custer is dead in ignominy.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I made the 60 mile trip to Rapid City to do some shopping. Like a meth addict to the lab, I was drawn to the local big box book store. In the "Local Interest" section near the entrance was a coffee table book on the ghost towns of the Black Hills. I opened it and was surprised to find my own town listed.

When I was a little boy, my answer to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" varied between two poles: Pavement Worker and Farmer. The joke is that, while we teach our children the joys of agrarian life through song ("Old MacDonald", "The Farmer in the dell", etc), this is not a life most children could choose even if they wanted to. Sure, they can attend any of our nations fine agricultural colleges, but where the hell are they going to get the farm? The sad truth is that, if your parents weren't farmers, you aren't going to be a farmer. I can take solace in the fact that pavement work is still within my grasp.

Can the clock be turned back?

Monday, May 26, 2008


I've made the drive from Lead, SD, to Denver, CO, many times. I've got a million pictures of antelope playing, rainbows over the plains and ghost towns taken during the six hour drive. It figures... the one time I decide not to bring the camera, I see something worth taking a picture of.

My wife and I drove down to Denver on Friday to do some shopping in preparation for the arrival of our first child (there is not a Babies-R-Us within 500 miles of us). We were cautiously driving, through torrential down pours and hail, down I-25 around Wheatland, WY, when we noticed what appeared to be a large funnel cloud far to the west. Turns out it was one of the many tornadoes during this weekend's outbreak.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


My wife and I drove down to Custer State Park this weekend, hoping to see some mountain goats. They were nowhere to be found, but we did see some antelope as well as several of the herds of free range buffalo.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Baby Girl

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Man vs. Trout

Here I am with a smallish Rainbow Trout, caught last month on Crow Creek.

Here I am with an even smaller Brown Trout:

Friday, May 2, 2008

Spring Time in South Dakota

Wednesday night it began to rain. This is what it looked like by Friday afternoon:

Posted by Picasa

UPDATE: The official tally is that we got 32 inches. However, I went out with a measure and consistently found depths of at least 40 inches and in many places it was well over 4 feet.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Triumph In Spearfish Canyon!

I struck out last week, but this afternoon I finally pulled my first trout of Spearfish Creek. It was a harrowing experience... I sunk waist deep in mud at one point and began to wonder if I would be able to get out. At another point I could barely make headway against the current and had to pull myself forward inch by inch. But at last I found a nice deep pool in the creek and I could see my adversaries at the bottom. Using a Copper John tied by my friend Patrick, I caught two brown trout (about 8 to 10 inches each) casting across the creek and slightly up stream. I had a couple of close calls with overhanging branches, but managed to get unsnagged each time without scaring off the fish.

The only disappointment of the day was that the flies I tied myself were not successful. Two were lost in the trees and one began to unravel... better luck next time!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Self Consciousness

One morning after Matins at Holy Resurrection Monastery, where I was once a novice, one of the monks looked at me said "Dear Br. Spyridon (for that was my monastic name), the one thing you need but can never have is a Catholic childhood!"

He said this because he had seen in me (a very recent convert to the True Church (TM)), from the moment I showed up, an awkwardness in my religion. Over the next two years he would do his best to give me the Catholic childhood I had missed. Using his unique spiritual gifts (discouragement and sarcasm), a vigorous reading program (the Sword of Honor trilogy, The Land of Spices, Speak Memory, to name but a few) and, well hidden beneath his crusty exterior, a generous amount of love and prayers, he attempted to transmute a convert still damp with the oil of chrism into a cradle Catholic.

Sadly, he was never entirely successful. I still feel self conscious when making the sign of the cross. I still don't know what to buy someone on the occasion of their first communion. Unlike the residents of Santa Dulcina delle Rocce, "... to whom the supernatural order in all its ramifications was ever present and ever more lively than the humdrum world about them...", for the me the supernatural order and clouds of witnesses are something I read about but rarely feel comfortable enough to treat as a reality.

My fervent prayer is that someday before I die I will be able to walk into a church and not wonder what the hell I am doing there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More Fish Stories

I went fishing again yesterday after work. I first tried close to home, on White Tail Creek which runs through the Kirk Valley below my home. It is a pretty narrow stream at most places and those places where it widens up a bit have a lot of overhanging trees, so I wasn't able to do much in the way of angling.

So, I motored down Highway 85 a couple of miles to Spearfish Canyon and, after nearly getting the RAV4 stuck in about a foot and a half of snow on one side road, found a place to try my hand. My reading on fishing in the canyon indicated that dry flies were often successful, so I tied one on and started working my way up Spearfish Creek. The water moves pretty fast where I was so I was doing a lot of casting, but alas, no luck. I lost one fly due to a poor knot. Better luck next time!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fishing on Saturday

Saturday, the first decent day of spring, found me out on Crow Creek with Jon and Patrick as we tried out our new fly fishing skills. I'd spent several hours last week standing in the middle of the street practicing my casting, but I was still nervous and convinced that I'd spend more time untangling my line from over hanging branches than fishing.

Jon and I started out at a wide pool at a bend in the creek. We were both fishing with a Hare's Ear, a wet fly tied by Jon himself, and it was clearly a great choice since we both caught fish within the first 5 minutes. Jon caught a smallish brown trout and I got an even smaller rainbow. Casting, at Crow Creek anyway, was easier than expected since the creek was pretty wide, there weren't a lot of overhanging branches and the brush hasn't really started to grow in yet. I only got hung up a couple of times and only one of those resulted in the loss of a fly.

We stayed out for about 5 hours and had lots of luck. Jon and I caught 4 or 5 each, while Patrick got 10 or so. Jon and Patrick each caught one fish of a size worth keeping (though we released all we caught), while mine were a little too small to fillet. We knocked off about 3:30 and headed to Sanford's for some much deserved beer! Below is a picture of Jon with one of his smaller conquests. More pics to follow!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My First Meme

The Rules:

a)The rules of the game are posted at the beginning
b)The blogger who gets tagged must answer the following questions about himself
c)After this has been accomplished, the blogger tags five more to answer the meme, and leaves a comment at their blog to answer it

1) What I was doing ten years ago: Working as a computer programmer for Meditech.

2) Five things on my to-do list:

  • Clean the garage
  • Figure out how to assemble my new fly fishing rod/reel.
  • Finish playing Field Commander: Rommel.
  • Put a patio in my backyard.
  • Call a plumber about installing an spigot near the garage.

3) Things I would do if I were a billonaire:

  • Buy a bigger house. Or maybe an entire subdivision of bigger houses.
  • Buy my wife a car with all wheel drive. Or maybe a fleet of cars with all wheel drive.

4) Three bad habits:

  • Laziness
  • Nail biting
  • Compulsive book buying

5) Five places I have visited:

6) Five jobs I’ve had:

  • Combat Field Medical Specialist, U.S. Army
  • Phlebotomist
  • Deli Clerk
  • Pizza Delivery Driver
  • Computer Programmer

7) Five snacks I enjoy:

  • Sour Gummy Worms - the best can be found at Wall Drug in Wall, SD.
  • Anything Jerky
  • Almonds
  • Hot-n-Spicy Chex Mix
  • Dried Figs
Five places I’ve lived:

  • Greensboro, NC
  • Longmeadow, MA
  • Karlsruhe, Germany
  • Newberry Springs, CA
  • Kansas City, MO

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Game Night

Last night I made the 40 mile journey to Beulah, WY, for my bi-monthly game night with Mike and Theresa. On the table this time was the highly anticipated Descent: Road to Legends. An expansion to base game Descent, Road to Legends adds a campaign setting to the game and the ability to continue your adventures over the many weeks it will take to complete it without having to leave this component heavy game set up on the kitchen table. After setting up and equipping our adventurers, we cleared one level of a nearby dungeon, then called it quits for the night. Though a bit too "dungeons and dragony", it was good fun.

Next, we played Through the Ages, a abstract Civilization-esque game. It is a neat game with elegant mechanics and a surprisingly quick pace. My only complaint is that it uses tons of these little wooden bits to track resources, population and other things and my clumsy fingers had a hard time manipulating them. Anyway, the object of the game is to produce more culture than the surrounding civilizations. This can be done in a variety of ways: science, art, religion, etc. Naturally, I went the religion route, adopting the Theocracy government type as soon as it showed up and plugged significant resources into my religion structures. Happily, I won by a wide margin.

All and all, a good time!

Friday, March 21, 2008


Sunday, March 2, 2008


Owen's recent post on St. David of Wales sent me on a trip down memory lane. It was a bit of a relief, honestly. I'm recovering from a bout with pneumonia (which I spent half the week thinking was flu), so a diversion to a more pleasant time is welcome.

As I've written elsewhere, I was once a novice in a small Eastern Catholic monastery in the Mojave Desert. To attempt to support itself, the monastery opened a bakery 75 miles away in the mountain resort town of Big Bear, California. For the first year of this adventure, a small house was rented in Big Bear and the monks assigned to the bakery (of which I was one) would live in this metochion during the week, baking bread and (in theory) living the same liturgical life they would have in the desert. What nobody realized at the time was that, in a bakery operation that ran 18 to 20 hours a day, the full liturgical life of a byzantine monastery was just not going to fit in. It's not as if you can say to the 50 lbs of dough you just took out of the mixer to just "hold it right there... I'll be back in an hour after Vespers!"

We faced other challenges to our liturgical life, one of which was a paucity of liturgical materials brought on by poverty. The monastery, of course, had the full complement of the St. John of Krondstadt Press Menaion (complete with hilarious mis-translations, absurd renderings into what translators thought was Elizabethan English and strident reminders about copyright laws and the pains of hell that awaited those who violated them on each and every page of this 12 volume set). In the metochion, we were not so fortunate. We had a three ring binder filled with printouts from Fr. Ephraim Lash's fine web-site and that was about it.

Another resource that I'd located on the internet was a free computer program called "Menologion", which had the troparia and kondakia for the whole Byzantine Calendar. This meant that we didn't have to use the generic "Office for a Heiromartyr" or the even more exciting "Office for two or more Heiromartyrs". The only weird thing was that the Menologion computer program, written by some guy in the U.K., included verses for every pre-schism saint in the British Ilse. Though certain of the brethren bridled at trying to mellifluously sing the praises of Kentigern Mungo, whose light apparently shone in Strathclyde like a beacon, I myself never really minded.

We'd, of course, been in stranger liturgical situations at the monastery, such as at the feast of St. Alexis Toth or St. Mark of Ephesus (when I asked the cynical but liturgically expert Br. James why we were celebrating the feast of St. Alexis Toth, he replied that the saint's great virtue was modesty because he'd kept all his other virtues secret). Yet I did find it curious that, at least in the eyes of the authors of Byzantine liturgical verses, England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland had once been holy places, filled with holy men and women, until January 1st, 1052 AD at 12:00 AM exactly, when the Holy Spirit, "moving mysteriously it's wonders to perform", suddenly shot across the English Channel on a course straight for Eastern Europe, never to be seen in those parts again.

But things aren't always as simple as what shows up in your Menaion or your missal or whatever book your church gives you. Ask the Coptic Orthodox with a devotion Padre Pio or the followers of some Mexican folk saint. Or, for that matter, the Greek Catholic monks who sang the praises of Alexis Toth, who shone forth from Wilkes-Barre like a beacon of Orthodoxy in America.