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Knocking On Heaven's Door

      “Science has a battle for hearts and minds on its hands….How good it feels to have Lisa Randall’s unusual blend of top flight science, clarity, and charm on our side.”—Richard Dawkins“Dazzling ideas….Read this book today to understand the science of tomorrow.”—Steven PinkerThe bestselling author of Warped Passages, one of Time ....
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      Crooked Trails, Amazing Views, Finding Life In The Ashes


          I was looking at a flag today that had the names of all the victims on it, my eye quickly found one I hadn't noticed before. I don't know whether or not there's a relation, but I wanted to know a little bit more about someone that shares one of my names.

          A little closer in...

          I looked up Ralph's name, and I found this comment by his daughter, Kristin, on one of CNN's remembrance pages.

          I decided to do a little bit of internet sleuthing, to see if anything popped up for Kristin Kershaw.

          I quickly found her Instagram and her Facebook page. Through her IG I recognized a similar wanderlust, and appreciation for the joy and thrill of hiking and exploring. She has an Edward Abbey quote at the top of her page, one of my favorite authors, a renowned misanthrope iconoclastic monkey-wrench in his own right, he was also one of my grandpa's favorite authors, maternal side, not the one I got the Kershaw name from, but that's beside the point. He gave me a lot of his old books, and we had some good talks, before he passed in 2010, from cancer.

          "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view." Edward Abbey

          What a crooked trail indeed, sixteen years, through names embroidered on a flag, to old pages, that CNN one is back from 2001, to sending her a message on Facebook, about the happenstance recognition.

          I sent her a message, just explaining how and why I chanced to reach out to her.

          Hello, Kristin. My name's Zackary. Today, for the first time, I went to one of the annual ceremonies that my city has on 9/11. There was a flag there, embroidered with the names of all the victims. By chance, one of the first names I saw was your father's, Ralph's. I don't know if there's a family connection or not, but I thought to myself "I want to know a little bit more about this man that shares my family name". There are so many names on that list, but I'm a little surprised I didn't notice his before, cause I've gone over it so many times. Too many names, too many stories cut short. My father's family has roots in North Carolina, not the Massachusetts area, which is where I understand yours is from. I was born and raised out here in New Mexico, I was 11 on 9/11, just started middle school, so it was a huge defining event at a time in my life when lots of things were already changing, and I was starting to pay attention to things in a way I hadn't before My thoughts are with you today, from one Kershaw to another.


          Kristin Kershaw accepted your request.
          Kristin Kershaw
          Hi Zackary - Thank you for the beautiful message. I read it to my mom and we both teared up a little bit. She and my Dad were high school sweethearts who had just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on August 1, 2001. My Dad was an amazing guy. Big, strong, smart, funny and brave. I am so blessed to have had such a wonderful father. I'm sure you would have liked him. I don't know if we are from the same line of Kershaws but I am so proud to share the name with someone as kind and thoughtful as you. Even though it has been 16 years since we lost him, the anniversary is always a tough day. Your message really means a lot to me and my family and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaching out. I hope you will think of my Dad every year on this day as a fellow Kershaw. Remembering all the innocent lives lost is so important and is such a comfort to the families and friends left behind. Thanks again. You're awesome.

          Thank you so much for sharing a little bit more about him. These stories are important, it's important to remember. I don't think I'll ever be able to see images of flight 175 the same way again, knowing a little bit about one of the very real people that was there. Your family must have gone through so much, the entire country and world did. I think I also saw your IG page, with the Edward Abbey quote? My grandpa, not my Kershaw grandpa, but from my mom's side of the family, one of his favorite writers was Edward Abbey. He passed from cancer in 2010, and gave me a lot of his old books. You seem pretty awesome too, I'm a bit jealous of all the different places you've been able to make it to. Haven't been able to indulge my wanderlust just yet. Hopefully we, personally and as a people, can hold on to the positive things in us that were brought out in response to that awful day, hold on to the good memories, be thankful for the new ones, and let that be the ultimate legacy. Let our better angels win. I wish you all the best.
          This was at a ceremony in Las Cruces City Hall, there is also a permanent art instillation, two pillars representing the towers, with tiles, each with ten flowers. I think there's five hundred tiles. Each flower is to represent someone who died, five thousand because that was one of the initial estimates, but also because so many of the first responders who worked at ground zero have died from health problems because they were breathing in all that toxic air.

          I recorded a bit of some of the comments, because I think it's important to have a record of this, showing that people will always remember,
          It was a very small thing, but I'm glad I went.

          Kristin Kershaw
          Thank you for sharing that. I'm so glad to know these remembrances are throughout the country. Sometimes it seems like only the east coast remembers because so many of the people we lost are from out here.
          Way out here in Las Cruces, we're right by El Paso, which more people are familiar with, we always have these remembrances. And we will continue to have them. It's part of the story of us as a country now. Seeing that on the news, I think no matter where you were, everyone that experienced that was right there together.
          You really made a tough day so much better. You were pretty young when it happened so it's just really nice to know people still remember. If you are ever out my way look me up and we'll go for a hike in the mountains my dad loved so much.

          Update: Synchronicity, odd, meaningful coincidences have been popping up more and more lately.

          On Kristin's IG page, she posted this a while ago, from her visit to the 9/11 memorial in New York.

          On father's day of this year, she shared this memory:

          On Father's day, I was in Las Vegas with my dad, we were visiting my sister and also going to see Roger Waters perform on his "Us and Them" tour.

          We went by the Nuclear Testing Museum, affiliated with the Smithsonian. At the end, they had an exhibit which featured fragments from the Berlin Wall, as well as a beam from the World Trade Center, with a sign that said "Please touch carefully", because of the sharp edges. I felt really moved being in actual contact with a physical thing from that day.

          Interesting, yes. Meaningful? Perhaps there is some weird cosmic significance in some way, you can ponder about it, cause I'm just lost in how deeply beautiful, improbable, and moving it's all been for me personally.

          Never forget. Listen to our better angels, and don't give in to the darker demons that try to seduce and beguile us out of fear, anger, and hatred.

          TUE 8:22PM

          I saw this instagram post of yours...
          And it reminded me of something.
          Earlier this year, I went to Las Vegas for the first time, my sister, Amy, moved out there a couple years ago because she met a guy at a wedding, and they got involved, and now they're engaged! Yayyyyyy, anyways, while there, I was doing some of the touristy stuff, seeing the sights, I went with my dad, on Father's day I think, to the Nuclear Testing Museum, it's affiliated with the Smithsonian.
          Sooooooo, at the end of the tour of the museum, after all the nuclear stuff, they had a steel beam, from the World Trade Center, and it had a sign on it "please touch carefully", because the edges were sharp, and they didn't want anyone to hurt themselves, so I did.
          That the connecting of nuclear testing to freedom of speech was an interesting take.
          Portion of a steel I-beam from the World Trade Center, the sign asks you to carefully touch it, so I obliged. pic.twitter.com/BbSybRYZty
          View image on Twitter

          Yeah, it was father'
          *yes, it was father's day, I tweeted about it. June 18th.
          It was really quite something, to actually touch a piece of that building, what it represented, all those images I'd seen over and over again, but to actually have something real in my hand... It really struck me.
          Maybe things do happen for a reason? I don't know... I just thought this was very interesting. All the best. Thank you for sharing some of your warmth, and your memories.

          TUE 9:38PM


          Here's a pic of my dad I took during that trip, at the Mob Museum in Vegas, in front of the wall that was used during the st Valentine's day massacre (a little ghoulish, I know, but it got him to smile)

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          Never Again


              Sunday morning, I was watching my local news broadcast, and the anchor said that that evening at 6PM there would be a prayer vigil for DACA recipients down the road a bit, in Anthony, NM, at a catholic church that straddles the New Mexico-Texas state line. I've never been much for traditional religious institutions, but it seemed to me that I should go there, to stand with them, and show my support in any way I could.

              Anthony is a smallish town on the very southern part of New Mexico, one of the more significant towns in Dona Ana county, apart from Las Cruces, but I never did much there before, and am not very familiar with it. It was always just "that town down the road". Las Cruces has a significant immigrant population, and Hispanic heritage is the majority here, and that's even more true for Anthony, a smaller town, a little poorer, right on El Paso's doorstep.

              I made the drive down there, got there early, a little more than a half hour before six. As I got out of my car, I saw a person in catholic vestments, unpacking some stuff, looking like he might be someone helping put together things. Chatted a bit, introduced myself, told him I'd never been down here to this church before, but I felt like I had to come to show my support for my neighbors and friends who are living in fear because of the actions of this regime.

              I walked into the church hall, typical one, two long rows of pews, with a bit of a stage and a crucifix at the front. I found myself a spot near the front, but decided to move a little farther back and to the side, cause the sun going down shining in through the stained glass windows on the west wall was a bit too bright and harsh with its glare for my eyes.

              Found me a good spot, there were some other people already in their seats, and some musicians stage left, there to provide some inspirational music later on. (it was in spanish, and a tune I wasn't familiar with, but I tried to sing along)

              There were a couple people that showed up that recognized me, gave me the courteous nods of greeting. One of the people, a person in a position of leadership in his faith tradition, that was going to speak a few words recognized me from the ice cream social I went to a couple weeks ago. He is with the local Islamic Center. We talked, though I had to remind him of my name, but at least he knew my face.

              Loading Tweet ... https://twitter.com/ZombieCheney/status/901256326692524034

              I made some small talk with the woman who was seating in the pew next to me, just the usual stuff, explaining how I'm not really a part of any traditional religious thing, I just saw that this was happening, and felt I had to come, and show up, to show that I stood with my neighbors and friends who are being made to live in fear.

              More and more people started to stream in as it got closer to 6. They began with some words from people representing all of the peoples of the book, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Evangelical, and Muslim, all those communities were represented. It was a very uplifting, warm message, about strength, community, and love, in a time of oppression, persecution, and fear. Parallels were invoked about Jesus' birth, how he was "illegal" when it was ordered that all babies should be killed to try to get to the "king of the Jews", and his family were refugees when they had to flee.

              I also took real notice of comments from an "evangelical", Robert, who talked about how the cat majority of the evangelical community weren't very sympathetic, that they blindly look to the laws of man, without regard to the higher laws, and invited them to sit with the pain that the dreamers are going through, and reflect how it's similar to some of those stories in the bible that they all treasure so.

              People also took notice of the catastrophic hurricanes and flooding we've had recently, and how this has led to an evacuation and movement of people here in America, one that really put a much more familiar face to the words "refugee" than we are accustomed to.

              I was very touched by the story of one 22 year old dreamer, hearing her tell it through the tears of the fear and uncertainty she was feeling. Afterwards, I went up and told her how important it is for her to share that story, tell it to people who might not realize the reality of what this is doing to people. Made me just want to give her a hug. I encouraged her to do interviews, whatever it took, to make sure that her story got out there, and that people paid attention, and promised to fight alongside her.

              Near the end of it, a few different dreamers went up to receive a blessing, again, from all the different traditions that were represented. Not my usual scene, but I held out my right hand, and tried to make do what I thought seemed like praying.

              There was the usual talking and networking and refreshments (water, punch and cookies!) afterwords. I signed up to be part of an rapid response network, so when news of ICE raids happens, people can show up and document it, on camera, as well as for more information, and hopefully to get involved a bit more.

              I am committed to this fight, for their sake, for my sake, for our sake. I am disgusted and ashamed at what is happening now, I never thought that I'd have to stand and fight with people, in churches and other places of refuge, to protect them from persecution and oppression here in America. It couldn't happen here they said. Never again they said.

              What do you say?

              Prayer Vigil for DREAMers & their families held by Bishop Cantú together with clergy from other faiths. pic.twitter.com/Zz0BhE8AoW

              — NM CAFé (@OrganizeNM) September 10, 2017

              "I've never felt so broken in my 22 years of life" - Brenda, a Dreamer speaking about #DACA & what it's done for her & her family. pic.twitter.com/jtA0yFeOvP

              — NM CAFé (@OrganizeNM) September 11, 2017

              Rabbi Larry Karol & Rev. Nema LeCuyer speaking on the importance of standing in solidarity with DREAMers. pic.twitter.com/GsLRj6W7LU

              — NM CAFé (@OrganizeNM) September 11, 2017

              Thanks to Bishop Cantú, Bishop Seitz, Rabbi Karol, Radwan Jallad, Pastor Rob, Pastor Neema, &Father Rafael, for tonight's interfaith Vigil. pic.twitter.com/OeIjxaHfvh

              — NM CAFé (@OrganizeNM) September 11, 2017


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              Helen Macdonald: The Forbidden Wonder Of Birds’ Nests And Eggs


                  If you like birds and are fascinated about how they live and build nests and raise their chicks, this will prove to be an interesting read.

                  A hummingbird sitting on its eggs in its nest.

                  The size of a hummingbird's nest, the inside as large as a penny.


                  "These days I wonder about how nests seem to be one kind of entity when they contain eggs and a different kind of entity when they contain chicks. How nests and eggs are good things to think about when considering matters of individuality, and the concepts of same, and different, and series. How the form of a nest is part of the phenotype of a particular bird species, but how local conditions foster beautiful idiosyncracies. How we humans are intrigued when birds make nests out of things that belong to us: house finches lining their nests with cigarette butts, nests of bullock’s orioles fashioned from twine, kites decorating their tree platforms with underwear stolen from washing lines. A friend of mine found a ferruginous hawk’s nest wrought almost entirely from lengths of wire. It’s satisfying to consider the incorporation of human detritus into the creations of birds, but it is troubling, too. What have they made out of what we have made of this world? Our world intersects with theirs and our habitations are strangely shared. We have long rejoiced at birds building nests in unusual places. We love the robin rearing chicks in an old teapot, a hen blackbird sitting tightly on a nest tucked above the stop bulb on a traffic light: these are nests that gesture towards hope, as birds use our things for their own ends, making our technologies redundant, slowed down, static, full of meaning that is no longer entirely our own."


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                  Irma's Track Has Shifted WEST, Away From Fort Lauderdale!


                      I have been 'working from home' yesterday and today, (luckily the company I am working for is humane), and have been doing a lot of preparations of my sailboat for the hurricane.

                      Well, during today, the experts have shifted their projected track to the west - enough to matter to Broward County - and to Miami too!

                      Of course nothing is set in stone, i.e., it could go anywhere, but this reduces the anxiety level significantly. :-)

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                      Lizzy Has Landed


                          No my first choice, but most logical...

                          I am crashing at my friend Dick's, an older gentleman who I have taken care of off and on for several years. I bought necessities and hit the road back to Mesa. He is a known quantity, and a friend of many years. I took a long shower, cranked his A/C and I have cold beer. He likes the company and financial assistance. He knows my affinity for headphones and reading so he can happily watch 70's game shows while I camp in his kitchen / office.

                          I have a job. I don't steal and I can get a car to haul him around even sooner.

                          Sigh, he is friends with the apartment manager. I will have a decent studio on the cheap very soon and be able save some bucks.

                          Relief!!! Dick and coffee every morning. LOL

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                          Just Venting...


                              One of the reasons writing became such a hobby for me was that writing things down helped me find solutions where none existed prior. That's my purpose in doing this. I only have my phone with me, so my usual word file solution does not exist.

                              Nearly four years ago, I was living comfortably in a very nice apartment that was affordable and easily maintained. I was a little lonely my partner, Patrick had moved to California to take care of his mother. I had contemplated going with him, but didn't want to quit a good job of 7 years. I still have the job, by the way.

                              So not long after an acquaintance was laid off her job, lost her apartment and her car. She had two sweet girls and I reached out and let her move in. I did and did not regret it. I did not blame her for her ex who she depended on for daycare caused to have to move.

                              I told her if she wanted a house she would need a better job because paying rent in a house was more than I could deal with. She moved into her mom's and I had to raise hell to get a key to my own storage.

                              She feels that I betrayed her for considering a move to California and will not speak to me. I moved in with a friend who I gave worked with who was evicted but did not tell me until I moved in. At the tine i felt like splitting the bills would be gelpful to both if us. She quit working within 3 weeks and fully expected me to completely support until she got disability.

                              Yesterday, I told her to pawn some stuff, get food stamps so I could pay my storage full rent and be able to have necessities. She checked herself into the hospital threatening suicide. She is angry because I told her that I was done and moving. I am literally sitting in a Motel 6 with the clothes on my back, no car and $300 in the bank.

                              I will figure it out, but I will not pay her bills while she lays on her fat ass while she whines about how she will pay her bills next month, if I don't.

                              One good turn deserves... What?

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                              Sheng Xing Girls Win The Hearts Of Lyon - How Dr Donna Received A Gold


                                  There is a time in everyone’s bridge life where a special type of magic cloth seems to cover the table. Your finesses all work, the partnership always finds the right defense, the auctions are perfect and you always seem to be in the right contract. Those moments are to be celebrated and cherished, placed in the heart, brain and soul to be reviewed when days are hard and the game too tough. With proper care those memories will be alive for your entire life.

                                  For the ten days of the 2017 World Youth Bridge Championships held in Lyon, France, there were many such moments – the USA winning the Gold in two events, the French team medaling in four more, the Thailand team so aptly named “Magic Eyes” obtaining its first medal in World Championships in this writer’s nearly 50 years of competitive memory, as did Japan. Chile had its moments, as did Australia, Norway, Uruguay, Germany, Sweden, India and England among others. All told there were over eight hundred players (over a thousand counting the French Federation’s Schools event that took place simultaneously) under the age of 25 from every continent save Antarctica and that’s only because we have not been able to train the penguins to hold the cards – yet.

                                  Yet no one could have predicted the result that came out of Asia, with the teams of China dominating the competition at the four levels of the World Bridge Federation’s Youth Championships. Teams from Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing all performed well, with medals and strong showings in each of the events, but it was the teams of Shanghai that put on a display of skill and competitive drive unlike any other moment in the history of these games.

                                  It is not to diminish the accomplishments of all those who competed to relate this tale of dominance, but because of the strength of all those in attendance that makes the performance of these young athletes all the more astonishing.

                                  The 84 Sheng Xing players crossing the bridge to the CITÉ Centre de Congres, Lyon Photo by Simon Stocken

                                  The Sheng Xing Teenage Bridge Club began as a project a few years back as an alternative to other activities for the advance placement students from different middle schools in Shang Hai. Currently Sheng Xing has over 1200 students meeting once or twice a week to gather together to compete, train and learn the game of bridge. One of the favorite events of the year is the Parent-Child game which draws over 400 pairs.

                                  The opening events of the Funbridge World Youth Bridge Championships (Funbridge is a terrific application used by many of the world’s younger players to train) were the Juniors, Youngsters, Girls and Kids Pairs. Sheng Xing has athletes who are limited to 16 years of age, so the young people competed in the latter three categories. And compete they did, acquiring two gold, two silvers and two bronze medals in their events, sweeping the Kids (Under 15) title.

                                  Above: Two of the youngest members of the Sheng Xing contingent review their scores. Below: Sheng Xing athletes watching the monitors as the results from the team matches are posted – photos by Simon Stocken

                                  They were just getting started. The following six days of team competitions (six players, operating as a team of four in rotation) witnessed the Youngsters and Kids capture two more Silver Medals and another Bronze, but the Girls team became the lead story.

                                  The Girls Team of Sheng Xing 1 (Yunpeng Chen, Chenyun Ge, Yajie Lu, Yijia Lu, Xinyao Ruan, Jiaming Xu, Captain Xiaochen Kong, (not pictured, Coach Dr Donna Lombardini) had an acceptable start, defeating a strong German squad and another rising star from China, the Sh Xin Jiangnan Team. The Girls were very anxious, especially given that they were one of the youngest teams in the event. The Girls Team Championship has a wider age range, with young women up to and including 25-year-olds. Sheng Xing 1 averaged under 15.

                                  They had yet to face the powerhouse French Girls team, the strong favorite for the Gold Medal who dominated the qualifying rounds, losing only to Chile, a leading contender for the medal rounds coached by the exceptional Hanoi Rondon.

                                  The great French Gold Medal Pair Winners Sarah Combescure and Mathilde Thuillez;

                                  Chile’s Coach Hanoi Rondon.

                                  The French Girls Team came into the Worlds a formidable squad, exceptionally well coached by Wilfried Libbrecht.

                                  The Sheng Xing squad found themselves in third place after the first three matches, but with France scheduled to be their first match on the second day, there was a lot of discomfort among the players.

                                  Dr Donna Lombardini Wood

                                  Their coach Dr Donna Lombardini had been delayed and did not arrive until the first evening of qualifying. There is often no way to describe how a team suddenly comes together, nor exactly what it is that is the catalyst for the same. The Sheng Xing Teenage Bridge Club’s Xiaochen Kong had put together a superb team, yet their confidence did not match their success. Kong sat the Girls Team down with Lombardini after dinner and suddenly the team’s entire demeanor changed. The results proved it. The next five matches were soundly played, and while suffering a loss to the French Girls in that opening round of the second day of qualifying, the Sheng Xing squad finished a strong third behind the French leaders and local rivals Sh Xin Jiangnan, with Chile rounding out the top four. In all, five Chinese teams made the final cut, joined by the younger second French Girls team to set the stage for the Knock-Out rounds.

                                  Dr Donna with her team preparing for the last moments of competition – photo Simon Stocken

                                  France 1 continued its dominance defeating China RFZD handily, while Sheng Xing 1 began a string of victories that was a harbinger of events to come. Trailing by 3 after the third quarter to another powerful team from the same club, the Sheng Xing 1 girls met with Dr Donna (as she is known in the bridge world) for a few minutes before delivering an astounding performance in the fourth stanza, outscoring their Sheng Xing 3 opponents 62 – 5 to earn their semifinal berth. France drew Chile on the other side of the Semifinal Bracket, and won by a comfortable margin, despite a late rally by the strong South American squad. Meanwhile, the match against the eventual Bronze Medalists, Sh Xin Jiangnan Team was essentially over before half time as Sheng Xing continued its explosive offensive display.

                                  The final between the number 1 teams of France and Sheng Xing was set, but no-one – including this writer who had picked France to be the team to beat throughout the championships – was prepared for the performance orchestrated by the Chinese. Dominant from the very start, the girls from Sheng Xing leapt out to a 47 IMP lead on the first four deals of the 56-board final, and finished the first quarter with a 66 – 10 lead over their opponents. France never gained ground and despite their best efforts and fine play, resigned the battle after the third quarter.

                                  The author with Dr Donna congratulating one of the pairs from the victorious Sheng Xing Girls Team 1 – photo Simon Stocken

                                  This young team from a school’s program in Shanghai had accomplished what might be the greatest upset in their category in history. A few hours after the celebration, I sat down with the team, Dr Donna and Ms. Kong to discuss the great ride they had just completed. The girls are shy, so the two adults did most of the talking. “Dr Donna lifted them to their best game” Kong stated, “They became strong, a powerful and proud family”. “All I told the girls was that they are a great team, that their hard work would be enough” Dr Donna said, “that they were ready and that it was their time. They did all the playing, we just supported them. They are World Champions now, and for the rest of their lives”.

                                  At the Great American Bridge Tour Headquarters in South Dakota, where Dr Donna is the CEO, there is a saying:

                                  The Right Word To The Right Person At The Right Time Changes Everything”.

                                  In Lyon, France, the right words may have been enough. So much so that after Dr Donna refused to take the podium - for it was the Girls and Captain’s time - the Sheng Xing Teenage Bridge Club had its own ceremony, presenting their beloved coach with her own Gold Medal.

                                  The most successful team in World Youth Bridge Championships history:

                                  The Sheng Xing Teenage Bridge Club

                                  Pairs: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze for a total of 12 Player Medals

                                  Teams: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze for a total of 36 Player Medals

                                  Teams Captains/Coaches: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze for a total of 12 Medals

                                  Total Team Medals: 60

                                  Photo courtesy of the World Bridge Federation

                                  Geoffrey S Jade Barrett, American Correspondent, csbnews.org.

                                  Submitted 31 August 2017

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