Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Lindisfarne Gospels and the Minds of Northumbrian Monks

Like the designers of baroque churches, the monks who created the Lindisfarne Gospels disdained the concept of "too much."

Anarchism, the Occupy Movement, and the Kingdom of God

Back in the heyday of the Occupy movement, Christian writer Joseph Bottum spent some time hanging around Zuccotti Park talking to protesters. He never wrote his planned story about them, he says, because
I couldn't find a way to explain the enormous spiritual anxiety I felt radiating from nearly all of the people I met.
I understand. I also had the sense that the goals of the Occupiers were more about spiritual renewal than economics. Pressed to explain what they were doing, they usually said that they were upset about how wrong the world is. "We want change," one young man told Bottum. "Just change." Others seemed to be more interested in joining a movement for meaningful change than actually achieving any:
Most of all, he said, "we want people to know about the wrongness in society the way we do. We want them to see us as the 'moral vanguard of change' " (repeating a catchphrase from a meeting the night before). "Exactly," the young woman with him added. "We want people to see how brave we are, and to know that they can be brave, too."
The movement petered out even more quickly than most such amorphous crusades, leaving the rest of us to wonder what it was all about. Bottum thinks it makes most sense as a religious movement:
An era more comfortable than ours with religious history would have understood immediately what Occupy Wall Street was: a protest against the continuing reign of Satan and a plea for the coming of the Kingdom of God, with a new heaven and a new earth. In perhaps their most revealing invention, the protestors developed strange hand-waving gestures as rules of order and a substitute for voting during meetings—a marvelously utopian attempt to achieve absolute equality and democracy within their own community of saints. This was not a coherent religious worldview making an ethical stand against a particular evil, as the early 1960s civil rights movement had been in the view of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. This was instead a great, incoherent cry of apocalyptic spiritual pain: We know what is right—true, good, real—and still the world lies in sin and error.
But most of the movement's allies see it in other terms, specifically through the lens of anarchism. As it originated in the nineteenth century, anarchism was as much a spasm of violence as a philosophy. That tradition is still maintained by certain hackers and black-clad fence breakers, but most modern anarchists are pacifists. From the raft of books penned by left-wing commentators about Occupy, Bottum singles out two as worth reading: David Graeber's The Democracy Project and James C. Scott's Two Cheers for Anarchism. Graeber is bullish on Occupy. Not because it struck any meaningful blows against the bureaucratic state, but rather because it did not. Rather than changing the world, the protesters changed themselves; they did not create anarchy, but they did live it:
We are already anarchists, every time we come to understandings with one another that would not require physical threats as a means of enforcement.
James Scott is less enthusiastic. A Marxist who has written extensively about peasant movements in southeast Asia -- I think Weapons of the Weak is a terrific book for explaining why peasants are the way they are -- Scott has less use for objectively failed movements. Yet he, like Graeber, is interested in the notion that anarchism can be something lived as much as something achieved. We can resist the state and social conformity in a thousand small ways without needing to have a revolution, even if that is the ultimate goal. I was especially struck by Scott's depiction of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. This has now become a history lesson about serious people acting with serious moral purpose, organized through churches and mosques, sanctified by sacrifice, presided over by holy martyrs.
The real civil rights movement, Scott argues, was much wilder, much woollier, and much wackier.
I agree. To pick apart "the movement" of the 1960s and say that the civil rights crusade was good and important, but the rest of what hippies were up to was suspect and silly, is to do violence to the time. For most participants the political goals were just one part of a longing for liberation in every sense. Dancing all night to rowdy music, preferably in an interracial group, was in the sense of Scott and Graeber an act of freedom as meaningful as passing laws.

Politics has never been kind to anarchists. As Scott admits,
Every major successful revolution ended by creating a state more powerful than the one it overthrew.
Does that mean that the whole project of anarchism is stupid? Or does it mean that anarchists should focus their attention on something other than mundane political action?

I am much more acculturated to bourgeois existence than radicals like Graeber and Scott. Yet I sometimes react badly enough to the stifling miasma of the ordinary, rule bound, clock directed life to understand what motivates them. My world of suburban houses, anonymous downtown office blocks, and traffic jams sometimes sickens me, and I long to somehow break free.

But where would I go and what would I do? Life isn't stifling and rule-bound for no reason, it is stifling and rule-bound because that is the only way we have found to make it work. The Kingdom of God -- the place that would be perfectly safe and profoundly meaningful at the same time -- is not coming soon. What to do in the mean time? I used to scorn people who sought meaning by throwing themselves into fringe causes or marching in doomed protests, but no more. To say that something does not "matter" is to offer a sweeping generalization about the universe and our place in it that I no longer feel qualified to make. What does it mean to be free, anyway? Is it really about politics, or can it be found in actions like a sit-in, or in dancing, or in love? or even in accepting what cannot be changed?

An Iron Age Sweater from Norway

As the glaciers retreat in Norway's mountains, all sorts of things are emerging from melted ice. Like this sweater, found on the Lendbreen glacier 6,500 feet (2000 m) above sea level.

The sweater was woven of wool in a diamond twill pattern between 230 and 390 CE. It would have fit a slender man around 5 feet 9 inches tall (1.75 m).

RIP Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

He lived there in the unsayable lights.
He saw the fuchsia in a drizzling noon,
The elderflower at dusk like a risen moon
And green fields greying on the windswept heights.
"I will break through," he said, "what I glazed over
with perfect mist and peaceful absences" --
Sudden and sure as the man who dared the ice
And raced his bike across the Moyola River.
A man we never saw. But in that winter
Of nineteen forty-seven, when the snow
Kept the country bright as a studio,
In a cold where things might crystallize or founder,
His story quickened us, a white goose
Heard after dark above the drifted house.

Glanmore Sonnets VI, 1979

Friday, August 30, 2013


Images from the Gosforth Cross, first half of the tenth century.

Spies Whining about their Budgets

The Washington Post has obtained a copy of the "Black Budget" from superspy Edward Snowden -- this is our spending on all the various secret and supersecret agencies that do spying and assassinations for us. It is fascinating, and more proof that Edward Snowden is the most important American of his generation.I am sure all the major discoveries will be in the news, but I was most struck by this line from Naitonal Intelligence Director James Clapper:
Never before has the Intelligence Community been called upon to master such complexity and so many issues in such a resource-constrained environment.
Oh, sure, the Cold War, Vietnam, World War II, those were simple times, when we had so few issues to deal with. And the notion that our spying is "resource constrained" would be very funny if some people didn't seem to believe it.

Fifty Years On

1963 is not an end but a beginning.

--M.L. King
About a decade ago my father told me something very interesting. He said that some time in the early 60s he realized that segregation was coming to an end. He thought, there's going to be hell to pay for the next twenty years, but after that things will probably be better. So nothing that happened in the 60s or 70s surprised him --riots and crime and conflict over issues like busing were only what he expected from such a profound social change. But some time in the 80s he started to wonder when the racial nightmare would finally be over.

Has it been a long time? I wonder. What is a long time for a social change? And how deep and profound is America's racial divide? Compared to, say, the division between aristocrats and commoners, or the subordinate status of women, racism is a recent creation. I can imagine a world in which it will become a strange historical curiosity -- something I cannot imagine about issues of sex and class. But will it?

We have a half black president, but on the other hand a lot of Americans are determined to write him out of the Republic by fair means or foul. Which is a more important sign of the state of America, Obama's election or the hatred he arouses in his enemies?

I find myself reflective on this anniversary, and wondering where we really stand.

What's Happening to Us?

Something strange is happening to our bodies. The more diseases we banish, the better we make our defenses against bacteria and protozoa and worms, the more we suffer from a raft of new or newly prominent afflictions: autoimmune disorders, allergies, chronic fatigue, autism, crippling anxiety.

Some days I think this is just a product of longer lives, greater health, and such a reduction in real crises that we have time and energy to worry about lesser problems. Other days I worry that we are somehow poisoning ourselves in a profound and mysterious way. Why, after ten thousand years of living on bread, are we suddenly experiencing a dramatic increase in celiac disease? (It seems to be about four times more common in the U.S. than 60 years ago.) The most careful studies of autism seem to show that increased awareness and changed diagnosis can account for much of the increase, but not all of it; there really is more autism than there used to be.

Is it artificial chemicals that mimic our hormones? Not enough sickness in childhood? Are suburban gut bacteria sub-optimal?

It is very mysterious, and some days it scares me a little.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three Cheers for the House of Commons

Today the House of Commons voted down the government's motion to support military action against Syria:
British Prime Minister David Cameron has lost a vote endorsing military action against Syria by 13 votes, a stunning defeat for a government which had seemed days away from joining the U.S. in possible attacks to punish Bashar Assad’s regime over an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Good to know that some people somewhere haven't lost their minds over this. Where is the American opposition?

Mapping Race in America

This amazing map shows every person in the US, identified by race. I zoomed in on my own neighborhood, just west of Baltimore. Catonsville is that swath of blue (= white people) in the center. Baltimore is the mass of green (= black people) to the right.

Zooming in closer. Here you can clearly make out the very mixed neighborhood to the north of Catonsville, called Woodlawn. Just to the west, across Patapsco State Park in Howard County, is a mass of red (= Asian people), since for mysterious reasons that area has been taken over by Koreans and Indians. Down to the southwest you can see lots of orange (= Hispanic people) in Columbia.

Zooming in even more, you can see Catonsville's black neighborhood, centered on Winters Lane --right under the word "Pike" -- which has been a black neighborhood since the Civil War. To the west of that is a small but growing Asian pocket, which explains why the strip mall closest to my house is dominated by an Asian grocery store. I could spend all day looking at this, so I had better close it now.

Urbino: the Ducal Palace

The famous Palazzo Ducale of Urbino, Italy was built for Duke Federico da Montefeltro beginning in 1454.

That's the famous Duke above. Besides having one of history's most recognizable noses, he was a great patron of the arts and of learning; Castiglione's The Courtier is staged as a conversation at his court.

Much of the building is frankly rather strange; this is the entrance.

But within are amazing spaces. Most famously this one, the Court of Honor. The court was designed by the Dalmatian architect Luciano Laurana. We know very little about Laurana, but he must have been in Florence and seen the work of Brunelleschi and Alberti. Many people, especially of the neoclassical bent, think his work is even more lovely and perfect than theirs.

Details of the courtyard and the grand stairway.

Other interior views.

Before We Start Bombing Again

It is a bedrock principle of international law that one state may not unilaterally attack another except in self-defense.

--Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed.

--Bill Watterson

Nullification in Missouri

Meanwhile, in my old home state:
Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.
This is called "nullification." We had a war about this once. The nullifiers lost. To their modern imitators I say, with Andrew Jackson, that theirs is a "strange position" and an "impractical absurdity":
I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.
On another occasion, asked by a visitor from South Carolina if he had any words for the people of his (nullification-mad) state:
Yes I have; please give my compliments to my friends in your State and say to them, that if a single drop of blood shall be shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can lay my hand on engaged in such treasonable conduct, upon the first tree I can reach.
Or we might toss in William Tecumseh Sherman's supposed reply to a journalist who asked how he could justify the destruction his men were visiting on the South:
They asked for it.

A Sleep Spell

Fiddle strings must be made of Adders and Serpents, but of their guts, or membrane that joynes to the backbone, which you must take forth of a running River... fit these strings to a Fiddle or Cythern, and playing on it with your fingers, it will make a pleasing soft, gentle, sound, and will make those that hear it sleep soundly, that they will shut their eyes whether they will or no, and sleep will be propounded.

--Johann Jacob Wecker, Eighteen Books of the Secrets of Art & Nature (1661)

From a wonderful blog I just discovered, Ask the Past.

What Goes on in Castle Vufflens?

This is Chateau Vufflens in Switzerland, which is impressive and famous enough that small versions have appeared in various museums of miniatures, and you can download instructions on how to duplicate it in Minecraft.

And yet the thing is privately owned and never open to the public. What do the owners do in there?

I would expect there to be lots of rumors about the Grandmaster of the Bavarian Illuminati or some such, but there isn't even that. Nothing. Just an enormous beautiful castle that must cost half a million francs a year to maintain. How can they afford it without charging admission to tourists? And what is in it? The only pictures I have found are of the large watchtower; not a word about what goes on in the rest of this enormous edifice.

The spot was fortified by 1100, when the monastery of Romainmôtier entrusted it to a knightly family that came to be known as Vufflens. In the twelfth century the castle was the center of a nearly independent domain. But as order returned to Europe in the later Middle Ages, things got harder for these independent knights. The first well-documented owner of the castle was a certain Peter Vufflens, who became a vassal of the Bishop of Lausanne in 1175. The bishops transferred the overlordship to the Counts of Geneva, and they gave the lordship to the Cossonay family, reducing the Vufflens family to lowly sub-vassals.

The Cossonay clan wound up on the front lines of a 50-year struggle between the Counts of Geneva and the Counts of Savoy over the Canton of Vaud. At first loyal to Geneva, they were eventually forced to transfer their allegiance to Savoy. Count Peter II of Savoy then arranged a marriage between the heiress of Vufflens and one of his own vassals, named Duin. The Duins held the castle for nearly a century. Then in 1390 an heiress of Duin was married to another favorite of another count: Henry of Colombier, Steward of  Count Amadeus VIII of Savoy. Colombier was the governor of Piedmont, once served as an envoy to Constantinople, commanded in a couple of battles, and in 1426 served as mediator in peace negotiations between Venice and Milan.

It seems that the old castle, whatever it had been like, was not grand enough for Peter of Colombier. He razed it and built the modern castle over its foundations. The castle is brick, which was the fashion in western Switzerland at the time. It seems to have been largely complete by the time of Colombier's death in 1438. Colombier's castle was stormed and sacked once, in 1530, when the city of Bern conquered the Vaud. The castle had to be repaired and its appearance may have changed, although this is not certain. It changed owners several times until in 1641 it was transferred as dowry to the family de Senarclens, whose descendants still own it. A drawing of 1650 shows that the exterior had its modern appearance by then, although the interior was extensively modernized in the nineteenth century.

Perhaps this is very bourgeois and American of me, but I am still simply flabbergasted by the notion that this gigantic monument is the property of an old noble family. And what do they do with all the space?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Poison Ring and a Question about Poison

This bronze ring from medieval Bulgaria had a hidden compartment of the sort that is supposed to have been used for poison.

Which brings me back to one of my favorite questions: did ancient, medieval, or renaissance Europeans have any poisons deadly enough to kill with such a small dose? The harder I look into this question, the less I find. There were certainly rumors of poison and even somewhat credible reports of poison, but is there any reliable data?

Our ancestors certainly had poisons; Pliny the Elder said he knew of 7,000. They knew about arsenic, for example; but arsenic is not a reliable way of killing anyone in a hurry, and the fatal dose of most preparations is much more than you could fit in a ring.

They knew about deadly alkaloids from plants: belladonna or deadly nightshade, for example, and hemlock. Belladonna is quite dangerous, and it is possible to die from eating one leaf. The thing is, it tastes terrible; our dislike of bitter tastes evolved to help us avoid alkaloids like the ones in these plants. Was it possible to prepare a mixture from these plants that would be fatal without being obvious?

The Royal Halls at Lejre

The Scyldings, the ancient royal family of the Danes, were much celebrated in song and legend. The fourth line of Beowulf celebrates their founder as a mighty warrior  --
Oft Scyld Sheffing
seized mead benches 
Seizing mead benches from their enemies being a sort of Viking prank much engaged in by the heroes of Beowulf's time.

Not least of the Scyldings claims to fame was their mighty hall, said by Saxo Grammaticus to have "far outshone all others in its splendor." The ancient Danish Quern Song calls it Hleitirarstóll, which might be rendered "the seat at Lejre." This name appears several times in the old legends; Saxo in another passage calls a good candidate for the Danish throne "worthy of Lejre." The 11th-century historian Thietmar of Merseburg made this the center of pagan sacrifice in Denmark:
Because I have heard strange stories about their ancient sacrifices, I will not allow the practice to go unmentioned. In those parts the center of the kingdom is called Lederun (Lejre), in the region of Selon (Sjælland), all the people gathered every nine years in January, that is after we have celebrated the birth of the Lord [Jan 6th], and there they offered to the gods ninety-nine men and just as many horses, along with dogs and cocks— the later being used in place of hawks.

There is a modern Danish town called Lejre, on the island of Zealand just a few miles west of Copenhagen. Excavations carried out there in the 1980s, directed by Tom Christensen of the Roskilde Museum produced spectacular evidence that this was the same place as the Lejre famous in Viking lore. Above is a plan showing a great hall of the 9th-century Viking period (gray) overlapping an earlier a hall built around 690 CE. The complete hall is about 45 meters (150 feet) long. The small statue of Odin on his high seat shown at the top of the post and the small Freya below it were found around this hall.

Now the excavators are reporting the discovery of an even earlier hall, dating to around 500 CE. This is old enough to be the one sung of in Beowulf. I haven't been able to find any plans, but the news accounts include these details:
Scientific study this year of the bones of literally hundreds of animals found near the hall, shows that they feasted on suckling pig, beef, mutton, goat meat, venison, goose, duck, chicken and fish. Other finds from around the hall have included fragments of glass drinking vessels, 40 pieces of bronze, gold and silver jewellery, pottery imported from England and the Rhineland – and the wing of a sea-eagle, whose feathers may well have been used for fletching arrows. Twenty other gold items were found just a few hundred metres away.
Above, a small silver box decorated with dragon-like monsters; above this is a bronze brooch in the shape of a bird. Most wonderful, and I can't wait to find out more.

Vasectomies for Feral Tomcats

A computer study of feral cat populations says that giving vasectomies to dominant males works better to reduce populations than trying to neuter all the males:
Feral cats live in groups that are controlled by a dominant male. A vasectomy cuts the tube that carries sperm without removing a cat's testicles, so a vasectomized cat retains its sexual hormones. Thus, it can also keep its dominant position in the colony, so it's able to mate with females without producing kittens. On the other hand, neutered or castrated—and thus sexually inactive—cats returned to a colony lose their position to the next most dominant breeding male. What's more, when a non-sterilized female cat mates with a vasectomized male, she undergoes a 45-day pseudo-pregnancy period, further reducing opportunities for reproduction, the study authors found.
This seems encouraging, but with 80 million feral cats in North America, that's a lot of vasectomies.

That'll Show 'Em

From the Post:
President Obama is weighing a military strike against Syria that would be of limited scope and duration, designed to serve as punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons and as a deterrent, while keeping the United States out of deeper involvement in that country’s civil war, according to senior administration officials.
Well, I'm glad to hear the president doesn't want to get deeply involved in Syria's Civil War. But I have to wonder what this intervention is supposed to accomplish. Blow up a few depots, crater an airfield, kill a few soldiers, to make the point that killing civilians with chemical weapons is worse than shooting them? This seems doomed to disappoint everyone and accomplish nothing, at a time when even the Post's own poll shows that 67% of Americans don't want to get involved.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Golden Rice and Fear of the Unknown

In the Philippines a few weeks ago, 400 activists broke down a fence and destroyed a field of rice. This was no ordinary rice field, but one of four test fields in the country for what its developers call Golden Rice. Golden Rice is a genetically modified strain into which genes from corn and bacteria have been inserted, allowing it to produce beta carotene:
The concerns voiced by the participants in the Aug. 8 act of vandalism — that Golden Rice could pose unforeseen risks to human health and the environment, that it would ultimately profit big agrochemical companies — are a familiar refrain in the long-running controversy over the merits of genetically engineered crops. They are driving the desire among some Americans for mandatory “G.M.O.” labels on food with ingredients made from crops whose DNA has been altered in a laboratory. And they have motivated similar attacks on trials of other genetically modified crops in recent years: grapes designed to fight off a deadly virus in France, wheat designed to have a lower glycemic index in Australia, sugar beets in Oregon designed to tolerate a herbicide, to name a few.
I don't regard distrust of genetically-modified organisms as necessarily silly. This is a very new technology and we really don't know whether, for example, those genes for Roundup resistance might spread to the weeds it is supposed to control. I think the issue of who owns the seeds produced by crops in farmers' fields is a real one. I think we should proceed carefully here.

But this particular protest was still dumb. So what if the genes for the production of Vitamin A spread in wild plants? How would that hurt anyone? Golden Rice does not belong to some agrochemical company, but to a nonprofit foundation that allows anyone to grow it freely. Plus, it addresses a major health problem. Across much of Asia, poor people get most of their calories from rice, and as a result end up lacking key nutrients, especially beta carotene:
Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive.
Maybe Golden Rice won't work out; maybe it will have poor yields, or be vulnerable to drought, or something else. But if it does work, it would be a huge benefit for tens of millions of people. Reaction to the protest has been very strong, as you would expect:
“It is long past time for scientists to stand up and shout, ‘No more lies — no more fear-mongering,’ ” said Nina V. Fedoroff, a professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and a former science adviser to the American secretary of state, who helped spearhead the petition. “We’re talking about saving millions of lives here.”
Indeed. People need to stop reacting according to simplistic categories —  GM = evil, for example — and think about what is actually happening in the world.

What We Accept in Democracy

The fundamental point . . . is that in a democracy we consent to be governed by people we dislike.

--Roger Scruton

Microsoft's Poisonous Corporate Culture

Kurt Eichenwald's take on what has happened to Microsoft:
Microsoft had stepped up its efforts to cripple competitors, but—because of a series of astonishingly foolish management decisions—the competitors being crippled were often co-workers at Microsoft, instead of other companies. Staffers were rewarded not just for doing well but for making sure that their colleagues failed. As a result, the company was consumed by an endless series of internal knife fights. Potential market-busting businesses—such as e-book and smartphone technology—were killed, derailed, or delayed amid bickering and power plays.
Among other things, says Eichenwald, Microsoft stumbled because of an obsessive focus on Windows -- Bill Gates personally nixed the pioneering e-reader developed by Microsoft because it didn't look like a Windows product -- excessive bureaucracy, and infighting between early arrivers, made millionaires by the soaring stock price of those days, and late arrivals dependent on salaries. But the way they did employee reviews amazes me:
By 2002 the by-product of bureaucracy—brutal corporate politics—had reared its head at Microsoft. And, current and former executives said, each year the intensity and destructiveness of the game playing grew worse as employees struggled to beat out their co-workers for promotions, bonuses, or just survival. . . .

At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called “stack ranking.” Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. The system . . . worked like this: every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.

“If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” said a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.” . . .

For that reason, executives said, a lot of Microsoft superstars did everything they could to avoid working alongside other top-notch developers, out of fear that they would be hurt in the rankings. And the reviews had real-world consequences: those at the top received bonuses and promotions; those at the bottom usually received no cash or were shown the door.
Amazing. This is the same sort of crap that Enron used on its highway to disaster.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Maymont Park

Yesterday I walked around Maymont Park in Richmond, Virginia with three of my own children, a niece, a nephew, and my father. I have loved Maymont since I was a child myself, and I love sharing it with my own children. It was a gorgeous day, but so bright that most of my pictures are washed out. View down toward the James River from the Italian Garden.

My daughter Clara (left), niece Zoey, and nephew Simon feed the goats in the Children's Farm.

The young ones charge up the big hill to roll or run down. Simon managed to fall down before even started. After I took these pictures I went up myself; I elected to run down rather than roll.

Clara and Zoey inspect a black bear from close range.

In his mind, my son Ben is charging into battle on a bear, battle ax in one hand. Picture by my elder daughter.

The bamboo thicket, my favorite place to play hide-and-seek. Since it was hot and people were tired from running up the hill, we played only one round today.

 Big and little waterfalls.

 Stone lion by the Grotto.

 Koi pond in the Japanese Garden.
 Clara and Zoey pose by the Lion Fountain.

 Roses in the Italian Garden.

 Ben charges his enemies, and they scatter before him like leaves in the wind.

I don't know how this branch came to grow like this, but it looks designed for group photographs.