Sunday, December 31, 2023

A 2023 Thank You

Friends - 

As has become customary at this time of year, I would like to to take the opportunity of the last post of the year to say thank you to you, the readers of this blog.

As someone who at least alleges in theory to be a writer,  my deepest desires is that one's writing is a) read; and b) makes some sort of impact on the lives of others.   Thankfully - and it is due to you - I have some hope that I have done so.

So thank you.

Thanks for taking to the time read.  Thanks especially for taking the time to comment, if it is only occasionally (or for some, the first time).  Thank you for listening to me ramble on about life and my life and the issues in it.

Time is the most valuable of commodities:  it cannot be preserved or stored, only spent.  Too often the value of it is only realized in retrospect.  To the extent that all of you have spent part of your time with me, I am deeply indebted.

2023 has been a challenging year.  Sure, we have had lots of high points:  two of Na Clann graduating (one from high school, one from college), the trip to Greece, the hikes throughout the Summer and to Mt. Goddard (almost).  But there have been a lot of difficult points as well, including the hike to Mt. Goddard (almost) and losing not one but two jobs with (at this writing) an unknown future until the next one appears.

Through all of it, I have always had this blog to fall back on to express (or vent) my feelings.  For that, I am grateful.

I do not know (at all) what 2024 will bring.  Whatever it brings, I will continue to do my best to document it and, hopefully in some small way, to make the world a better place through writing.

Your Most Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Saturday, December 30, 2023

December 2023 Odds and Ends

 1)  We had a very nice, very quiet Christmas.  We laughed a bit, because we had completed the bulk of gift buying before Hammerfall 3.0, so it was not necessarily reflective of our current circumstances.  That said, we all had more than enough.

From The Ravishing Mrs. TB I got  two of Diodorus Siculus' Histories, a blown glass mug and beer from Africa, penguin magnets from South Africa, a bottle of red wine, and an alpaca sweater from Peru.  From Nighean Gheal I got a Japanese dual translation book of short stories for practice, CD of koto music, and a Studio Ghibli movie (Pom Poko). From Nighean Bhan I got a new water resistant backpack (badly needed) which includes a place for a battery bank and built in cord for USB charging (which seems like a really good idea; I am curious how well this would combine with a solar charging unit for power on the go).  From Nighean Dhonn I got The Western Art of War by Victor Davis Hanson which was recommended to her by her college professor (Hanson is a favorite of mine and on a personal note, I love how he has combined Classical Studies and agricultural in California's Central Valley.  Goals.).

All the gifts are both useful and enjoyable.

2)  Yesterday I received my first application rejection from a company - about a week turnaround, which is pretty impressive.  I am assuming this will be the first of many, given the economy we are now in.

I also spoke to a possible consulting lead (a friend of a friend who was super kind and recommended me).  She said she might have some part-time batch record review work in January, possibly 10 to 20 hours a week.  She asked me if I had an idea of my per hour rate.  I did not (I never do).  We did both agree that with the current economy and how companies are reacting, business in general had slowed down (I suspect this will come up a lot this coming year).  She committed to getting back to me after the holidays.

I also touched basis with a friend from the company that brought us Hammerfall 2.0.  She was laid off in June and has been looking since then; over 300 job applied for and nothing yet.

I am assuming this situation will either be over quickly or it will be a long haul.  I am planning for and assuming the long haul.

3)  My sister and The Outdoorsman are out in New Home with their family (including The Brit) to celebrate their wedding anniversary and visit.  This is the first time in 15 years - since we moved - that they have come out.  For Christmas, they gave The Ravishing Mrs. TB and myself tickets to a New Years' Party at an upscale local hotel.  I have to wear a tie and everything.  Hilarity may ensue.

Recently The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I were talking about company Christmas parties and realized we had not been to one since 2015, at least for my work (her work usually does a two hour dinner from a local restaurant; as it is a church, frivolity is mostly confined to Secret Santa and trivia games on Christmas knowledge).  Looking at some of the photos of other companies I have seen online, it seems like many places do the equivalent of a "Christmas Lunch".  I wonder if concept of the corporate Christmas Party is another relic of Economies Past that has simply disappeared and will never return.

Which is fine, I suppose.  Younger me enjoyed the free alcohol and feeling fancy; older me simply can no longer handle it or the noise and activity that goes along with it.

4)  To point 2) above, starting 02 January I have to start coming up with some kind of regular schedule for day to day activities.  Part of that is for my own sanity of course (I do better with a schedule), but part of it is also the fact that it could be some time before another job appears.  I do have things I need to do around here, but I also need to start thinking in longer terms of "what I can do in the event a regular full time job is not forthcoming".  Some of it is honing industry knowledge of course, but some of it is looking at other ways of generating income.

We have already done one round of expense reduction following Hammerfall 3.0 and are doing a second sweep.  Whether or not I qualify for unemployment will have an impact on this (I will not know until 02 January 2024).  And we need to continue to identify dates when specific things have to occur - for example, if I do not have a job by 15 March we will need to find alternative health coverage and get that in place by 20 April to allow the COBRA coverage to be canceled prior to 01 May 2024, when it would start to come out of our bank account.

To be clear, I continue to consider ourselves very fortunate.  Many people are in a much worse position.

5)  With this post and tomorrow's post, I will have accomplished a soft goal I set for myself of posting every day of the year.  There is nothing magical about that of course, and frankly writing this much almost guarantees that not everything is at the same level (or as FOTB (Friend Of This Blog) Eaton Rapid Joe says, "Write something every day").    It does entail a certain level of discipline though, which I likely benefit from.  Doing something even when you do not want to do it is a great way to practice keeping one's nose to the grindstone.

I am inherently lazy and need all the help I can get.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Greece 2023: The Last Column



Friends - Thanks so much for your willingness to accompany me to Greece.  Documenting this journey took a lot longer than I anticipated - 51 posts (plus this one, all now located here) for what was a two week trip.  The fun thing for me has been the ability to revisit all of these places once again.

Bust of King George of Greece, assassinated in Thessaloniki Greece in 1913.  The White Tower is behind - Thessaloniki, Greece

This was an odd trip in that it was not one that I had really known I wanted to do, until the opportunity to do it presented itself.  That said, I can hardly imagine not having made the trip now.  So much history, so much philosophy, so much religion - all of the things I love wrapped up into a two week tour.

The Great Meteora - Meteora, Greece

Long time readers know that usually I have a "Rule of Five" that I like to post after I have taken a trip like this, five things I have learned or five things I have pondered.  In point of fact I do not have anything like that this time.  Chalk it up to the nature of the trip, chalk it up to "I was between jobs (the first time) and just enjoying life", chalk it up lack of imagination - but I do not have anything of the kind this time.  Just an abiding thankfulness that I was able to go and see so much of the history I have read about for so many years.

Roadside Memorial Stand - Similar to our roadside crosses

If I had one comment or piece of advice, it would be to go.  Just go.  Go see where the opening salvos of Western Civilization came forth and were nurtured long enough to set roots down to eventually expand to (in some cases) the entire world. Go see the stones and dirt streets, the valleys and monasteries, the empty temples and fortresses, where our understanding of so much of our world really started.

Just go.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Collapse CXXX: Battle

 26 June 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

This entry is written after the events described, at the end of what seems like the longest day of my life. I am still trying to process them.

Our off-shift sleep was disturbed by the Leftenant: it felt as if I had just closed my eyes. We were to gather our weapons and move down the channel as scouts from McAdams had gone out and returned; it was assumed a larger party would follow shortly.

Bleary eyed (at least we of Team 3), we crouched down to the base of the stream, moving forward to meet the rest of our companions pressed into the dirt and remnants of grass that had come from above. We crouched even lower at the sound of voices and movement over the top and to the side of us – when one has spent a year or more knowing where every noise originates from, to suddenly hear sounds of people and even an engine that is completely unknown to you is jarring. One instinctively tenses in response over sounds once considered ordinary.

They were far enough away and too muffled to make out distinct conversations, then were blotted out entirely by the sound of engine revving very slowly as it moved down the road.

The sounds died off into the distance and the Leftenant gave a hand sign. We continued down the streambed, farther than any guard watch had taken us to the edge of the stream disappearing under the road, carefully avoiding stepping into the mud that would reveal us to observers downstream. Everyone moved up as close as they dared to the lip where the flat earth began its descent to the water.

As long as I remain alive Lucilius, I will remember those moments of lying in the warm June sun, trapped by circumstances, strangely feeling both languid from the heat and tense beyond measure for what was coming, earth crumbling into my face.

And then, to the East down the road, the world erupted in the sound of gunfire.

I flinched down – we all did, I suspect, although there was nothing to flinch at directly. The chattering and crack of gunfire increased.

The Leftenant and Ox rolled up over the edge and sighted their guns. We all did as well. Suddenly my world had collapsed to looking down an iron sight.

From the direction of the gunfire, forms began appearing to get closer, some looking behind them and shooting, some falling, some just running.

Closer and closer they came. Individual details came into view: hair color, types of clothing, even the logos on T-shirts. One came into my view, bearing a some kind of concert T-shirt from a civilization past.

And then with a shout, the Leftenant opened fire. We all joined in.

I have been shooting in the past, Lucilius – more for target practice than for anything else and perhaps once or twice over the years for hunting. I know this gun well; it was my grandfather’s before becoming my own, a iron-sighted repeating relic of an earlier age, when hunting was in vogue and every man on a magazine cover a sportsman. The firearm itself works well enough for my purposes, which were only really to maintain my skill. Never in my life had I anticipated actually using it against another human being.

The world becomes a slow blur at accelerated speed. I pull the trigger, only slightly anticipating the slam into my shoulder from the recoil. In days past I would have stopped, leisurely checked out my target, and then refocused. Not now. Pull the lever action to seat a new bullet as the old casing falls away into the soil and my shoulder reminds me I am no longer young. Sight and fire again as the line booms with the sound of weapons discharging.

The forms start to jerk and fall. Suddenly soil kicks up ahead at the ditch edge with return fire. The instinct is to duck and roll down, pressing into the soil; instead one rolls back over, pulls back the lever and the cartridge falls to the ground, pulled by a gravity made seemingly quicker by the remnants of discharged gunpowder. Roll back over and fire again. And again. And again, then fumbling for shells to reload into the rifle as all around the cacophony of war sounds: booms and cracks of firearms, a blurred shouting of commands down the line that are almost unintelligible, and farther out the cries as the projectiles lodge home. Bullets pressed home, pull the lever action and roll over again.

And then, suddenly, everything stops.

The figures that were running forward are no longer there; still forms on the pavement and on either side of the shoulder are all that remain. Guns remain at the ready and we stand at at hair’s breath of opening fire again until in the distance, whistles start blowing. The Leftenant shouts for us to lower our weapons. We do so, almost reluctantly for a group that came here only a few days ago with only the vaguest idea of what it was to fight, hearts pounding and ears ringing and fingers and emotions set on edge.

As figures bearing armbands come into view continuing to blow whistles, we look at each other with a fragile sense of belief that it may be over. Looking down line, I do the count of 8. I count myself at 9 and turn to my right.

There was at least one lucky shot.

Blazer Man lay staring upward on his back, the wound that had taken his life leaking out over his clothing and down to the stream, where it would flow on eventually to the sea instead returning with him to the library of history past and the grave of his wife.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Greece 2023: Mycenae III

Located not far from the ruins of Mycenae is a spectacular tomb.

The tomb itself is known by one of two names, either the Treasury of Atreus (the father of Agamemnon) or the Tomb of Agamemnon. Both of these are unlikely of course; the association with both characters dates from the the 18th Century A.D. and the 2nd Century A.D. traveler Pausanias believed both kings were buried in the ruins of Mycenae itself.

The tomb type is referred to as at tholos, a particular type of tomb consisting of a circular burial chamber and a corbelled dome (a corbel, I just learned, is a type of construction where the piece bears the weight of the pieces above it).  It is the largest dome structure prior to the Roman period of history, and remains the largest example of a corbelled dome in the world.

When was it built?  Likely between 1400 and 1250 B.C., when Mycenae was still at the height of its power.  From the size of the stones and the amount of labor involved, this was as much as exercise in power projection as it was a tomb. 

This door led to a series of side chambers, possibly for burials.

Who was it built for?  We have not a clue.  That secret the tomb holds within its silences and ascending rock faces.

More information is here.  It is a fascinating journey into the specifics of the tomb and what we know - and do not know.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Greece 2023: Mycenae II

The Citadel of Mycenae (1600 B.C. to 1150 B.C.), looking off over the walls:

A smaller entry gate:

Path down to and sample of a cistern.  The palace would have been dependent on such water sources.

Another view from the walls.  This view has been here for at least 3700 years.

Looking down into the excavated tombs:

Like similar sites, Mycenae had a museum of excavation finds.

The famous Mask of Agamemnon.  A death mask (though not of Agamemnon), dating of which runs from 1600 B.C. to even 2500 B.C.

Replica weapons from tombs:


A very cool Octopus vase:

Other pottery:

A collection of axeheads:

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas 2023

Nativity Scene from 4th Century A.D. Sarcophagus; one of the earliest existing (Source)

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.

      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!"  - Luke 2:  10-14

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Price of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Nollick ghennal erriu! (Merry Christmas!)

Sunday, December 24, 2023

The Test Of Loyalty


"It is only the loyal soul who believes that God engineers circumstances.  We take such liberty with our circumstances, we do not believe God engineers them, although we say we do; we treat the things that happen as if they were engineered by men.  To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, and that is to our Lord.  Suddenly God breaks up a particular set of circumstances, and the realization comes that we have been disloyal to Him by not recognizing He had ordered them; we never saw what He was after, and that particular thing will never be repeated all the days of our life.  The test of loyalty always comes just there.  If we learn to worship  God in the trying circumstances, He will alter them in two seconds when He chooses.

Loyalty to Jesus Christ is the thing that we 'stick at' today.  We will be loyal to work, to service, to anything, but do not ask us to be loyal to Jesus Christ.  Many Christians are intensely impatient at discussing loyalty to Jesus.  Our Lord is dethroned more emphatically by Christian Workers than by the world.  God is made a machine for blessing men, and Jesus Christ is made a Worker among workers.

The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us - 'I reckon on you for extreme service, with no complaining on your part and no explanation on Mine'.  God wants to us us as He used His own Son."

- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Hammerfall 3.0: Re-Establishing The Routine

 We are slightly under two weeks since the event known as Hammerfall 3.0 and one of the biggest challenges has been re-establishing a new cadence.

I say "re-establishing" because I assure you as of Monday 12 December 2023, I had a very different schedule for the month in mind.  I was going to finish out my week at The Ranch and work, followed by a week of work here in New Home, then take a week off of work prior to the kick-off of what was going to undoubtedly be a busy work year.

Well, I did get the busy year idea right.  I just did not count on a different kind of busy-ness.

The good news - if you can call it good - is that I had already been laid off once this year and so a lot of my toolkit was pretty ready to go.  My CV only required a small update (not surprising as I was only at the last company for five months).  My tracking sheets - my own personal one and the one I am required to keep for unemployment - could easily be cleared and re-set for another search.  My unemployment account was still active and I know now the pitfalls of managing paperwork and expectations in that arena in a way I did not before (which, as it turns out, may be better as I much more need the money now and did not exhaust my benefits or come close to it).  

Job hunting, as I might have mentioned before, is much different that when I was a stripling in the industry.  Pretty much everything takes place on-line at this point.  It is almost always through web-portal submission and more often than not, you may get an acknowledgement of your submission but seldom a notification about the outcome (and if you do, it will be months later).  

There are really two kinds of searches.  The first is through InterWeb sites such as LinkedOut, which by now is probably the premier listing places for jobs for small and midsized companies.  A second one is (which, like LinkedOut, is essentially an aggregator of listings).  Between these two, as a recruiter once told me, you will find 90% of listed positions.  

The second kind of search is more for the largest companies - in my industry places like Pfizer, Becton-Dickson, Roche/Genentech, Amgen.  These are just as likely to just post positions on their own websites.

In terms of the application process, most of them now are simply submitting your CV and answering a few brief questions, mostly about government required things like sponsorship for citizenship, race, veteran status, and disability.  A few of the sites make you re-copy all of the information into their form (which, frankly, is aggravating as different companies use the same platform - but you have to re-enter it for each company).  And then, you wait.  One note here:  an unknown number of these positions can be posted as potential positions that go nowhere due to budget cuts (layoffs, I hear, are a thing) or the are posted without any intent of hiring an external candidate - or sometimes, any candidate at all.  Just because it is listed does not mean it actually exists.

Honestly, one of the shocking things is (after a bit) how effectively automated it becomes.  LinkedOut allows you to set up job searches by industry. by field, by location, by type (on-site, remote, hybrid), and by timeline of posting - so literally one can see everything that is posted in the last 24 hours, which helps weed through things pretty effectively.

So that is part of re-establishing a routine.  The other part, of course, is simply all the remaining time.

It is not helpful in that sense that this is Christmas season and so by default, everything is a bit off the norm anyhow - what would be a usually "Monday to Friday" seems a bit out of control in mind, as smack dab in the middle of all of this there are not one, but two holidays which shut things down (including hiring, as it turns out).  And some of the urgency that I had in my mornings before has disappeared as, well, my commute is largely to my desk in the morning.  

I am still keeping up with my morning routine and once again am able to be present for my workouts instead of trying to fit them in odd places.  And I am still on the schedule at Produce (A)Isle at my normal times (my getting a job there after Hammerfall 2.0 looks like sheer brilliance now).

(An interesting sub-note on Produce (A)Isle:  We are in the season of 25% house products and we are buying more than we might otherwise - after all, who knows when the next job will come.  Better to store up now).

A final note on the potential job I had a lead on from two companies ago, the original job we moved to New Home for.  I did indeed speak with both the Hiring Manager and the Site Head, my former boss.  On the bright side, there is interest on their side.  On the less bright side, the position is not quite as developed as I had led myself to believe.  There is a need, but the position has not formerly been requested or approved.  Understandably, they are going to pick up the thread early next year.

Which works well, as I told them.  I spent a lot of time on Produce (A)Isle earning money to train at the end of January and the trip is completely paid for and by gum, I am going.

So in a (rather lengthy) nutshell, things are fine.  A little rough around the edges and still working to establish what the new-new-new-new (maybe four) normal looks like now. And on the bright side, the Christmas lights this year help even more than they usually do at lifting my spirits.

Friday, December 22, 2023

2024 Goal Setting (Or, An Exercise In The Unknown)

 Long time readers of my blog may recall that in years past, December is the month that is typically filled with me writing and re-writing (and re-re-writing) my goals.  In fact, I suspect it tended to eat up a lot of valuable electron space.

That exercise last year - as it turns out - was an exercise in futility.  Not completely my fault at all, of course - one could not have predicted Hammerfall 2.0 and Hammerfall 3.0 were not anticipated in the December prior and the impact of those in time and money turned out to be significant; it is hard to discuss things like increases in the load of weight lifts when you lose access to the gym or doing other activities when your life focuses to finding a job and then keeping said job. 

 At the same time, I am a great believer in having goals even if you do not hitting them:  as the saying goes, if you aim for the stars you will hit the moon (or a mountain, or an inconveniently placed electric pole - at any rate, you will hit something).  

Some years ago I adopted the Rule of Five for Goals (like I do for almost everything else, as five is simple and I can count it on my hand).  I even came up with a catchy Acronym, GGGII, which stands for "God, Girls, Gold, Iaijutsu, and Ichiryo Gusoku (well, perhaps not so catchy.  This is why I am not in marketing).

"God" is, I suspect, pretty self explanatory. "Girls" is really family, as (with the exception of myself, I-Bun, A The Cat, and M the Guinea Pig), this house is run by females.  "Gold" is simply career in its various manifestations.  "Iaijutsu" refers to my sword art, but encompasses things that support it like physical fitness and Japanese language.  "Ichiryo Gusoku" (Literally "One plot of land, one suit of armor") refers to the concept of providing for one's self to the best of my ability - philosophy is here and [theoretical] goals are here.

So I have a desire to have goals, and I have a structure to create them.  What I need now is the actual goals.  

Which is, of course, the most difficult.

Difficult not in the sense that it difficult to come up with them - I can always come up with something - but difficult in the sense that I need to have goals which are both reflective of my current situation (and, whatever happens next year, slowly rebuilding from the current situation) and are items that are mostly in my control to achieve.  This was one of my weaknesses for 2023:  the goals were based on things outside of my control.

For example, under "God" I simply have something like "Find a ministry to get involved in" and "Greater time in prayer" - yes, I will continue to look for longer term church home, but where we end up is not clear to me now.

Under "Girls", it looks a lot like a regular date night (something the last year has not been kind in) as well.  Finding ways for all of us to spend time together as we can is there passively as well, as we are reaching the point where paths are separating farther and farther.

Under "Gold", I have a single primary - Find a full time job - and some smaller goals around either industry certification (to make myself more valuable - after all, this industry is a skill) or generating other income.

Under "Iaijutsu", it is simply "Train harder in preparation for testing for certification".  I would also like to test for the N4 Japanese certificate through JLPT, although this does not really impact my life except personally.  Personal training has become a floating target as the equipment I have access to has changed - so Olympic Style lifts (and the weights involved) are not really possible).  That said, I will need to find some target - as well, I suspect, of more aerobic related goals (as those are effectively free except for the cost of a pair of shoes).

"Ichiryo Gusoku" is pretty vague at this point.  The reality is that - likely barring a miracle - The Ranch is going to be something that might delayed for five to ten years realistically (which means I have to put my nose to the grindstone and my pride under my feet and finish cleaning the house out).  Which means that New Home and its environs are the canvas I have to paint on, at least for the foreseeable future.  That limits some potential items  and, given the unknown length of my unemployment, means I need to focus on things that are low cost or essentially free - which in turn, means likely supplying finished dairy products (cheese and yogurt), expanding and managing the garden, and other small self sufficiency projects for which I already have the items/materials to perform (darning socks, anyone?).

The great news about all of this is they remain almost 100% within my control (with the exception of "Find a Job", of course).  The more humbling news for me is that in some ways, this represents the least aggressive set of goals I have had in many years.

But perhaps that is okay.  Given the state of the world - given the state of my world - perhaps a series of low, slow balls over home plate is just what needs to happen this year.  After all, there is nothing like success to breed success.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Greece 2023: The Souvenir

 (Editor's note:  While typically Thursday is the day the next installment of The Collapse is posted, due to the nature of the next post, it struck me as somewhat unseemly, given that it is Christmas week.  We will pick up next week.)

One of things that happens as one grows older (especially) is the fact that one has to make a significant effort not to collect "things".  This is true in many ways, but especially in the ways of souvenirs.

It probably does not come as a surprise that Greece was full of them - as a country that thrives on tourism, there was literally every kind of thing available.  For example, I could have made a complete wardrobe out of the "This. Is. Sparta." shirts that were available everywhere (one wonders if the Spartans would be impressed that their civilization has been reduced to a graphic).  And statues of gods, warriors and philosophers were literally everywhere.

I had made the agreement with myself that instead of buying lots of little things at lots of places, I would confine myself to a few things (mostly purchases from the monasteries we visited and the smaller agriculture ventures - they need the support) and an icon - not a knock-off icon, but an actual traditionally made icon.  Although not of the Orthodox faith, I have always admired them as artwork.

Conveniently, we stopped at an icon workshop on our way out of Meteora.

In traditional icon manufacture, the original drawing is created on a canvas by hand.  Natural colors and egg tempura are used to fill in the lines (vinegar is used as well as an anti-fungal).   The painted canvas is then attached to a hand carved wood piece depending on size.  Gold leaf is pressed onto the finished product, which is held in place by a mixture of clay called "mixtion". The back is finished with a darker color.

There are different versions of this of course: one can get one where the painting lines were created by a drawing program or one that does not go through the entire traditional process (with decreasing cost, of course).  But I wanted the real thing.  This was my one present to myself for the trip.

As you can imagine, there was a great variety to choose from.  I ended up choosing an icon of Christ:

"Ah", said the ever-present sales-person, "Do you know the nature of this icon?" After I confessed my lack of knowledge, she said "It represents the two natures of Christ.  On the right hand side of His face is His divine nature - "

"And on the left side is His humanity".

On the whole, this represented more than I have ever spent on a souvenir in my life.  But I am really pleased with it.  It is hanging above my desk, a reminder of both Greece and Christ in my daily life.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Greece 2023: Mycenae I

"And upon his (Agamemnon's) head he set his helmet with two horns and with bosses four, with horsehair crest, and terribly did the plume not from above.  And he took two mighty spears, tipped with bronze; keen they were, and far from him into heaven shone the bronze, and thereat Athene and Hera thundered, doing honour to the king of Mycenae, rich in gold." - The Iliad 

The city of Mycenae dates from the 2nd Millennium B.C., but the site itself (19 kilometers/12 miles inland from the Saronic Gulf, on a hill) has been inhabited since 5000 B.C.  Its overall timeline dates from 1600 B.C. to approximately 1200 B.C. and from 1550 B.C. to 1200 B.C. Mycenae was the dominant civilization throughout the Aegean, having overtaken the Minoan civilization of Crete around 1400 B.C. , and records of its existence are found in Egyptian records circa 1400 B.C.  Its success has given its name to this period, the Mycenean Age. 

The city perished in the great Bronze Age collapse of 1200 B.C. to 1150 B.C.  The city never recovered its former glory, passing into relative obscurity in the Classical Age, briefly reviving in the Hellenistic Age, and then slowly dwindling in the Roman Era.

Its most "famous" inhabitant was the king Agamemnon, the Commander in Chief of the Greeks in the Trojan War.  The time of the Mycenean Age is the setting for Homer's Iliad, although the poem itself was written at least 400 years later.

Approaching the main entrance of The Lion's Gate:

This type of architecture - large blocks fit together closely - is typical of the Mycenean Age.  It is called cyclopean, as later observers thought only the mythical Cyclops could have moved such stones.

The Lion's Gate.  This structure - two lionesses as heraldry - is the largest existing sculpture of the Mycenean Age, dating to 1250 B.C.  The lintel at the top of the door is estimated at 20 tons.  This structure was famous even throughout the ancient world.

Overlooking the tombs.  Royalty and nobility were buried within the city walls.  In the background, one can see the Saronic Gulf.

The remains of the palace of Mycenae (next three pictures).  

Two views from the top:

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Greece 2023: Nafplio II

The Bourtzi was originally built in 1471 by the Venetian engineer Brancaleone to protect and control the harbor of Nafplio. It was improved after the Ottoman Turk attack in 1473 and equipped with cannons.  It sits in the middle of the harbor of Nafplio; at one time a chain and boulders linked it with the side of the harbor nearest to the picture.

We got to take a water tour around the castle.

Cruise ship docked.  The structure in the lower left is our hotel:

Sadly it was early and the castle is being renovated, but it now serves as a museum:

Working around the headland of Nafplio.  This is looking towards the Argolic gulf.

The next two pictures show some of the difficulties of modern Greece.

Beyond the headland (and to the east of our hotel) lies another hotel and beach.  The hotel itself stands, essentially a rotting corpse.  Why?  It was built during the days of the Greek Junta (1967-1974) in which sweetheart deals were given to favorites of the junta.  With the sweeping away of the government and the fact that in large part (as our guide told us) the archaeologists run much of Greece, the building is now trapped in a state of limbo.  It is actually cheaper and easier to let is slowly decay than revive it as a tourist stop.

Headed back to Nafplio: