Thursday, January 20, 2011

What in the World is Going on in Russia?


I love the history, culture and people of Russia and having travelled there a few years ago it only deepened my fascination with this ancient land.  Even wrote a book about the nation called "Saviors of the 20th Century, Hitler & Stalin - the War of Annihilation between the Nazis and Communists".

It details some of the darker moments in the history of Russia and Germany and when you read it you appreciate even more how the people of Russia have survived and overcome centuries of repression, war and tragedy.

When one thinks of Russia it brings thoughts of the Soviet empire and Cold War and the ruthless military machine that controlled the country.  Then a friend sent me a video showing the Russian Army choir today and you simply won't believe it.

This is a performance by the Red Army Choir of Russia recently and when they break out into "Let My People Go" in English it is impossible to believe it is the same army that supressed the people.  What a great indication of change in Russia.  Double click on video to enlarge.

So I dug a little deeper and found another performance by the Red Army on the popular Eurovision Show in 2009, yes the same show that brought us Abba and Charlotte Church among many singers.  In this video the Choir is performing with a band of Roma gypsies, rthe very same people who were persecuted under the Soviet Union.  My how times have changed.  Double click on video to enlarge.

Red Army Choir - 2009 Eurovision Competition

Finally, to help you remember the old Soviet Union army, here is a video of a performance when the Army was still under Communist rule.  However, it has been edited into a Russian Army break dance video that showes the deep sense of humore of rthe Russian people.

Enjoy this glimpse of how history can change.  Double click on video to enlarge.

Red Army Break Dance


Media in America - Sound bytes of Truth - Fighting Back Against the Media


What do movie star Richard Dreyfuss and tennis star Kim Clijsters have in common? Both have made very subtle yet powerful statements in the last 24 hours showing how ridiculous the American media has become in their efforts to censure and trivialize the news.

In the Austrian Open tennis tournament underway last night Kim was interviewed by sports commentator Todd Woodbridge when she turned the interview into questioning the reporter about text comments he made to another tennis star saying, well, listen to what happened yourself.  Double click to enlarge video.

As for the distinguished actor Dreyfuss, a self-acknowledged liberal, he appeared on Fox News this morning to explain his new effort to teach America's youth the meaning and need for civility. His new program could make a difference in school as the goal is to increase patriotism in our much distracted youth.

Just as he was beginning to discuss the details of how the program works, he was interrupted by the Fox announcers saying his time had expired and they had to cut to another story. Richard calmly said that was another reason the country is in trouble, to which the announcer said we promised you four minutes.

Dreyfuss was making a point I mention often, the pandering of the media to the MTV model that the people of America lose interest in stories that run over three minutes, about the length of a new song on the radio. Now how in the hell can someone explain the problems with youth, the problems with our education system, and how this program can help address the problems in less than four minutes?

Why do the media think no story is worth more than 3-4 minutes? Media market researchers have sold our news media on the concept that we have no interest in meaningful stories nor in depth reports on such stories. I believe the American public is hungry for real news, not sound bytes, and cares what is happening in the world.

All news on mainstream and cable media use his strategy unless there is a reality element to the story such as the Chilean miners story or the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords in Tucson. Perhaps it is the media and their bean counters who are responsible for the loss of interest and trust in the news because the people know we are being shortchanged.

What is the point of giving Constitutional protection to the media when they don't have time to report the news?

Well I thought we could learn a lot more from Dreyfuss and his program so here is an interview he gave explaining the program in more detail.  Double click to enlarge video.

Richard Dreyfuss on Civics


Media in America - The Silence on Abortions - Philadelphia Abortion Clinic

The "house of horrors"... The Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia, where Dr Kermit Gosnell allegedly made millions from abortions. Photo: AP
Whether you are pro-life or pro-abortion in America you should be outraged by the near silence in the media concerning one of the greatest atrocities in history in which a doctor in Philadelphia has now been charged with the murder of 7 babies and two pregnant mothers, and is suspected in the murder of perhaps thousands of babies through illegal abortions. All of this took place in a licensed abortion clinic.

The full story on this barbaric and outrageous tragedy follows at the end of my comments because it is possibly just the tip of the iceberg in uncovering abortion mills harvesting late term babies for profit from medical insurance and for selling the remains to genetic labs seeking stem cells. We know the doctor earned over $1.8 million per year from the poor.

Most people are unaware that over 1.2 million legal abortions are performed a year in the US thanks to Roe versus Wade. This story seems to indicate some legal clinics are a cover for sinister acts that defy description.

Preliminary statistics indicate that in spite of his promise not to increase abortions after he took office, under President Obama abortions have reversed a nearly four decade decline in the abortion rate and are increasing.

Few people know that in the most recent statistics, 2009, 24% of all pregnancies terminated in abortion. In New York City 39% of all pregnancies are terminated by abortion. All of this has led to a total of 52 million deaths by abortion in America since the passage of Roe versus Wade in 1973.

Yet this recent story of the Philadelphia abortion debacle and the silence by the liberal mainstream media is truly a cause for concern. This case of reality makes a Stephen King novel seem mild in its horrific implications from the total lack of state or federal inspections ( the Philly clinic was last inspected in 1993), to the flagrant violation of federal law (Roe says abortions must be performed before the last trimester yet many by the doctor was after the fetus had fully developed into a living baby). Add to that the potential for harvesting the fetuses for sale to labs involved in stem cell and other medical research and we have a nightmare of epic proportions.

Today our mainstream and cable media are headlining with the mob bust in New York in which 127 mob members were arrested for a host of crimes including a handful of murders. Since it is the Obama Attorney General announcing the bust the news conference gets live coverage and it is the leading national story.

Yet 150 miles away in Philadelphia a doctor is arrested for what may be thousands of murders using an abortion clinic for a front and no media seems to be covering the story. What is wrong with America? Are a handful of mob hits far more important than the slaughter of thousands of innocent unborn babies?

Here is the story as it appeared on today.

Abortion Clinic Last Inspected In 1993

DA: 'Thousands' Of Babies Likely Met Demise There

Updated: Thursday, 20 Jan 2011, 11:50 AM EST
Published : Thursday, 20 Jan 2011, 8:35 AM EST

PHILADELPHIA - The West Philadelphia clinic where an abortion doctor is accused of murdering seven babies and one woman hadn't been inspected since 1993, the city's district attorney told "Good Day" Thursday morning.

We first told you about Dr. Kermit Gosnell last February. That's when he got his license suspended after a raid uncovered fetuses in jars inside his clinic.

Nearly a year later, he is facing murder charges.

Gosnell's wife and eight others are also under arrest after the 11-month grand jury probe that uncovered hundreds of late-term abortions by him and his staff.

We want to warn you what you are about to read or hear in the video report is graphic.

"This is very, very sad, and just the barbarism that was visited upon the women that went there for legal abortions and illegal abortions is just horrific," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said. "I mean, again, we came across this house of horrors as a result of a drug investigation."

Detectives and other law enforcement went to the practice because Gosnell also had the largest pill-mill in Philadelphia, giving illegal prescriptions for Oxycontin and other painkillers, Williams explained.

"When they went there to do this investigation, they stumbled upon all these bags of fetal remains. There were body parts, severed feet in jars. He had even in the refrigerator where the employees had their lunches were body parts and fetuses. … It's very disgusting, very disturbing."

When Fox 29's Sheinelle Jones asked about the others who worked at the clinic, Williams gave the example of a student at University City High School who was performing anesthesia – creating the concoctions of Demerol to be given to patients.

"He was the only doctor really that was working there, but he wasn't a board-certified gynecologist or obstetrician. He shouldn't have been performing these," Williams said.

Did the others at the clinic think they were doing the women a service?

The D.A. answered, "He actually had them under his control – the long hours that they worked there, the very small pay – he controlled these people. But, again, this isn't about abortion or morality. There are people on both extremes. This isn't about if it's good or bad. This is about murder. This is about women that were given too much anesthesia by people who weren't trained, that died. This is about him inducing labor, babies being born alive, crying, writhing, moving, kicking and screaming like babies – I've had three daughters, have watched them be born – and then taking scissors and putting them to the spine of the baby, severing the spinal cord of a live baby. That's what this is about. This isn't about whether abortion is good or bad. This is about homicide."

It's not an abortion, he said, because it's alleged that these were vaginal births with babies born alive and breathing.

As for whether the mothers seeking late-term abortions are culpable, Williams explained that Pennsylvania law protects women who have abortions even if they know that they're illegal.

"You cannot have an abortion in Pennsylvania beyond the 24th week. He specialized, people came from all around the country because they knew that he would provide abortions that no one else would, even up to the 30th week," Williams said. "… And there was no medical purpose; it was all for profit. He made about $1.8 million in a calendar year."

The grand jury report indicates that panelists were enraged with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Williams said.

"There is more oversight over women's hair salons than over abortion clinics," he said. "His hadn't been inspected since 1993. He didn't have the appropriate emergency equipment. That's why women died there. He ruptured uteruses and intestines of women. He didn't … give women oxygen if they needed it or checked their heart or pulse."

Gosnell got his license in 1979. There was another doctor who was board-certified and a consultant but hadn't been there since the 1980s, Williams said.

The grand jury and the judge in the case actually went to the clinic wearing hazardous materials suits. Williams said the judge didn't even let the jurors go into the basement, where the majority of the medical waste was found.

Last February, Fox 29 News had a chance to sit down with Gosnell. During that interview, it seemed as though the doctor didn't feel he did anything wrong.

When Fox 29's Mike Jerrick said Thursday that the doctor's demeanor was pleasant and he seems insane, Williams replied, "Well, I mean, that's not even an issue that I have to come to."

"I think what he did was criminal, and he's being charged with eight counts of murder," Williams said.

"There's most likely thousands of children that met their demise at the hands of this doctor and his staff, but I can only proceed with credible evidence," he said. "The grand jury found that there was enough evidence in the medical examiner's report … for us to charge him with homicide of eight."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Civility in Politics is not Enough When Lies in Politics Run Rampant


The Tucson tragedy brought a lot of discussion by our politicians of the need to lower the temperature and bring civility back into politics. Even President Obama won high praise by everyone including me for his handling of the tragedy and his plea for more civility.

The general public could only hope this was the beginning of a new era in politics but civility by itself can never heal the wounds when those exposing it continue using lies and distortion which fed the political turmoil in the first place. Civility without truth is like, well it is like lying to your constituents. Nothing could be more hypocritical.

For example, Congressman Deborah Wasserman Schultz , a Democrat from Florida, was on MSNBC this week where you can almost always find her slamming conservatives and Republicans and in particular slamming Sarah Palin. Now Schultz claims to be a friend of Congresswoman Giffords and after leading the instant condemnation of Palin and others for inciting tragedies like Tucson, only to stop when she found out the Giffords shooter hated Giffords long before Palin was a national political figure.

In fact the dreaded crosshairs Palin used on map that Wasserman condemned had been used by Democrats and liberal groups long before Palin was a national figure as the series of photos in this article show. In debate on the health care bill this week Wasserman condemned the Republican party for attempting to destroy health care benefits like prescription drugs for elderly, for trying to take away extended benefits for dependents, for trying to allow insurance companies to cancel policies when people get sick and for other similar actions by the GOP to destroy the health care system and let out citizens die.

Of course they are all blatant lies. No Republican or party platform called for any such nonsense and she knows it. Still her lies fill the airways. Now how does one proclaiming it is a time for civility justify lies intended to deceive the public and cause widespread panic? Oh yes it is time for civility in politics and it is also time to stop the lies feeding the social unrest intended to generate fear.

Reckless rhetoric did not start with Palin nor end with her or Wasserman-Schultz. All those politicians and journalists who claim to be looking out for our interest need to stop the rhetoric and stop the lies. No one wants to deny the right of free speech to those we do or do not agree with. How could we, they supply a constant source of material for comedians and late night hosts?

They just need to respect the opinions of others rather than condemn them. That used to be the American way.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Last Night in Tucson Barack Obama Grew Up - from Politician to President


In an event titled "Together we thrive - Tucson and America", the University of Arizona brought together 26,000 students and people of Tucson to celebrate the lives and memories of the fallen, the injured, the heroes and the hopes for a better world.

America was long overdue in learning the true story of the people of Arizona and while this event shined a little light on the rich cultural history and diversity of the state, we have a long ways to go to understand fully the riches we have gained from the cultural diversity and ancient history of this sacred state.

Over 14,000 people jammed into the University of Arizona basketball stadium and another 12,000 were out in the cold in the football stadium to help the people of Tucson overcome this tragedy. The program prepared by the University and students showed a side of America not often seen in the national news.

From the opening Blessing Way ceremony by a Yaqui Indian, a person half Mexican and half Indian who attended the University and now teaches at the University, we were exposed to the mystery, magic and mysticism of the ancient ways.

Those who understand the Native American culture could appreciate what was said and done. From calling on the Creator, God, to Mother Earth, the Holy Mother Mary, the parallels between the ancient Indian cultures to Christianity should have been obvious. Unfortunately, too many Americans still believe the old stereotype that Indians were pagans when the truth is far different.

But the students of the University know different. When I attended that University I had classmates, fraternity brothers and best friends who were Native Americans and Hispanic, long before the days of racial tolerance and cultural diversity.

My Navajo brothers took me to the high desert of Northern Arizona to introduce me to the most mysterious and sacred Indian nation on Earth, the Hopi nation, where the People of Peace and Children of God have spent thousands of years seeking to live in harmony with all peoples. Critics who question whether it was appropriate for a Native American to perform the Blessing Way ceremony should try to understand the incredible message in such ceremonies rather than question the appropriateness of the message.

As for the ceremony itself, Native Americans have long celebrated the life of those lost rather than the death of those lost and it is this belief that was represented by the pep rally type atmosphere that was most apparent in Tucson. In truth, our Native Americans seem to better understand the world of God, the soul and the spirits of Heaven than the Christians who condemned them as pagans over the centuries.

It was unnerving to many eastern commentators to hear the cheers and joy expressed by the crowd at the mention of the victims and families but these victims killed and wounded were their classmates, former students at the University, and friends and family of students. There were 26,000 people sharing the grief and lifting the hopes of those victims of this terrible tragedy.

President Obama grew up last night when he stepped to the podium. At first taken aback by this unusual memorial reaction by the crowd, his message was what needed to be heard and was cheered by the crowd. As he warmed to the audience, they warmed to him and he became the spiritual leader of the people not the partisan politician of the past two years.

No longer the pit bull of the Democratic party, he was the healer of a nation joining the students in one of the most emotionally uplifting moments in modern times. His reception was not an endorsement of his too liberal platform, but a demonstration that there are times and places for politics, and this was not one of them. That is the mark of a leader.

When Obama talked about the hopes and dreams of Christina Taylor Greene for the first time he addressed the nation as a father and parent, not a politician. It demonstrated a humility not often seen in our political president.

"The hopes of the nation are here tonight," Obama said to a tearful Tucson crowd, and "we join you in your grief." Who could fail to be moved when he called on us to live up to the expectations of Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and died Saturday in Tucson?

Obama gave the perfect address to a nation whose grief needed to transcend to a celebration of the lives of the fallen and the University of Arizona gave him the opportunity to help with the transition. I was proud of my University, the students, and the people of Tucson for showing us that grief in and of itself may help the living but by celebrating their lives truly honors the victims.

Let us hope we all take note of the long needed change. I have included a video thanks to C-Span of the entire ceremony so those of you who missed it can see for yourself how grief needs to be handled to bring resolution. C-Span does not interrupt the ceremony for senseless cable news commentary. Please double click on the video for full size.  It is well worth taking time to watch.

May God Bless Tucson and God Bless America for helping us through this difficult time.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Healing the Wounds of Tucson - 1/12/2011 - Faith Hill


The Queen of Country Music, America's music, Faith Hill, performing her classic inspirational hit "There will come a day".  We dedicate this song to the healing of Tucson, the State of Arizona and America.  Double click on video for full view.

Faith Hill & husband Tim McGraw



Healing the Wounds of Tucson - 1/12/2011 - What Sarah Palin Really Said


No sound clips or edits, here is what Sarah Palin really said about the tragedy.  Double click on video for full size.  MSNBC should end their nonsense and join the mourning rather than inflame partisanship in America.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Tragedy of Tucson - A sign of the Times?


If you listen to the news media you would think the political pundits, those on the lunatic fringe of the liberal and conservative movements, were responsible directly and indirectly, for the terrible crimes committed in Tucson.

The murder of six people, and injuring of 14 more including a critical brain injury to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), is another example of mass murder incited by the television celebrities with their endless stream of on air words of hate, according to some of the many experts we hear.

Gabrielle Giffords
Ironically the only names of the personalities mentioned in the media are conservatives, not members of both lunatic fringes.

There is no question this is a senseless act of violence that should not be tolerated. But if we are going to fix the cause of the problem then we better know the cause, and it sure isn't conservative celebrities.

Christina Taylor Greene, 9 year old victim
The shooting of our federal elected officials, presidents, senators and representatives in truth is not a very common occurrence and happens a lot less than the media would lead us to believe. Since the adoption of our Constitution on September 17, 1787, over 223 years ago, there have only been five attempts to shoot our Congressional representatives, compared to 20 attempts on our presidents.

While four presidents have been killed, three representatives and two senators have been killed. Since we have 536 people every year in those elect positions that means thousands of people have been elected and served over the years yet the total dead and injured is only around 15 in 223 years.

alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner
In most cases mental instability was the cause, not some partisan obsession. The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords is a classic case of the mental disorder behind most attempts of this nature. Anyone who is attempting to make this into a partisan issue, or claims it is the result of partisan rhetoric, may be far more interested in promoting themselves and their cause or trashing an opposition cause like conservatives, then telling the truth.

That, of course, is the problem in America. There are all kinds of versions of events, but only one can be the truth. If our cultural obsession with violence is considered, which is far more likely than partisan politics, then much might be to blame for what happened.

Just over 50 miles from Tucson is Mexico where over 31,000 people have been killed, not injured, in the past four years in the drug wars. These mostly innocent people have been caught in the crossfire of drug lords fighting over the US drug market. That means over 21 people every day for the past four years have been killed along our border with Mexico. Our young people are being desensitized to murders because of this sea of blood flowing to our south.

Look and the video and internet games glamorizing murder and war that occupy the seemingly endless hours our youth are surfing the net. The latest research says for the first time in our history the average time Americans now spend on the Internet has equaled the time they spend watching the endless TV that also glamorizes murder and war, an astounding 13 hours a week. That means we all spend 28 days a year (at 24 hours a day) on the Internet and another 28 days watching TV. How about 15% of your life is spent on the Internet and watching TV?

By allowing our youth access to the Internet and television, not to mention the selection of movies being produced to capture the coveted teenager and young adult markets, we have desensitized an entire generation of Americans to murder and war and we wonder why some kids are mental cases?

The Giffords case is another result of a cultural deviation yet even a Second Amendment defender like myself can see the need for some common sense fixing of our deficient laws. Rapid fire ammunition clips and automatic weapons used to be banned and should be banned once again. They are not the weapons of responsible citizens but serve only to increase the rate of killing.

No mental case determined to be a threat to themselves or society should be allowed to buy or own guns yet under the current state and federal laws unless they are certified by a court as mentally incompetent they can easily buy firearms.

Schools, the military, doctors and many other groups know of people including youth that are mentally incompetent. Both the military and a college knew the guy who shot Giffords was likely nuts but no competency hearing had been held though one had been requested. Why not require the military and schools to report mental cases to law enforcement so they can be included on a national data base? If they try to buy a gun they should have to prove mental competence through the courts.

We owe our time in this matter to praying for the recovery of the 14 injured and the souls and families of the 6 murdered. Then we need to devote time and energy to fixing the laws so their ambiguity will not lead to future victims.

A final note about Arizona. Regardless of the perception of Arizona resulting from the immigration, drug wars and this shooting, the State of Arizona is a wonderful place with some of the nicest people in the nation and Tucson is a desert gem.

I went to school at the University of Arizona, was treated in the same University Medical Center as Congresswoman Giffords, befriended the elders of the Hopi nation in Arizona long ago, have been on archeological expeditions with the National Park Service around the Grand Canyon and return to Arizona every chance I get.

What has happened recently should not reflect on Arizona or the many and diverse peoples living there. Drug wars, illegal immigration and inadequate laws are all our problems, in every state.


Friday, January 07, 2011

Prajna Design & Construction - the Wizards of Preservation & Innovation


For nearly 30 years a handful of architects and builders from the University of Kentucky have been pioneering work in the environmental and recycling fields, since long before the days of Al Gore and those trying to capitalize on the hard work and tireless dedication of people like the Prajna gang.

In fact not since my days working on environmental projects from Keep America Beautiful in 1967 to designing solar energy systems built by PPG, Phillips, Goodyear and Dow Chemical in 1976-78 have I seen such persistent dedication to the cause of our future as evidenced by these characters from Kentucky.

Most people would never have occasion to meet them were it not for the Internet as they represent many of the gems of America, those who do their thing to help make people safer and happier while never seeking the fortune and fame of their more ego driven associates.

Garry "Rasta Man" Murphy on right
A more unlikely cast of futurists and "green" pioneers you will never find. Led by the "Rasta" man Garry Murphy, a Kentucky native who toured the world (at least Europe) while a student hitchhiking to places I would never go. Then foregoing offers from design companies to pursue the American dream, working for yourself in order to live up to your own standards and principles.

Murphy, Irish with a twist of the Caribbean including the dreadlocks, is the most laid back designer and builder you will ever meet. I first met him when I learned he was going to marry my sister in the Bahamas and I went to the wedding. Was that an eye opener.

Later, back in Kentucky where his Prajna business was located, Garry blew every stereotype of a Kentuckian away. Maybe it was because he was trying to be green years before it became popular? It was certainly the Irish part. However, dreadlocks on an Irishman was not what my Irish Grandfather ever mentioned.

Perhaps it was his fascination with history, philosophy and ancient cultures. His circle of friends seemed to include everyone from horse racing kingpins to oddball artists. Murphy never met a person he would not try and help. Still, I was stuck with him as a brother in law because my sister married him and it was one of the best decisions she ever made.

Garry is one of those rare souls who loves challenge, loves saving the environment, and believes we should all be able to live in harmony. Well maybe everyone except the teams playing against his beloved UK basketball ad football teams. He is not radical, does not expect everyone to agree, and is tolerant of anyone with opposing opinions. He really should be in politics.

The following story about Garry Murphy and Prajna appeared recently in the Lexington, Kentucky Herald Leader newspaper. No better tribute from a truly independent source could sing the praises of Prajna and Murphy. I have seen work by this most unusual group everywhere from million dollar apartments in NYC overlooking Central Park to the Bahamas to the Kentucky backwoods and those of you in need of renovation or new construction would do well to check out these Wizards of Preservation and Innovation at their website, and be green.

From bus shelters to visitors' centers, Prajna builds environmentally friendly

By Andy Mead at 12:00am on Dec 27, 2010 — Modified at 3:49am on Dec 27, 2010

Prajna Design & Construction was responsible for much of the the interior and exterior woodworking on the Bernheim Visitor Center, which won a national award for its environmental impact. The company used recycled fir and cypress lumber from pickle vats for the exterior trim and siding. About 14 species of native lumber was used for the interior wall paneling, and various species of lumber reclaimed from a demolished Jim Beam barrel house was used for the interior trim. MARY MURPHY/ PRAJNA DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION INC.

TROY — David Whittmer interviewed at two architecture firms as he was finishing his degree at the University of Kentucky.

The process showed him that he didn't want to work in an office.

"I just like building," he said. "And I didn't want to get old and fat and wear a tie."

Instead, he and business partner Garry Murphy live a tieless existence, running a successful design-and-build company out of a 19th-century grist mill in a corner of Woodford County.

The problem with the way architects usually work, Whittmer said, is that they design something and hand it over to someone else to build, minimizing their interaction with both the client and the finished product.
 Eschewing that route, he and Murphy, along with Martin Richards and John Yadack, formed a company called Prajna Workwerks soon after graduating in the early 1980s.

Prajna is a Sanskrit word meaning intuition. The "werks" spelling suggested German craftsmanship. The group also adopted a Japanese symbol that has various interpretations, including "master carpenter."

Yadack died in a car crash in the late 1980s. Richards retired. The company evolved into Prajna Design & Construction, which more accurately reflects what it does.

Murphy and Whittmer, now in their early 50s, have completed hundreds of projects in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, New York, Florida and the Bahamas.

Their largest job was the woodwork in the visitor center at Bernheim Arboretum and Forest in Bullitt County, the first building in Kentucky to receive a platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council.

One of the smallest jobs is Gardenstop, the bus shelter on Euclid Avenue in Lexington that was dedicated this fall. Like the Bernheim building, it is environmentally friendly to the point of having plants growing on its roof.

Murphy and Whittmer are often called on to do a woodwork portion of a larger building or renovation, such as the timbers in the entry to Gray Construction's headquarters on East Main Street (as well as work on such Gray projects as the Bernheim visitor center and remodeling work on houses belonging to members of the Gray family). They also worked on the interior of Tomo Restaurant in Chevy Chase.

They have built six or seven houses from design to finish.

In northern Franklin County, they tore down an 1850s tobacco barn and built a house for Hanna Helm, a retired state employee.

The house was finished in the fall of 2009. In talking about it, Whittmer and Murphy can speak in detail about the fine oak, ash, beech and old-growth poplar that was in the old barn.

Helm, who boasts that "I live in a work of art," noted that the company also did the stone work that is an important part of the house.

She chose Prajna to design and build her dream house because it had earlier built a house for friends of hers.

"They were the only people I knew who were still friends with their contractor after the house was built," Helm said. "There were no contractor horror stories."

Murphy and Whittmer pride themselves on their relationships with clients, all of whom are invited to an annual Fourth of July party at the mill.

They also take obvious pride in their level of workmanship, and in reusing wood that in many cases already has had a long, full life.

Much of the interior of the Bernheim visitor's center, for example, came from old cypress pickle barrels that had been in a Heinz factory in Ohio.

The wood used in the Gardenstop bus shelter came from a variety of sources, including the Morton's Row buildings on Upper Street that were demolished for the stalled CentrePointe project.

The idea for Gardenstop was to make an environmentally friendly shelter that would draw the eye away from the towering new power poles that were erected to supply UK, said Yvette Hurt, who is with the Art in Motion series of shelters.

When a panel of judges were put together to consider the dozen and a half proposals for Gardenstop, Prajna was a unanimous choice.

"They just totally, totally understood the concept and then took it even further than we could imagine," Hurt said.

Friends of Murphy and Whittmer have pointed out they were green long before green was cool.

"We have a reputation for using old wood because we've always done that," Murphy said. Early on, the decision might have been for "economical reasons because we could get it cheap."

They also were pioneers in talking about things such as designing a building to fit its surroundings and using passive solar energy.

Prajna has kept ties with UK's architecture school over the years, doing jobs for some of the professors and occasionally conducting workshops.

Every few years, someone will graduate from the school who, like Whittmer and Murphy, don't want to follow the standard architect's path. They often find their way to Prajna, which usually has a crew of three to six people. They make up a new generation that suggests Prajna's efforts will continue for many years to come.

One of the more recent arrivals, Jay Moorhead, started working there a week or two after graduating in 2005.

"I love it," he said. "One of the best things about the job is the relationship with clients. It's not just a business; we're making friends."

Murphy and Whittmer brought electricity years ago to the rambling old mill that houses Prajna.

Most of the building is a large wood shop. They have created a small heated area that is used as an office and a place to store chemicals that could freeze.

There's a computer used for job-cost estimates, but it is not connected to the Internet.

Architects today use computers for their designs, but Murphy and Whittmer still make small-scale models when the mood strikes them. Murphy describes their work as "designosaurs."

Other than going too long without health insurance and waiting too long to begin saving for retirement, they have no regrets about the career paths they chose.

On a recent rainy day, Whittmer was explaining to a reporter that the floors of the mill aren't even, and that has to be taken into account when building something.

"On the other hand," Murphy said, "there are days when you hear the rain and the creek's running and you look out the window ..."

Whittmer finished his thought, "And there's no place better to work."

Read more about Prajna Design & Construction at

Read more: