Archive for November 2012

Our Divided Country   Leave a comment

News from the Internet reports on the chasm I posted on the other day. Residents in more than 30 states have had it with the federal government and think secession may be the answer.

Some of the movement is people just expressing disappointment that President Obama won the election. That isn’t really surprising when you realize how close the vote was – Obama received 50.5% of the popular vote. He definitely won the Electoral College, so he will be President for the next four years, but he won with support from a tiny majority of voters. We know from experience that he’ll treat his squeaker win as a mandate and force his agenda on the nearly half of voters who voted against him. Half the country is deeply worried about what that means given Obama’s past performance.

Jeff Schweitzer of the Huffington Post suggests that the whole movement is just flat-out racists upset with a black man in the White House. He offered Texas as a new republic where anyone who wants to secede can go in shame for their un-American thoughts.

Mr. Schweitzer is wrong. He’s being a simplistic, knee-jerk liberal and showing that he’s never talked with anyone outside of his own bubble world. Being an Alaskan, secession is not a new thought to me. It preceded the Obama administration by at least three decades, when a white president violated the terms of Alaska Statehood Compact. The Alaska Independence Party has led the charge on this. I invite you to visit the website for an in depth look at the issue.

Alaskans are not alone in our long-term irritation with the federal government. Conservative extremists are not the only ones thinking a national divorce might be the answer to our problems. Secessionist groups exist in New England, the South, Texas, Hawaii, Oregon, and among American Indians, Midwestern Socialists and the Christian right. Although I am not in contact with any of these groups, I suspect some reasonable people belong to them, just as some reasonable people belong to the Alaska Independence Party.

Enlightened opinion on secession pronounces it “silly”, but shouldn’t the federal government take notice when more than 700,000 signatures have been gathered on various secession petitions around the nation? For every signature, there may well be 2 or 3 people who want to sign, but for various reasons haven’t. We know from the election that 49.5% of voters didn’t agree with Barack Obama’s leadership. We saw in 2009 what happens when Congress and the President ignores half the electorate, but now the protests have moved from public gatherings to formal petitions to the White House. How smart is it for the federal government to ignore such unarticulated dissatisfaction? Would-be secessionists hold to a principle too often ignored and irritably brushed aside in modern politics and culture.

The United States was founded by secessionists who rejected the top-down government fiat of the British crown in favor of the natural ground-up governance of the people. The states came first and then the states formed a country in order to cooperate on issues of a national nature. John Adams called Massachusetts his “country” and saw the United States as something his country participated in with other countries (we call them states). For the Constitution to come into effect, each state had to ratify it. The nature of the constitutional compact made Southerners believe they could abandon it at will. The Civil War settled the issue in a practical sense when the military power of the North made it clear that no states were going anywhere – ever, but the structural issues of a diverse nation of individualists growing out of a federal background remained and continue to be germane. The United States of America formed a federal republic through a compact and compacts can be dissolved or modified – unless a stronger military force says it can’t be.

We can read the meeting notes from the Constitutional Convention and recognize that the Constitution would not have been ratified if the smaller states had not been assured they would not lose their sovereignty when/if New York or another large population state decided to press a case for majority rule. The signatories to the Constitution would have objected to the federal government forcing Obamacare on the states. Regardless of whether they thought the Affordable Care Act was a good idea, they would have seen a law of that scope facing so much opposition as a violation of state sovereignty. To preserve national unity, they would have sent the issue back to the states, for the states to decide individually. Current theory says that one size fits all, but the founders would have seen such a theory as an erosion of their liberties and a return to tyrannical rule. Do as you’re told because Congress says so would not have been well received by the men who wrote the Constitution.

Ultimately, it’s a safe bet that no states are going to secede from the union. Alaska has been talking about it for 30 years and all we’re asking for is a plebiscite. We don’t want to give up our American citizenship. We do want reform of the current American system, but we’re not asking for anything drastic or unproven — we just want to go back to the way the country operated before the 20th century — organic government by the people, for the people, states to federal government. Top-down styles of government breed resentment and fury of the sort seen in the secessionist petitions. Those who do not learn from history may end up flattened by it.

The United States was created by secessionists. Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1811 letter “The true barrier of our liberty in this country are our State governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that which our Revolution and present government found us possessed. Seventeen distinct States, amalgamated into one as to their foreign concerns, but single and independent as to their internal administration … can never be so fascinated by the arts of one man as to submit voluntarily to his usurpation. Nor can they be constrained to it by any force he can possess.”

Translated into modern English, Jefferson was saying that the States protect the liberty of the country. They are distinct and independent in their internal administration, though they work together for the purposes of dealing with the rest of the world. No president can usurp their authority nor ever have enough power to force the states to his will.

Jefferson would not recognize the United States of American in 2012 as the same government as he presided over as president, but he would warn President Obama to view the secessionist movement as akin to the Committees of Correspondence and heed well THAT lesson of what happens when governments ignore such movements.

When half the country won’t listen to the other half because their side won the Presidential election by a slim margin, we’ve got a problem that won’t be fixed by, as Mr. Schweitzer suggests, the half that didn’t win sitting down and shutting up for the next four years.

Again, from my prior post, is it too much to ask that we stop screaming at one another and start dealing with the issues that affect us all?

Posted November 29, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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Shouting Across the Chasm   1 comment

Americans tend to live in their own bubble worlds and exclusively entertain those commentators who agree with their own point of view. This is true of people from both ends of the political spectrum. My huband’s coworkers in the IBEW insist that Bill O’Reilly wants to destroy unions in the United States, despite the fact that many of them have never watched the O’Reilly Factor or tuned into Fox News. On the other hand, I know staunch GOP members who have never logged onto the Huffington Post, but insist they know all about what’s reported there. This self-imposed narrowing of information sources occurs throughout America, in all walks of life and at all education levels. It leads to a mind-set where only your point of view is the correct view and those on the other end of the political spectrum are wackos, thieves and idiots. It’s comfortable to think that your side is the only reasonable side and that everyone else is misguided at best and evil at worst. Let’s step back from that for a moment, look across the American sociopolitical chasm and try to see what our opponents might be thinking.

A lot of rancor could be set aside if we would just talk with one another and find out what our neighbor or coworker actually believes rather than what our favored sources of information say they believe.

In this hypothetical conversation, there is a conservative and a progressive (sometimes inaccurately called a liberal). Neither is a Democrat or a Republican because those terms are meaningless. Party platforms change. Right now the GOP is trying very hard to figure out how to transform itself into the Democratic Party in order to win some elections. If the election had gone another way, the Democrats might be looking for values within the GOP that they could embrace. Political party is a false premise. Values, however, are where people truly live.

There are a variety of issues in the United States that divide people based upon what they value, but if we would listen to one another, we might find less acrimony.

Most Americans today believe there should be a safety net for the less fortunate in the country. We differ on what that would look like. The progressive believes there are people who need help, who struggle to put food on the table, a roof over their heads or who can’t afford medical care. A civilized society, they insist, would help them instead of leaving them to fend for themselves. They suggest that anyone who disagrees with government welfare programs (those dastardly conservatives) lacks compassion because they’ve never experienced deprivation and that a serious illness or a job layoff would convince conservatives to change their minds. Conservatives believe that people are responsible for themselves and, given the opportunity, are capable to supporting themselves and their family. If government provides support for people, they become dependent on that support and lose their will to work. This is destructive to the health of our society. Charitable organizations are much more equipped than government to deal with the truly needy by virtue of one-on-one contact and addressing the underlying causes of need and also because they are able to time-limit charity to prevent dependence. If government must be involved in charity, it should be barebones, local and time-limited. Conservatives also recognize that government aid comes with large government salaries, while charitable assistance is often provided by volunteers, thereby leaving more charity to go to the needy rather than salaries.

Progressives believe government exists to solve problems, reduce poverty, protect civil rights and civil liberties, keep us safe from preventable harm, and, as much as possible, ensure that all Americans have an equal chance to succeed. Progressives do not see society as individuals, but as a large group or village. The health of the group is far more important than the desires of the individual. They seek “fairness” in society. Because they see society as a group, they cannot tolerate the idea that some would benefit more from the freedoms of American society while others would struggle to pay for food or medicine. The richest people in America are doing just fine while poorer Americans have made only modest gains. This is not fair and therefore, it should not stand. Large corporations, if unregulated, will do whatever they can to maximize profits, even if it wreaks havoc on the environment or the welfare of ordinary citizens. Individuals cannot stand up to corporations. Only the government has that sort of power. If government can help create job opportunities during a period of high unemployment, that’s a perfect use of tax dollars.

Conservatives believe that the government should serve the people, but they also believe that the government usually gets in the way of the people’s best interests. Governments tend to grow like snowballs rolling downhill. If the trend is allowed to continue, government will expand and intrude in the lives of citizens even more than it does now. Conservatives believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. When our society allows the most dynamic, successful members of society to do what they do best, they create jobs and increase prosperity. Lowering taxes benefits everyone because it allows people to pursue their own goals and reduces the bureaucratic obstacles that hinder success. The legitimate functions of our federal government are to provide security through a strong defense and protect freedom for individuals, so that people can pursue their own goals. No one has an obligation to help a stranger involuntarily. Charity should be a personal decision. Encouraging voluntary giving would be better for America’s soul than seizing our money against our will. When the government confiscates property – whether personal, real or earnings – that is tyranny.

These two distinct views of the world result in different reactions to the country’s debt and political crisis. Progressives see that most of the world’s most successful and prosperous nations are liberal democracies that provide their citizens with strong safety nets. This represents the natural progression of civilization. The United States is behind the times and it is the government’s responsibility to bring us into the 21st century. Conservatives look to history and see that what made America great is the vastness of opportunity here. Freedom of opportunity requires freedom from government interference. The United States of America are not Europe. In fact, our citizens are the descendants of people who left Europe for American opportunity. We would be wrong to follow in Europe’s footsteps. We can do better by going our own way.

The fact is that conservatives and progressives have different values. Conservatives value honesty, hard work, self-sacrifice, loyalty, equality of opportunity and self-restraint. Conservatives trust individuals to do what is right for themselves and to be willing to help others as they are able in a voluntary fashion. Progressives value justice, compassion, and equality of outcome and see no conflict with forcing all of society to support their wonderful values.

There are merits to both sides of the ideological split in our country. There was a time when we could talk to one another and each present ideas of worth to address our nation’s problems. I grew up in a house divided – Mom was a conservative and Dad was a progressive. They taught me to value both of their views. Unfortunately, 30 years after their deaths, partisan politics has distorted the values of each group and made it impossible to hear one another. Perhaps we could start by recognizing that we’re talking about deeply held values and not political party.

Is it too much to ask that we stop shouting across the chasm, meeting for coffee at Barnes and Noble and just talk about what separates us?

Posted November 28, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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God Exists   1 comment

I live in a pretty secular state – Alaska. Gallup says church attendance here is about 31%, making it the fourth least churched state in the country. There are some Northeast states where fewer of the population attend church, but only three. A Southern Baptist poll a few years ago, perhaps asking more specific questions, found the rate to be about 15%. It is relatively easy in a state like Alaska to know people who not only reject faith for themselves, but are aggressive in their desire for believers to join them.

One of the demands I’ve received often while being called upon to defend my faith is “prove that God exists”.

To be perfectly honest, no human being can prove that God exists scientifically. God doesn’t fit in a test tube. There is some tremendous evidence for His existence, but the post-modern worldview that permeates our schools and media today strives actively to suppress and warp that evidence and to define a reasonable look at more than the accepted view of the universe as “insanity” or “stupidity”.

Scientifically, there is no way to prove there is a God, but there’s also no way to prove that there is not a God. Science can only deal with the physical world and the Bible teaches that God does not inhabit a physical plane. We can, however, see evidence in the physical plane of God working on the metaphysical one.

Let’s face it, the universe is a complex mechanism filled with other complex mechanisms, all working in complex relationship with one another.  I think it takes more faith to believe it all came about by random chance than it does to believe there is a creator. The mathematical probabilities of even a single cell organism evolving by chance to the complexity that exists in the world today strains reason beyond its rational limits. The uniqueness of this planet and the life on it are evidence of design.

Examples are many, but here are a few.

Earth is “just right” in terms of its size. If it had been too small, the solar winds would have prevented an atmosphere from developing, leaving behind a planet resembling Mercury or the moon. If the planet were much larger, there’d be too much free hydrogen in the atmosphere (as on Jupiter or Saturn). The Earth is “just right” in its distance from the sun – a small change would have made it too hot or too cold. Our moon, which science says is unique among the moons in the solar system, protects the planet from space debris that might have destroyed it long ago.

I just spent an afternoon learning about time dilation from a young cousin who is studying to be a physicist. This theory, based upon Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and observable evidence, posits that time progresses at different rates depending upon local distortions such as gravity and speed. Take a one-year journey on a space craft going near the speed of light and when you return to earth, your spouse will have aged 20 years while you only aged 1. That’s not science fiction. That’s actually science. My cousin suggests that we may be able to explain how 16 trillion years of universal time could be encapsulated into the six “days” of God’s creation story through the application of this science.

I’m not saying that any of this disproves materialism or proves God. I’m saying it should make us think and not just assume that what we believe to be true is true simply because we believe it.

The uniqueness of the earth is evidence of design, not time plus chance. The Bible tells us,

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

King David understood that the heavens speak of God. Romans 1:18-23 contends the real problem with understanding God is man’s rebellion and refusal to accept the evidence of nature.

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

Christians themselves are evidence of the reality of God and Christianity. If you know a sane, intelligent Christian who has experienced the power of Christ’s life in theirs as they embrace it in genuine faith and through knowledge of the Bible it should be hard for you to say Christianity is “crazy” or “stupid”. The ranks of Christians include scientists, philosophers, statesmen and many others who are highly intelligent and well-educated – Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Francis Collins being notable examples.

The greatest evidence for the reality of God is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His resurrection, a historical event attested by tremendous academic evidence, proved Him to be the Son of God and Savior of mankind. This proves the reality of God, the truth of Scripture which He affirmed, and of man’s need of His life and death. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul words spoken at Athens and recorded in the book of Acts in the New Testament.

“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’  “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

Historical archeology tells us that the altar to the Unknown God not only existed, but that it had a history.

There is no way to prove the existence of God scientifically, but the reliability of the New Testament and much of the Old Testament as historical sources has been tested and is well-founded.

One book I would suggest is “When Skeptics Ask” by Geisler and Brooks (Victor Books), which deals with many questions people often ask about God, Jesus and the Bible and includes footnotes to many other sources of information.

Posted November 27, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in Faith

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Economics 101 for 2012   1 comment

The federal budget is currently unsustainable. How do I know that? I can do basic math.

No matter who won the election, basic math was going to be a problem for them. The national debt is just shy of $17 trillion. The annual deficit is about $1 trillion. In 2010, the annual “budget” (what we spent, because Congress didn’t actually pass a budget in the last four years) was $3.8 trillion dollars. So just about $1 of every $3.50 we spend is borrowed from China or Japan or ….

Mittens didn’t win the election, so let’s not talk about his plans because they became irrelevant when President Obama won a second term. President Obama wants to raise tax rates on those making $250,000 or more back to the level they were at under the Clinton administration. He promises budget cut of $500 billion over the next 10 years. That’s $50 billion a year saved. He proposes to raise revenues by … well, about $800 million a year. His own website says the average family of wealthy people would only pay about $200 a year. That works out to about $800 million. That’s $8 billion in 10 years. But we have a $1 trillion a year annual deficit.  Every year we spend $1 trillion in borrowed money. So $50.8 billion dollars per year goes into $1 trillion and — that gap won’t close, will it?

Let’s be realistic, folks. There simply is not enough money in the economy to sustain the current level of federal spending. You’d need to tax all wages and investment earnings at about 65%. It’s simple math, using 2010 levels. All wages and investment earnings then were about $7.4 trillion. The federal government spent $3.8 trillion. Tax everyone above the poverty level at 65% and you close the fiscal gap. Sure, you could play with those numbers but another math reality lesson is that if you taxed all the millionaires and above at 100% of their incomes, you’d only raise about 40% of the fiscal gap for one year. Not that anyone is suggesting we tax rich folk at 100% of their income. That would be a self-defeating tax policy the collective cash cow that already pays more than 50% of all the tax revenues collected would to flee the country and take their income with them. Not even Obama Democrats would be that foolish … I think. Let’s just assume they’re smarter than that.

So President Obama wants to raise tax rates on the rich to Clintonian levels. Okay. While he’s at it, to be perfectly realistic, he should probably also raise all rates back to Clintonian levels. Since I know I can’t live on 35% of my income, I’d be down with a 4% increase so long … so long … as he also (ALSO!) reduced spending to Clintonian levels. In 1999, the Clinton administration spent about $1.7 trillion. Yeah, his entire budget for 1999 was only a few billion dollars more than the deficit for 2010 was. Do you see a theme here?

Sustain that for about 10 years and the economy would be very robust once more. I tried to figure out the effect on the debt, but my calculator has trouble with trillions. I think it would be reduced by 50% after 10 years under that scenario.  But how would we ever survive without the nearly $2 trillion in federal spending that would need to be eliminated EVERY YEAR?

Much like a family facing bankruptcy because they’ve run up too much debt on their credits cards and lack the income to cover the interest payments, the United States needs to seriously discuss what each of us is willing to do to avoid the national equivalent of living under a bridge. The last family I knew who went bankrupt gave up a bunch of nice cars, some jetskis, a few snow machines and some jewelry, but they still live in a house and not under a bridge, so the trade off was apparently worth it. Nationally, there must be things we can live without. I live in an oil state and I can’t figure out what the Department of Energy does that’s worthwhile. Test scores have gone down since the Department of Education was created in 1978. Together, they account for about $100 billion annually. If we’re looking for federal toys that we can live without, how about the ones that don’t seem to accomplish a lot?

Sadly, I don’t think Congress, the President or either of the two major political parties recognizes that we need to make some decisions NOW in order to even have a national future. Yesterday, when Boehner and Pelosi appeared on television, it sure looked like they planned to postpone some of the real hard choices until later — how long later remains to be seen.

Posted November 26, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in economics, politics

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Why I’m a Non-Partisan   1 comment

I am a registered non-partisan. More than 50% of Alaska’s registered voters do not declare a political party. This does not mean we don’t have views. It simply means we want to keep our independence and decide who we want to vote for, not have a political party tell us who the best candidate is.

For me, the two major political parties are simply in the business of being reelected. Both want to spend a lot of tax-payer money on issues their establishment considers important, but from what I can see, they don’t care what the tax payers want. A good example is the health care law. Voters have consistently polled as objecting to the law, but it passed Congress and was signed into office by the President when it was polling as unpopular with 3/4 of the population. It’s easy to blame Democrats for that since they were the ones in the cat-bird’s seat, but quite a few of the ideas stuffed into that behemoth were floated by Republicans not so many years ago. Moreover, the Republicans are just as willing to spend our money on projects they like as the Democrats.

The only time in my lifetime that Congress has shown any inclination to reduce spending was in the 1990s under the Contract with America. If Clinton can claim he (almost) retired our debt, he must do so with acknowledgment that Congress forced him to do so. That almost made me a Republican. But, then along came George W. Bush and that changed my mind. I understood the increased war spending — Clinton balanced the budget in part by raping the military and that needed to be corrected. However, when voters gave the  House to the Democrats, GWB decided to start spending like a drunken sailor. He doubled federal spending through war, education expansion and prescription drug benefits. It’s no surprise the economy tanked. You can’t increase spending, particularly through debt, without causing problems with the economy.

So the voters decided to give the Democrats a try. They promised to cut spending and spend it on the “right” things. It’s hard to know exactly how much money has been spent on what because they haven’t bothered to pass a budget in four years, but we do know that the President has tripled spending over the last four years and that one-third of what is spent right now is borrowed. The logical among us also know that an unprecedented expansion of government spending will be needed to cover the costs of the Affordable Act, so spending is increasing. Taxes are going up — not just on the wealthy, who actually do not make enough money to cover the current revenue gap, but on all of us. It’s the only way to sustain this level of spending.

So is there any sort of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans?

Not from where I’m standing.

Posted November 25, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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The Willow Branch   Leave a comment

Cover pitch – I write under the name Lela Markham.

A healer must mend a fractured kingdom and bring two enemy races together before a greater enemy destroys them both.

Fate took Prince Maryn by surprise, leaving Celdrya to tear itself apart. A century later an army amasses against the warring remains of the kingdom as prophesy sends a half-elven healer on a journey to find the nameless True King. Padraig lacks the power to put the True King on the throne, yet compelled by forces greater than himself, Padraig contends with dark mages, Celtic goddesses, human factions and the ancient animosities of two peoples while seeking a myth. With all that distraction, a man might meet the True King and not recognize him.

Posted November 23, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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Thanksgiving   Leave a comment

I love Thanksgiving! There are other holidays that I like, but Thanksgiving is my favorite.

One, I love the fall colors associated with it. Decorating for thanksgiving is fun with its oranges, deep yellows and faded greens. Two, I like having a day when I treat my family to foods we don’t eat all that often.

I have a smack-awesome turkey recipe that is incredibly easy, complements of my dad, a professional chef. First, always start with a frozen turkey. That fresh turkey everybody insists upon could be several days old by the time it hits your table and that increases the risk of salmonella and degrades the flavor. A frozen turkey is factory frozen within an hour of butchering, which means that until you start thawing it, it’s not aging, growing germs, etc. It’s WAY fresher than a fresh turkey. After it thaws (in the refrigerator or – in my case, our barely above freezing arctic entryway — which takes about 36-48 hours depending on turkey size), rinse the turkey inside and out. DO NOT PUT STUFFING IN THE TURKEY. That’s just asking to get sick as uncooked turkey juices drip into the stuffing that, by virtue of being inside the turkey, will never get hot enough to cook the turkey juices. “Stuffing” should be prepared separately. You need a black enamel baking pan. No bags, no aluminum throwaway broiling pan. Trust me — the pan is worth the cost. Lining it with aluminum foil makes it easier to clean, but the flavor is not as good. Cooking is sometimes about trade offs. Put your bird in the pan. Grease the breast with shortening or butter (whatever you like best, but shortening doesn’t burn, which makes it my preference). Sprinkle salt on the breast and legs (don’t overdo this). Pat to assure it adheres.  Pour a quarter cup of liquid in the bottom of the pan (orange juice is my favorite, but chicken broth or water will do; my brother uses apple juice; my best friend uses white wine). Insert a meat thermometer in the inner thigh. DO NOT RELY ON THE POP UP BUTTON. These are unreliable. Put the lid on the pan. Place the pan in a 325 degree oven. Now you have to do math. The turkey needs to cook about 15 minutes for every half pound. My 22-pound turkey is set for 330 minutes (5 1/2 hours). Set a timer and forget about it. Go cook potatoes or play Monopoly. Don’t check on it, don’t baste it. Just let it cook. Every time you lift that lid, you let precious moisture escape from the turkey. Basting doesn’t reverse that process. Just leave it alone. The turkey won’t be quite done when the timer goes off. The meat thermometer will show you still have about 10 degrees to go.  Take the lid off, slide the pan back into the oven and walk away for about 20 minutes. The breast will brown up and the thermometer will read about five degrees below done. Put the pan somewhere the dog can’t reach. Put the lid back on the pan and get the rest of the meal done. The turkey will actually keep cooking and bring the temperature up to 180 degrees. If you pull the turkey out of the oven at 180 degrees, it will be overcooked by the time it actually stops cooking. I bump the heat to 350 now and slide in my rolls and supervise my son as he smashed potatoes and yams. My daughter also contribute (she inherited my dad’s flair for food). About 20 minutes later, my husband or I start slicing the turkey, which is so juicy sometimes the wings fall off when we pull it from the pan. You will also have a lot of pan drippings for gravy using this method.

So why do I like Thanksgiving besides knowing the secret to a no-fuss juicy turkey with a nice crackly brown breast?

Christmas has become so commercialized that it is hard to find the true meaning anymore. God left the glory of heaven to step into our filthy and mean world to become one of us and die for our sins, so that we don’t have to stand the consequences of our willful disobedience of Him and can one day join Him in heaven. We forget that, focus on the presents, the music, the decorations and the SHOPPING. Since the Christmas season now starts in the marketplace before Halloween, many of us are just glad its over come Boxing Day (and no, I’m not Canadian; I just appreciate the day). I do my Christmas shopping in September and October (better prices then and the stores are less frantic). Other than that, I don’t start Christmas until tomorrow — period, you can’t make me. Our family has a gratitude list we do every Thanksgiving. What are we grateful for? We raze each other if anyone cops out and says Thanksgiving dinner or our family without adding other more difficult to quantify gratitudes. For me, this year, I’m grateful I got fired from my long-time job this spring. It opened up new opportunities for me and yesterday, I ended my probationary period at a much better job. God had plans and He turned something bad into something good.

So today, folks, just pause and ask yourselves, “What am I grateful for?” Ask your family or friends. What does this accomplish?

In the mad dash for Christmas that starts tomorrow, you will probably be buying stuff nobody needs for people who may not even want it. You will rush around like a mad person, getting frustrated and overheated and you’ll really want to strangle Rudolph if you hear that song one more time. That’s an inevitable part of a commercialized Christmas. But if you’ve started the season with some thought about what in your life is worthwhile, it will all be a little easier and maybe on December 25, you’ll pause and think about the real reason for Christmas. For my family, that baby lying in a manger, already on the pathway to death for our sake, is the reason for Christmas and, somehow, listing what He’s done for us over the last year, helps us to hang onto that meaning as the rest of you rush around wishing Rudolph ill.

Posted November 22, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in Faith

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Explaining My Tagline   Leave a comment

They say you’re supposed to write at least 150 words every other day if you want to really do a blog right. It’s easy enough for a writer to write 150 words a day, except I think this ought to be interesting to any readers who stop by. So ….

How to explain my tag line ….

I have learned that writers often have some lunacy we’re hiding. In my case it’s that there are characters in my head that really insist that I give them life on paper.

Until very recently I worked for community behavioral health, in administration. For this reason, I know a lot of schizophrenics, people who are delusional in a very real sense. You can tell … they don’t really function in society. They have voices in their heads too. Before I worked there, I used to sometimes wonder if it was crazy to have characters in your head, but sometime in the 15 years I worked there, and also because I began interacting with other writers, I came to the conclusion that writers are different from schizophrenics in profound ways.

Writers give the voices in our heads life on paper. We function in society. We hold jobs, own homes, drive cars, remember to feed our children (usually), teach Sunday School, participate in politics and benevolence … in short, we order and control our lunacy. We know the difference between reality and fantasy, but unlike ordinary people, we provide fantasy with an outlet and, because we do, we’re able to live life without benefit of Zyprexa.

Posted November 19, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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On Writing   1 comment

I listed a number of labels I could apply to myself in my introduction. Writer is one of them. Since I started this blog to draw attention to my book(s), I suppose I should explore that a bit. Why do writers write? Why do I write?

I don’t know.

No, seriously! I don’t.

This is not to say I don’t have some ideas about why I write … or why others write. It’s just that I can’t point to just one extremely important reason why I am compelled to write. I just know that I am.

I grew up in Alaska, which has long winters and about two hours of sunlight a day in December. When I was growing up, cable TV hadn’t reached us yet. Our news programs aired the day after they aired in Seattle. Our TV programs were 3-4 weeks late. We only had two stations until I was nine, when we got PBS, which was way too grown-up at night for a nine-year-old. My father was a reader who insisted that I read and, given the limited opportunities for electronic entertainment, I did. When we’d get together as kids, my friends and I would play-act a lot. I remember providing ideas for those play-acting episodes from a really young age. My parents said I was a good story teller in the preschool years.

When I was 12, a teacher assigned a writing project to us. I hated it! It was all rules and restrictions and I felt like what I was producing was about as interesting as watching paint dry. After the assignment came back with an A on it, I remember thinking this teacher had no idea what a good story looked like. So I set out to rewrite the story and make it more entertaining. I don’t know why I did that, other than as a challenge to myself. I can’t even say if the ungraded rewrite was any good. I never shared it with anyone and it has passed into the landfill long ago. It was what it was, a key to my imagination that unlocked a door I’ve not been able to close since.

I am a writer, not because I put words on paper, but because stories are always flitting through my mind, characters are always being formed, what my eyes see somehow requires that I describe it in word-pictures, AND I put that internal experience on paper.

I am a writer because that is what and who I am.

Posted November 17, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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Who Am I?   Leave a comment

A born-again Christian, an Alaskan, a writer, a wife, a mom, a Bible reader, an administrative assistant to people with important jobs ….

That scratches the surface, barely.

I guess I’ll start by explaining my screen name — Aurorawatcher.

I live in Alaska, where the aurora dances overhead every few nights from October through March. It’s there in the summer too, but the sky is too light for us to see it.

Thirty years ago, I was interviewing a geo-physics professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks about his research on aurora. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned I’d heard the aurora on a couple of occasions. It sounds a lot like radio static and you can only hear it during a strong auroral displays. He was a very polite man, a Japanese fellow, clearly passionate about his studies. He informed me that the aurora is not audible from the biosphere. He had a lot of intelligent sounding reasons why this is so — distance between the biosphere and the ionosphere being the most compelling. As an undergraduate student in journalism, I was not qualified to argue with a PhD in geo-physics, but I held my ground on one simple fact.

I had heard the aurora.

I wasn’t hallucinating and neither was my dog. I had heard it one time in the company of others, but not the first time. I knew what I had heard and whatever the good professor might think, he wasn’t going to dissuade me from the facts with science that was trying to prove a negative. I suggested that he didn’t believe because he had not experienced it for himself.

We parted amicably. I wrote a nice article about his research and that was that.

Several years later, I met this professor again. I’d frankly forgotten our exchange, but as soon as he saw me, his eyes narrowed and he said “the aurora watcher”. He then apologized for his previous arrogance, because he had heard the aurora for himself on a remote expedition when nobody else was around. He’d been unable to capture it on recording equipment, but he remained convinced that the aurora was audible under the right conditions and he hoped to someday prove it. I don’t think he did that before he retired a couple of years ago, but I notice the Alaska Geophysical Institute has moved from a firm declaration that the aurora is not audible to a more relaxed statement that it hasn’t been proven yet.

Thus, my screen name – Aurorawatcher.

It also explains my faith in a short form. I believe in God because I have experienced a relationship with Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I know that it is true because I have experienced it.

I’m starting this blog to draw attention to my writing, which can be read here, but I expect I’ll wander off the topic into the many subjects that interest me — faith, our messed up world, parenting teenagers, history … who knows what I’ll get up to.

Posted November 17, 2012 by aurorawatcherak in alaskana, Faith, Introduction, Writing

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