Thursday, August 23, 2007


I like to think I'm analytical. I avoid politics but I've thought a bit about the war in Iraq.
  • I didn't know if going there was right or not. I still don't.
  • War is bad -- all sane people on both sides believe this. Not thinking this has got to border on insanity. Or at least terrorism.
  • I'm glad Saddam is gone.
  • I like the idea of showing that we won't tolerate human rights abuses nor terrorism.
  • The Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain imploded from outside pressure and internal dissatisfaction. Shouldn't we allow the Middle East to do the same?
  • Just sitting back and letting terrorists get away with horrible crimes is wrong and scary.
  • I've always felt the worse thing we could do is go then leave before finishing. We Americans can be such flakes and it makes us a laughing stock.
So, I've not been a great supporter of the war in Iraq but I don't like to just leave.

Last week I found out my daughter, Sarah, is slated for another tour of duty over there starting February 2008. I don't like it. I think it's bad for her and us. I find myself now completely against the war. I wish we were out now and I can't shake the feeling. No argument is good enough.

Today a friend at work sent me this video:

Wow! I find myself agreeing. How could we have been so stupid! It's from a political action group called I don't really want to jump on the bandwagon and support them. But I almost might.

I know there are other sides. I don't really want to listen to them right now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Sunday I went to church feeling depressed. Why?
  • I found out this week my daughter Sarah stands a good chance of being sent back to Iraq.
  • Our church barely has enough money to get by. I'm the treasurer so I have to deal with it a lot. We don't have enough money because we are losing people.
  • I'm reading a book by Donald Miller, "Blue Like Jazz." I really like the book. But I had just read parts that really convicted me. Made me feel like me and my church are failing God.
  • Actually the last point isn't totally right. Part of my depression was that I read stuff that sounded like I should be convicted, but wasn't.
  • If I ever wrote a book, I'd like to write one like "Blue Like Jazz." Now I know Donald Miller has beaten me to it and done a better job than I'd ever do.
  • I did a search this week on my name, Eric Miller. There's lots of us. In fact, I found at least three doing things I've dreamed of doing. So if I ever got the gumption to pursue one of my dreams (fantasies?) I'd be competing against myself and I've already done better than I ever could.
  • I'm behind on lots of stuff.
  • I don't communicate as well as I should with my wife, Carolina. Worse, I feel I've had lots of opportunities to do better and let them go, mostly because I was too scared to step out.
  • I'm gaining weight. I've gained over twenty pounds since November 2005.
  • I had a physical. It all came out good. However, my cholesterol and blood sugar are worse, even though they're still OK.
  • I get hyper a lot (see previous post, and I still hadn't made the thyroid connection).
  • I got more depressed in church. Ivan Orellana spoke. He's not a polished speaker, but God has been speaking to him and he reached a lot of people. It's cool that a young person who grew up in our church is listening to God. However, I didn't get much out of it. I felt cold and cynical. I've just been dealing with a Jehovah's Witness paper on how John 1:1 does not say Jesus is God. It is poorly written and shows really bad thinking and lack of knowledge about Greek and language. I like people to think straight and I felt like I was judging poor Ivan based on my frustration with the silly JW paper.
  • I've had periods of feeling old and seeing my life slip away.
Now I'm depressed just from writing my list!

Before church service I talked to friends and it helped some. Rick Curtis -- my first successful Greek student who is now DOM of our area (Director of Missions, which is Southern Baptist for Bishop) -- was visiting. After church service he saw me sitting by myself and talked and prayed with me. That helped a lot.

I really have a lot to be thankful for
  • Carolina loves me and stays with me despite all my problems.
  • My children are all doing well. They even talk to me and share their lives with me.
  • Sarah is engaged.
  • God loves me and has taken care of me for many years.
  • Likewise our church. Even though we've been on a financial edge for almost a year, we've always managed to pay the bills. We've even raised a lot of money to fix our leaky roof.
  • I've had a wonderful summer. I've never been so active. A 25th anniversary cruise with Carolina. Backpacking to beautiful Jennie Lake. A trip to Yosemite and Hike up Half Dome. Two trips to Arcata -- both relaxing and good chances to be with Carolina and visit Ruth.
  • I've got to spend time with my son, Dan. Playing tennis, talking and during the Yosemite trip.
  • Likewise I've had some good times with Sarah, including the backpack trip.
  • I like all my children's significant others. More than like, they are all very wonderful people.
  • I have a good job. It pays well. I get to sit in a cubicle and not be outside in the elements. I mostly get to do stuff I like. Right now the stress level isn't even too high.
  • I've found very good friends at my church.
  • Church has helped me a lot to be more honest and open to what the Bible and God really say.
  • Despite having arthritis and hypothyroid, I feel really good and can be physically active. If I lived even 50 years earlier I'd probably be crippled from my arthritis. Praise God for modern medicine.
  • Of the five of us who hiked up Half Dome, three of us made it. Dan and I were the only ones who were not really sore and suffering afterwards. I conquered my fears and did better than I possibly hoped.
  • I feel much more confident around people than I ever have. This is huge for me, the boy who hid in his mom's skirts, the young teenager who didn't even talk to a girl until he was a sophomore in high school, who was scared to use the phone until well into adulthood.
  • I have food, clothes and a nice house. I'm richer than most of the people in the world. I have time to enjoy life.
OK, that list helped. It's hard for me to see the positive. Thanks to all of you who God has used in my life.


Many years ago I used to fall asleep in meetings and at church. I got bored easily and fought my lack of discipline to stay awake. Then I found out I have hypothyroidism -- my thyroid is low. I take thyroid replacement medicine. I get tested regularly to make sure it's OK and sometimes need to change dosage. Since then I've almost never dozed off when I shouldn't.

Recently (last six months to a year) I've found myself getting uptight and hyper very easily. It's not that I didn't before. It just seems to happen more now. And I don't sleep as easily. Am I just noticing more? Am I under more stress? Am I losing faith in God?

Several months ago my test showed my thyroid was slightly high. Last week had my annual physical and got tested again. My thyroid was a bit high again, so my doctor adjusted my dosage down.

Just yesterday I made the connection. Maybe I'm hyper because my thyroid is too high. Usually when it's adjusted it's because it's too low. I have never had it high for very long so I don't really know what it feels like. I guess I'll find out if thyroid is my problem in the next few weeks.

People want to be real, to feel their raw and actual emotions. How much of that is just chemical? How much of what we call moral or immoral is also just chemical? Is it time for Equilibrium?

Speeding Ticket

I got a speeding ticket a week ago Saturday. It was on our way to visit our daughter Ruth in Arcata, and happened in Mendicino County, between Willits and Eureka. It's a beautiful section of the 101, redwoods all over. I've been warned they're pretty tough on speeders. And I usually just enjoy the drive. But I was into going fast and had two other cars with me (safety in numbers). It even occurred to me how stupid I was being, but I paid no attention. I came over a hill and around a bend and a police officer was parked behind a sign. I actually was alert enough to see him and slow down, but too late. He got me (and let the two behind me go, so much for the safety thing) on his radar doing 83 in a 65 zone. He turned out to be very nice. Smiled. Told me that he'd reduce my speed since I just came over a hill and wasn't doing anything else that was dangerous. He explained that by reducing my speed below 80 I'd avoid the automatic doubling of the fine in Mendicino county and be eligible for traffic school. Very nice, but also a not-to-subtle warning not to do it again! I signed my 75 mph ticket and we were on our way. We drove the speed limit the rest of the way up and all the way home (which added at least an hour to our drive home). I've been thinking about changing how I drive and learning to relax and not hurry so much.

How much of my morality is governed by not wanting to get caught?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Good in people

There's a lot of evil in the world. Most of it is due to people. To us. Large cities have a lot of evil because they have a lot of people. However, there is also good in people. The hike up Half Dome brought that out. For me it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the hike.

It's not that everyone was all wonderful. There were a lot of people on the hike. Some seemed rude or arrogant or just in a hurry. The reactions of the animals to us showed that many ignored the admonitions to not feed the animals. At times bathroom conditions and trail trash showed a lack of respect for the park.

Difficulty and danger put us on our best behavior.

On the hike, though, it was mostly good. People were polite and usually greeted us on the trail. People went out of their way to be encouraging and helpful. Most of us were thrilled to be in such an awesome place and just wanted to share with those around us. The difficulty of the hike also tended to filter out people who weren't pretty committed to being there.

People were especially polite on the cables.

The switchbacks and even more the cables really showed people at their best. On both people always let others pass by when needed. There isn't a lot of room on the switchbacks so we were always looking to see if someone was coming the other way and when we could stop or when we could pass. The cables have even less room and stopping at the safety of the poles was important. We always offered to let the other person go and politely negotiated our passing around them.

People coming down were always encouraging us who were going up. We returned the favor on the way down. I remember one man coming down as I was climbing the cables. He told me that the cables leveled out just above him. That was very encouraging -- knowing what lay ahead was important. On my way down I met an older man who was very tired at about the same spot. I was able to pass on the same favor.

We often shared our fears. In earlier posts I've mentioned the man who was scared of heights and the woman that wanted to climb the cables with us. I was involved in many exchanges on the cables of this nature. Again those coming down often provide moral support to those going up.

There was a friendly club atmosphere on Half Dome's summit.

At the summit people were also very friendly. There was no longer the exaggerated need for politeness we felt on the switchbacks and cables. But we were all very happy to be there and to share with whomever was around. It was kind of like we were all now part of a special club. Some of our normal barriers were dropped and we could be very open and friendly.

How nice avoid the evil of the world and to catch a glimpse of how good people can be, even if only for one day.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Go For It

Falling off the cables is a bad idea.

My last post was about limits. I had a very personal reason for thinking about limits on our Half Dome hike. I came close to swimming beyond my limit on our backpack to Jennie Lake a month before the Yosemite trip. I was afraid I might make the same mistake with the cables at Half Dome. I wanted to go for it, but was afraid I might under-estimate how tired I was and slide off the mountain because of exhaustion.

Waiting for the cables.

We waited about twenty minutes for the cables to clear. During this time I was fairly nervous. I still thought about being exhausted even though I felt very strong. The hike up the switchbacks was tough, but I was fine. I keep feeling like I wanted to turn back. However, I also knew that if I turned back I would always regret it. I decided to leave my knapsack. That made hanging on the cables seem more manageable. As soon as the cables cleared I wanted to go. I felt if I waited any longer I would chicken out.

On the cables, finally.

I went for it. Dan and I walked to the cables. I asked Dan to stay with me -- I would feel better. We walked by a woman who said she was scared and could she climb between us. I said I was scared too, sure. I was focused on going up and just kept walking. Rex said he wanted to go behind me since I knew more about the route. OK, whatever. That made it me, Rex, the woman and Dan. I just focused on the cables and the rock at my feet and started climbing. Once I was on the cables I was fine. I even looked around once or twice halfway up.

I was still in a nervous state though. About 2/3 of the way up a woman coming down asked if I had seen her friend. I said no. It wasn't until the next morning I realized she was asking about the woman who asked to climb between Dan and I! In fact they were both part of a group of woman who were on top. The group included the 8 year old girl I mentioned in my last post. I also talked with on of their companions for several minutes on the summit. I am a spacey person, but it also shows how hyped-up I was.

I had no problem. It did require some pulling on the cables, but even my arthritic hands could do it. It is by no means a straight pull uphill. Mostly the cables are used to keep from sliding back while climbing with your feet and legs. Plus you can rest every 6 feet or so on the 2x4 across the cable poles.

I saw this badger at the top of the cables on the way up and down.

I got to the top, met some people, looked around some and then realized Rex wasn't there yet! Yes, I was spacey! I went back to the cable top. Somebody I didn't know came up. Where were Rex and the woman and Dan? Rex showed up after a while -- the man I saw had passed everyone! Dan came a bit later and he said the woman was coming up behind him. I had just gone, focused on what I was doing, with no thought for anyone else.

I regretted that I left my knapsack below. Taking it would have been no problem, although not having it made passing the people coming down a little easier. I wanted some water and I wanted to have my camera. I'll bring it next time!

Coming down the cables.

Coming down the cables was scarier than going up. It wasn't too bad though. Most people go down facing down. I started that way too but started sliding a little which made me nervous. I turned around and descended backwards most of the way. A little slower but I felt more in control. I again was able to look at the view a bit. Looking too long seemed like a bad idea -- everything is down and it is easy to get dizzy. I even did OK when we had to wait for the boy to be helped down.

I'm so glad I went for it. I regret leaving my knapsack on the shoulder I regret being a space cadet and not being more help to the woman climbing with us or to her friend. It was necessary for me to be focused and get over my fear. That I don't regret. I am a fearful person who overcame a major fear. I also proved to myself that I was physically up to the challenge. Thanks to God for getting me through!

Know Your Limits

It's good to know your limits. I learned a lot about limits on our hike.

Don at his limit.

I mentioned in my "Stay with your friends" post that one of our group was in real pain. Don pushed far beyond what I think most people would. He also had the grace to know that he needed to stop and that he was slowing us down. He knew his limits. After he had rested a couple of hours he felt like pushing on to the summit. But he again realized that would hurt the group and gave up on it.

Climbing the switchbacks.

On the way up the switchbacks I passed a couple coming down. The man told me he had made it up the switchbacks. He talked about the rock scramble at the top and said it looked pretty scary. However, he had made even though he was afraid of heights. I'm not sure why he shared with me -- was he telling everyone? He seemed very happy to have accomplished this. His last comment was that he turned back at the cables. He knew his limits and had a very happy hike despite not making the summit.

The shoulder of Half Dome at the top of the switchbacks. Robin reached his limit here.

Robin was the last of our group up the switchbacks. Dan, Rex and I were waiting for the cables. (A man was coming down awkwardly with a group behind and it seemed good to let them get off first.) Robin collapsed on the ground and asked for water. I gave him some. Dan asked if he was ready to climb the cables. He said no. He had reached his limit and had the wisdom to not push too far.

Going down the cables after a boy was helped off them.

A little after we started down the cables we got stuck for 10 minutes or so. A small boy (we heard 5 years old) got scared and was helped down by the search and rescue team (I saw them at the summit -- they had just climbed the face. Are they always there? Was it just good fortune?). The boy, or perhaps his father, exceeded his limits. It was all OK, but he probably would have been happier if he had stayed on the shoulder, still an impressive achievement of such a small one. While on the summit we saw a girl not much older -- she was about 8. Limits are very individual. It's probably a good idea if we parents know and respect our children's limits.

My last story was kind of a downer. I don't mean to rip on the boy or his father -- it's very hard to know when you will get scared and when you will be exhausted. My main point is to celebrate people who know their limits and respect them, who do not go beyond just because of ego or peer pressure. The long, hard and scary Half Dome hike helped me see that more clearly.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

First Aid.

As we left Taft Point a couple was just arriving. The man passed by. The woman came down a bit later. She had fallen on a rock and scraped her hands. Some skin had peeled away -- painful but not very serious. She was asking (him, us?) for a bandage. Rex had a disinfectant wipe. I had some antiseptic cream. The man had bandages. He kind of criticized his mate for falling "You need to be careful on the rocks." It seemed to me that he was embarrassed that she fell and was asking for help.

Hiking away from Taft Point.

A couple of observations.

I felt good about being prepared and being able to help. It was an accident though. I brought the first aid stuff and everything else in my knapsack because I wanted to get used to it before the big Half Dome hike the next day. I didn't really think I'd need it on the easy Taft Point hike. Never know when opportunity will arise.

Even though I'm quick to judge (for example), I would have never thought to judge the woman for falling or the man for being with a woman who would fall and ask for help. Yet this seems to be what the man was worried about. I did judge him for his bad attitude and lack of compassion. Hmmm...

However, before I could walk away totally righteous, I remembered how on a number of occasions I've acted the same way to those I love. How odd that we do this, especially since love and compassion are so beautiful.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Looking at Half Dome from the top of Sentinel Dome.

As we hiked around various places in Yosemite, we were often overwhelmed by the beauty. It was awe-inspiring. We see a view, exclaim, stop and take pictures. Soon after continuing we'd see an equally amazing or even better view.
Looking at Yosemite Valley from the top of Half Dome.

This just went on and on. We would run out of words and just say wow. Or be silent. At times we actually got tired of yet another incredible sight. It became too much.
Looking down (4800 feet!) over the face of Half Dome.

Is that what God is like?

A Yosemite secret.

I'm going to let you in on a secret about Yosemite. There aren't too many -- Yosemite is a pretty popular place. And I probably shouldn't do it -- no need for more people. But you're my friends. This is for you.

The big secret? Get out of the valley. Yes, Yosemite Valley is awesome. But it is also very commercial and crowded. There is a lot more to be seen.

I suppose it's not that big of secret. After all, the trail to Half Dome is almost always full of people. However, hiking to Half Dome either involves backpacking or a 14 or more mile hike in one day, some of it on very steep trails. By all means if you can make the hike you should. It's worth every sore muscle and blister.

What's not so well known is the many other trails. I haven't been on most of them. Many of them can be long hikes or backpacks. Here are some we hiked and really enjoyed.

Mt. Broderick, Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall viewed from the Panorama Trail at dawn.

Panorama Trail. Take the tour bus to Glacier Point. Hike down the Panorama Trail to Yosemite Valley. This is a 8 mile hike, so it still involves a fair amount of hiking. But most of it is downhill. And the views are awesome. We started in the early morning which you can't do with the tour bus. We heard Nevada Fall, saw deer and other animals and watched the sun rise on Yosemite. Unforgettable. We also got to see the sun set on the lower part of the trail -- the John Muir Trail -- since we detoured to climb Half Dome during most of the day.

Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan at the entrance of Yosemite Valley viewed from Sentinel Dome.

Sentinel Dome. This is a short 1.1 mile hike. It starts from a trail head on the Glacier Point road about 2/3 of the way to Glacier Point. The hike climbs about 400ft. You arrive at Sentinel Dome which is 8100ft high (just below Half Dome's 8800ft) and towers 4100ft above the Yosemite Valley floor. 80% of the thrill of Half Dome with 1% of the effort.

Taft Point overlooking Yosemite Valley.

Taft Point and The Fissures. This also is a 1.1 mile hike. It starts at the same trail head as the Sentinel Dome hike. The elevation change is about 300ft but it is mostly down to the point and then up on the way back. The hike itself is much prettier than the Sentinel Dome hike with a lot of trees, foliage and even animals along most of the route. The Taft Point outcropping has many cuts on its side which are known as the fissures. Again the views are spectacular.

Half Dome at dusk viewed from Glacier Point.

Glacier Point. Can't hike at all? Go to Glacier Point. It is a 45 minute drive from Yosemite Village. It's not so secret -- you will run into crowds during the day. Want a real thrill -- get there for sunrise or sunset. We were there in the first light of dawn for our Half Dome hike and saw sunrise, as I mentioned above, on the Panorama Trail. Earlier we went to see stars at night and arrived just after sunset. The lighting and views we saw caused to just sit and stare until the light faded. The star viewing was spectacular too.