Friday, December 29, 2006

Death

Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq, is due to be hanged, even in the next 24 hours. Presumably, the talk shows are rejoicing that an evil man is being taken from this world. Some may be rejoicing that he will go to everlasting damnation in the fires of hell.

I am sad.

I did not like the man, and was glad to see him removed from power. But Saddam is made in the image of God Almighty, and to see someone reject God and reap eternal punishment is sad.

Jesus died for that man, sacrificed himself that he could be recconciled to God. Jesus died for Saddam Hussein. The he would reject that gift is a sad day, for God is willing that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Glow in the Dark Pigs

No joke.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Look-Alike

I have now been compared to two celebrities that I can recall. Fred Savage, from his stint on The Wonder Years, and John Mayer. The latter, at least, according to my aunt (if I had no beard - though I was told repeatedly it looks handsome).

Monday, December 25, 2006

Thanksgiving

Some things I am thankful for, in a season when it is all too easy for me to not have that attitude:

1) The guy that put lemon juice in a squeeze-bottle. I am rediscovering how refreshing a little (well, a tablespoon or so) of lemon juice is in a glass of ice water. Is that a lot? I'm trying to wean soda, including the diet and artificially sweetened kind, from my diet. Not completely or ever, just more often than I used to. A slice of lemon is nice, but lacks staying power, and a whole lemon in a glass is a lot of effort, with seeds, and is not very cost effective. The bottled juice is wonderful.

2) The old friends who sent me Christmas cards this year. I've been feeling pretty Grinchy the past few weeks, and remembering that life does not end when one is 28, unmarried, and (in my case, a given) childless. With the swarm of babies being born to friends and family right now, +/- 5-6 weeks, that has been occasionally hard to remember. Just being remembered in a season that has come to epitomize both the swarm of rejections that have happened at this time of year and the celebration of those close to me who have exactly what I miss, helps me realize that I am who I am - not who I am not - and that defining one's life by negatives sucks.

3) The Lange kids. Feeling like a non-blood-uncle to some young kids helps when I have none of my own to play with. Holding one when praying that someone will see get the candles we gave out and be reminded of the God Who Became Man reminds me what a step that was. Though Jesus was not a blue-eyed, blond-haired girl, I wonder how often he wanted to talk when the adults were trying to be quiet, how often he wanted to just go tearing around the room, (perhaps chasing his cousin John), how Mary and Joseph must have taught him to eat, to drink, to be a creature of flesh and blood. For the record, I think hearing kids being kids when the adults try to be quiet and reverent has always enhanced my appreciation for Christmas - because Jesus was just one of those kids, too. When we make it all "Silent Night," we lose something. The Jesus crying for Mary's milk is the Jesus of the cross. The "Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes" is the Jesus of the crucifix.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Reputation

My roommate asked the other day if I'd be interested in going to the mall with him Christmas Eve just to watch the buzz of activity before Christmas. "Alas, I already have plans. My church is going around houses in the neighborhood dropping off candles with an offer to come by and recycle their Christmas Trees for them."

He was impressed. "Not only is it useful, but it's environmentally-friendly" he said. I explained to him that we try to be aware of such things, like the fact that we use an e-mail newsletter in lieu of a paper bulletin, both to save the expense of printing them, and because it doesn't waste paper.

"You know, I like your new church a lot more than your old church." Maybe it's because when I talk about it, I'm more likely to be talking about the Truckee river cleanup, or bagging food for Evelyn Mount, or recycling Christmas trees than I am to be talking about our guest speaker, or the fine Christmas program we are doing, or our other efforts to get people to the church building.

These are the things I am comfortable talking about with people on the street. I'm not selling the church - he works Sunday nights anyway. But I'm proud to share what we are involved in.
I take this as a confirmation that deep down, these are the things I knew a church should be known for.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I just spent 4 hours on it?!

I decided to get a Pro Flickr account, so that my many wonderful pictures can all be seen, instead of the last 200. They have a fine service, and since I was last on, they added a new feature. Geo-coding. You show, with as much specificity as you like, where your pictures were taken. This is a searchable feature, or you can keep it private.

I had hours of fun squinting at maps, trying to figure out just where some pictures were taken. But the really cool part about it is looking at an area - say, Truckee - and seeing interesting pictures that were taken there, or recent pictures taken there. Or you can zoom in on Dublin, or New York, or just about anywhere you fancy.

So of course, while uploading several hundred new pictures, I had to go through and do just that. I have "Lots" of pictures in San Francisco, and Washington DC, but also in Raleigh, and the Black Rock Desert. I even did my best to pinpoint the Martis Fire Outlook.

And I could waste all day here. 4 hours. Suddenly, it was dark.

Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

So this manatee walks into the Internet...

It started as an unscripted quip on the Conan O'Brien show. He was doing a bit about "unknown college mascots" and one was the "Webcam Manatee." The Webcam Manatee is nothing more than a Manatee dancing around rubbing its chest suggestively, with a person watching this on a computer.

Conan quipped that the man was watching "HornyManatee.Com." Thus the fad began. The URL was given, but at the time the show was taped, it did not exist. NBC bought it, and put up a small farce site. This small farce received over a million hits in its first week. Fans began submitting their own art. Songs, poems, drawings, CGI poured forth.

It expanded beyond that. A random look at YouTube revealed a guy who wrote and sung a song. I listed it below. If you are easily offended, don't listen. The words "genitals" "naked" and "Christina Aguilera" all occur.

Harry Potter and the...

I like reading Harry Potter. I will ever remember reading book 6 in two sittings. Two, because I got a copy at 12:30 at Wal-Mart, read until 3am, went to sleep, got up, went to the DMV to register my new car, finished the book, and heard my name called about 10 minutes later.

I shed a couple solitary tears in the DMV that day, as the ending was both tragic and beautiful.

The title for the final book has been announced. All that's left is the months and months until the book is released.

The new title? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.

If I knew a local store that carried it

I would SO get this game for Dawson for Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Who We Are

The Evangelical Free Churchs of America is revising its statement of faith. There are two significant chances. One deals with eschatology - the study of the end of this world. The other brings a new emphasis at the core for serving the poor.

I'm in favor of both. The eschatological issue is one that, while I support the existing position, I do not see as a crux on which our faith must rest, and I know good, Godly men who disagree with it.

Service for the poor is so central to the identity of the Christian that it should have been in there ages ago.

Since Coram Deo is a member of this denomination, the changes affect us.

EFCA Website, for reference.

Reputation

I'm not the sort that walks around the office talking about what we did at church, who our guest speaker was, or other things of that sort. In fact, I've only mentioned the chuch a very small handful of times, but each time was in relation to serving in the community. I mentioned the Truckee River cleanup we helped with. I mentioned how stiff I was from bagging food for Evelyn Mount with the church, and I asked a fellow employee who has a son just back from Iraq what some good ideas would be for things to send to a soldier our church is planning to sponsor.

Church and service should go hand-in-hand in our minds, just as Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Acrophobia

The zipper on one pair of my jeans has acrophobia. This has made for some socially awkward moments. But they're comfortable, and I only have so many pairs that fit comfortably.

I had a flash of inspiration the other day. A mutual love of electronics shared by my rommmate and I has left a plethora of twist-ties around the house. I ran one through the hole in the zipper, and over the button to fasten the jeans. It is invisible from the outside, and I don't walk around checking myself every 3 minutes.

If you suffer a similar problem, you now have a solution. Huzzah!

Updates

I'm now a Beta Blogger. I intend to start adding categories to my blogs, which is supposed to "Help your readers find related material faster." I may even go back and archive some old posts with labels... but I have a lot of old posts.

Prayer

"When I pray, especially after brushing the skirts of power, I must remember that God's kingdom is not an adjunct to U.S. politics, not a mere voting bloc; nor is it an international fellowship, a genteel and moral version of the United Nations useful for such tasks as feeding orphans and drilling wells. God's rule encompasses all human institutions and all history."

-Philip Yancey, Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?

Friday, December 15, 2006

A (short) Tale of Two Kennys

I'm often tickled that I know exactly two people named Kenny well - a cousin, and a college buddy. Both are lawyers. And they're the only two lawyers I know among my peers.

This occured to me once again as I was carrying completed forms down the hall tis afternoon. I don't know why.

Stories

Stories inspire us in part because we can see ourselves in the role of the protagonist. I see this story somewhat differently: I see our church in this role - gladly doing what needs to be done to serve others.

Here's the story.

Here's an excerpt:
Paeglow treats his patients, prays with his patients, and gives them medicine if he has it. If he doesn't, he'll pay for it, if need be.

As a result, the Paeglows have very little that is their own. They live rent-free in a church rectory. Their car was donated, and their savings account is nonexistent.

"It was worth it. Worth it that I was able to fulfill a dream. Take care of people who no one else really cares much about," he said. "I consider myself a very rich person. I don't have any money, but I am rich."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Turn Your Eyes to the Skies

There's an off chance that you can catch the Northern Lights tonight - even as far south as the Equator. Such things can't be predicted perfectly, but we're currently being bombarded by a solar storm.

It's at least looking outside for, on the chance you can catch it.

The Story

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Bitter Taste

I was, really, feeling upbeat about changes in Washington. "New Leadership," thought I "will have an incentive to do thigns different." I should have expected that the new leadership was just as tainted as the old.

The good news in the story that has me so upset is that Republicans and Democrats were working together. The bad news is that they were doing so (1) for money, (2) in cooperation with monopoly business (3) to use the coercive legislative power of Congress (4) at the expense of an independent businessman (5) who was playing by established rules (6) to earn a good living (7) while providing lower prices (~20 cents per gallon of milk) to US customers.

Our own Senator Harry Reid was playing political games to actively punish a guy whose "crime" was selling milk cheaper than the Dairy Industry. The Washington Post has the story.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I might could be persuaded

It is not inconcievable that I could be persuaded to cast a presidential ballot for Barack Obama, depending on the matchups involved. He's a liberal, no arguing against that. But he seems like a rather respectable bloke from that side of the aisle.

He's in favor of abortion rights, which is a significant negative for me, and he takes a very government-intensive view to social reform, which I also take issue with. But he seems like a reasonable guy and, dare I say it, a good statesman. And there are good things to be said with having a reasonable man you disagree with in office, instead of an unreasonable one you agree with.

This article from TIME is his own tale of faith, and it is a color of faith that I don't quite recognize. It is different, and I am unsure what to say when he admmits he doesn't know what happens when he dies. Then again, there are times I am unsure - I have never done it, and rely by faith alone on the words of one who did.

Stiff

I woke up this morning, and felt the day before in every muscle involved with moving my arms. It's amazing what the cumulative effect of lifting and stacking 171 bags of groceries will do to the body that isn't used to it. But to spend some time helping Evelyn Mount's Community Outreach was worth it.

Ms. Mount has been distributing food to the needy out of her garage since 1978. I helped for two hours, along with 10 other people from my church. Pull the food from the shelves, put it in the bags, according to the list posted on the wall. A simple process. Our first round we did 99 bags, our second round added 72 more (but went much faster per bag, as we knew what we were doing).

Once again I was thinking of excuses not to go, once again after going I can't imagine doing anything else. Not only were we helping, but we had fun doing it. Food flying through the air, shouts of "Two Beans!" or "Three Soups" as various bag-stuffers called ou what they needed to their shelf-pullers. The two kids that came along doing their best to help as well (even Noah, just 4 years old, passed along cans and took out garbage).

What did we accomplish? We invested time and energy to help Mrs. Mount with her outreach. We helped, in doing so, to feed the hungry. We got to know others in the church a little better. We showed the young'ns what it means to serve, and did so gladly.

And can I say that for a church which has been averaging around 30 people the past couple weeks, a turnout of 11 people for a service project is pretty good. We want everyone to be serving - not only at our "sponsored" service projects, but on their own, in the ways that they are gifted. That a third of the church could be in one place at one time helping was a blessing.

Friday, December 08, 2006

All I Want for Christmas

Alternate Title: They Remember!

My friends have a habit of exchanging gifts at Christmas, something I have traditionally done only with my family. I was discussing it with my roommate, and he has passed the word on to all of them that what I want more than anything is for them to use money in a charitable donation, instead of getting me more stuff.

I haven't even mentioned it since last year, but I heard rumors of a coordinated push to combine their resources in one donation (trying to do more in one donation than each doing it individually). My a-religious friends get a practical demonstration of love, as they give to a charity other than the Expand-Dave's-DVD-Collection Foundation. That's just super.

While I don't like the "Instead of giving you a gift, I'll make a charitable donation in your name" idea, because I still get stuff AND get to take the "high road" while you get nothing; instead I proactively say "Don't give to me. I don't want stuff. Instead of spending on a gift for me, feed a hungry child, buy an animal for a poor family, give to charity. This means I don't get stuff, while I do still give stuff. I admit, there is a part of me that wants to accumulate more things - the part that loves likes toys, gadgets, and the like. But it is not the part of me I want to feed and make stronger.

Need ideas? I've got a list at the left. Need more ideas? Our church plant could use money. Need even more ideas? Use the Charity Navigator.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Infamy

Today is the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. A reminder of the hostility and unquenchable thirst for power all over the world. And perhaps a good moment to take a step back and pray for our enemies, to consider how to love those that hate us.

There has been some news of late about the Rios family - a grandmother, mother, and step-fater who were recently sentenced for locking two children, 11 and 16, in a bathroom for most of 5 years, not allowing them outside, forcing them to sleep naked, beating them, taunting them with food, and starving them to the point where the girl would eat her brother's toenail clippings and wood shavings from around the bathtub to sate her hunger.

There is great evil in the world, and my inclination is hatred toward those responsible. But might there be a way to show them love instead? They have done great wrong, but we stood as guilty before God and were forgiven and loved instead - how can we do less?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

It may come as no surprise


I value the simple things. Sitting around a fire with the guys around Pyramid Lake one night, Daran took this picture. Ostensibly, we were up there to get a good view of Mars making its closest approach to Earth in several thousand years. Realistically, we were just hanging out, without distractions, without agendas, swapping stories and seriously overloading a poor hibachi grill with sagebrush and scavenged wood.

Carefree, able to load up a couple cars and just go. We grabbed meat to grill on the way, and arrived well after dark. We stayed until the wee hours of the morning. And it was one of our best Friday Nights ever.

Monday, November 27, 2006

'Tis the Season

The trees behind the store across the street from my office window are hard to see through the blowing snow. The first snowflakes of the season caused drivers to creep along the roads well below typical speeds, and even the posted speed limit. And of course, the refrain "Congratulations, its the holidays and you're single" repeats endlessly in my head. It's the holiday season, which means snow (good) and the battalion of unpleasant memories I've managed to forge over the years with various women during this season (bad).

On the other hand, Dawson's daughter Macy started to cry when I tried to leave church last night, and told her to wait with her brother Noah (knowing that if I rushed home, I could catch the new episode of the Simpsons). I'm not sure a girl's ever cried on account of me leaving before (even if she is too young to talk), so I picked her up and held her until her parents were ready to go. She promptly cheered up, and put her head on my chest. We even sang a song in the parking lot, though "Do do do" will never win a Grammy for lyrical or musical creativity.

I suppose the lesson is to be thankful, and to appreciate things around you more than you mourn the things which are not around you.

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Charity

I added a new charity to my list at the left. The Smile Train provides cosmetic surgery to poor children born with a cleft pallete. The surgery costs as little as $250 and can be done in 45 minutes, and has dramatic results.

A Busy Weekend

I got a call on Saturday afternoon. "Do you want to go to the 49ers game tomorrow?"

I wasn't sure at first. I was to be at a basketball game until 9 that night, and the planned arrival time at the stadium in San Francisco was 9 the next morning, with a lot of road between here and there. The final decision was a "what the heck, why not go for it." I did it, and I'm glad I did.

The game was great, with a win, a single-game rushing record for the team, the first career rushing touchdown for the QB, a tribute to Jerry Rice at halftime that kept the whole crowd in place (I'd say in their seats, but everyone was standing), and a chance to see former Nevada player Nate Burleson playing professional football (even if it was for the other team). All this, after watching the football team post its first back-to-back shutouts since I have been alive, and watching Nick Fazekas become the all-time career leading scorer at Nevada (in basketball).

The trip also means that I have taken 5 of 7 possible routes from the "mainland" to the San Francisco Peninsula in the last two weeks alone. There are 5 bridges, plus the ability to drive around the bay on the north and south. I have driven (or been driven) over the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the San Mateo bridge, the I-580 bridge (which leads to another trip across the Golden Gate), and around the north end of the Bay. That includes the most scenic bridge (the Golden Gate), the longest bridge (San Mateo) and the only bridge to stop on an island in the middle (Bay Bridge).

I also discovered that "Monster" energy drinks taste like cough syrup. But I was glad to have one each when I left home at 3am yesterday and when I was finishing the drive home at 10:00 that night.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Zubenelgenubi

It's pronounced zoo-BEN-al-je-NEW-bee. It's a double star, the southern claw of Scorpio (classically), and part of Libra (in the modern constellations).

I like saying the word. Zubenelgenubi.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Putting Faith Before Politics

Excellent article in the New York Times today.

Perhaps that’s why a rift appears to be growing in what was once a strong alliance. Beliefnet.com’s post-election online survey of more than 2,000 people revealed that nearly 40 percent of evangelicals support the idea of a two-year Christian “fast” from intense political activism. Instead of directing their energies toward campaigns, evangelicals would spend their time helping the poor.

Why might such an idea get traction among evangelicals? For practical reasons as well as spiritual ones. Evangelicals are beginning to see the effect of their political involvement on those with whom they hope to share Jesus’ eternal message: non-evangelicals. Tellingly, Beliefnet’s poll showed that nearly 60 percent of non-evangelicals have a more negative view of Jesus because of Christian political involvement; almost 40 percent believe that George W. Bush’s faith has had a negative impact on his presidency.

Nevada at the Crossroads

Whodathunkit?

Nevada, whose state flower is the sagebrush, is at the center of the crossroads in the US Senate. In one corner, we have Harry Reid. Veteran lawmaker, newly-elected majority leader in the Senate. It is his task to both deliver on the "new course" promised so often in campaigns, while not scaring away voters before the 2008 elections.

In the other corner, we have John Ensign. The junior Senator from Nevada ran a close race against Reid when Harry was up for reelection, coming within 500 votes of a huge upset. He has just been picked to head the Republican's efforts to regain control of the Senate in 2008. He has a difficult task, with 21 Republicans and only 12 Democrats coming up for reelection in that cycle.

Making it more interesing is an informal agreement not to badmouth each other. This should be interesting.

More in the New York Times.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Historical Basis for Flood Story?

I admit that I am unsure about the Biblical flood story as being perfectly accurate - that the whole world was entirely flooded with water from rains and "the founts of the deep." But it is also reasonable that there is historical precedent for the story, that it is more than just a fairy tale - I wasn't there, after all, so as to say this or that did or did not happen. This article in the New York Times describes a meteoric impact some 4,800 years ago that would have made a tsunami 600 feet high in the Indian Ocean.

4,800 years seems about right for Noah's day. Interesting.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Stranger than Fiction

Would you ever cry at a Will Farrell movie? Laugh? Usually. Chuckle? Probably. But the star of such high dramas as Anchorman, Old School, and A Night at the Roxbury is not one you would imagine connecting to on a deeper emotional plane.

And yet, I found myself caught up in his character - happy for his successes, worried about his fate, caring whether the character lives or dies (which is the central question of the movie). It had its funny moments, but it was also thought-provoking, in the "live every day as if it were your last" line of thinking.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Scale

From our perspective, the planet Mercury passed in front of the sun today. It is closer to us than the sun, and so appears slightly larger in scale.

This is a picture of the transit.

It is a reminder of just how small our planets are (though Mercury is small, even relative to the Earth), even compared to our sun.

Updates

I hereby solicit comments on the new look of the blog. I've also added some blogs at the left.

Faith-Building

A friend from my college days has posted a blog soliciting specific prayer requests you have seen answered. I'd encourage you to swing by and leave yours for others to see and be encouraged by.

Acceptable Use

There are legal ways to use firecrackers.

There are illegal ways to use firecrackers.

And there's absolutely crazy ways to use firecrackers.

"LONDON - A 22-year-old man suffered internal injuries after lighting a small firecracker he had inserted into his..."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On the Democrats' Win

The story line of the day is that Brittney Spears has filed for divorce from Kevin Federline.

The other story is that Democrats have taken back control of the House of Representatives, and may (depending onthe outcome in Montana and Virginia) get a 51-49 lead in the Senate. A resounding, colossal, historic victory? Not really.

Evidently, the average in the sixth year of a presidency (post WWII), the opposition party typically gains ~30 House seats and ~6 Senate seats, making this wave rather ordinary. To be sure, Bush is unpopular, Iraq is unpopular, Republicans are unpopular, and there's frustration with the GOP from all quarters. But that isn't the whole story. Another important part is that this is perfectly normal.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weekending in San Francisco

I went to San Francisco with my friends last weekend. It was a whirlwind tour, with actual work to be done. It reminds me why I am a fan of good rapid transit (and I wish that the builders of Reno's I-580 link to Carson would have planned ahead and added dedicated room for a rail or bus line to the freeway).

I visited a bookstore, picked up a Pratchett nover, as well as a translation of the stories of King Arthur I hear is good. We ate at a place called "Sushi Ko" with beautiful presentation of food, incredibly tasty food, and a good price. One of the best meals I have had in some time - a fried california roll, with a main course of chicken teriyaki.

I tried some Brandy in the home of our hosts for the evening, and decided I hadn't been missing anything before I tried it - but I would not know if I had not tried.

I got to drive another guy's car across the Golden Gate Bridge a couple times, and there was only a hint of fog far off to sea. All in all, a beautiful weekend.

And the Nevada football team won, despite my not watching the game to cheer for them. Icing on the cake.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm torn

I vote largely Republican, mostly because I believe in fiscal restraint. The Republicans have demonstrated anything but. I expect Democrats to do the same, but in a divided Congress, it's less likely to get through without (1) mutually pork-loaded provisions, or (2) actual restraint and compromise.

I doubt any end-of-world predictions will come to pass from a Democratic House when a Republican President can still veto bills and a Republican majority or fillibuster-proof minority can play the sore loser.

I see restraint coming from a inter-party clashes when it did not arise from intra-party cooperation. I'm thinking of voting Democratic in my district's House race, despite significant differences of opinion about several other topics.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Evil Dead: The Musical

Just when you thought you had seen it all...
Like the original 1983 film, so gory that it was rated NC-17, the musical is about five hormonal college students borrowing a cabin in the woods for a short vacation. They discover a 13th-century book of the dead, accidentally play an audiotape of demon-summoning words and are soon being possessed, one at a time, by evil forces.

This requires Ash (Ryan Ward, in the Bruce Campbell role) to fight back with a nearby chain saw. He even has to decapitate his girlfriend, Linda (Jennifer Byrne), with whom he has just sung the romantic duet “Housewares Employee.”

The show, which basks in the self-referential, throws in characters and events from “Evil Dead II” (1987) and dismisses the second sequel (“Army of Darkness,” 1992), which sent Ash time-traveling to the Middle Ages, with a passing remark.

Throwing Inhibitions to the Wind

Throwing your inhibitions to the wind can be like hurling daggers into an oncoming hurricane - you'd better have some idea which way the wind is blowing.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Things To See In My Lifetime

And it happens right in my backyard. I can't believe I was thinking of going up to the Black Rock around this time and didn't...

Now I have to wait for next year. But it's worth the wait to see amateur rockets blasting into space.

Predicting the Election Outcome

Wondering what will happen in the upcoming election? The Iowa Electronic Markets might give you a good idea. They tend to respond quickly to changing events, and have been shown to be a good predictor, aggregating many varying opinions.

Current favorite is Democratic House, Republican Senate. A fully Republican Congress holds a narrow lead over a fully Democratic Congress for 2nd place.

Iowa Electronic Markets, 2006 Congress

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Wonderful World of Nasal Photography

Subtitle: Dave, the Amazing Aluminum Eater

I'm a fidgeter. I tend to tap my feet, twirl a pen, or in other ways move about pretty constantly. Last night, at the dinner we share at Coram Deo before beginning the church service, I was toying with the pull-tab on my can of Hansen's Fruit Juice when it broke off and fell into the can. "No worries," thought I. "It's metal, and will sink. I will be careful not to chug the whole can." I continued eating and conversing, and took a drink without thinking.

"That's strange. Soda isn't supposed to have lumps," I thought after I swallowed. I looked in the can. No more pull tab. It felt lodged in my throat, not blocking any airway, or even preventing eating. I ate some bread, hoping to cushion the metal's passage through my system.

The feeling never went away of the metal being stuck in my throat, and I slept little last night. Still feeling it in the morning, I called a Nurse Hotline with a local hospital to see if removing this would be an Urgent Care or Emergency Room procedure.

ER it is. I called my sister, off work from teaching this week, and asked for a ride. Two and a half hours and 4 x-rays later, the word came back: no tab was visible in my chest/throat, but an appointment was made for a specialist to take a look at my throat and make sure there was no serious damage and verify the x-ray.

"I'm Stacey Hudson (possibly Huston, I already forget). I know when you heard Stacey you were expecting a girl," the doctor said as he entered. He was very congenial, and explained what was going on as he did it. First came the nose spray, that didn't quite numb the nose and throat enough to prevent feeling the camera. Second came the revelation that I have a broken nose - an explanation of nosebleeds in a single nostril, the sinus infection I did not know I had, and the snoring that I didn;t always have. Third came the confirmation - no more metal in the throat, it must be happily winding it's way through my guts (or having already wound its way through).

So home I went, wondering when I could have busted my sniffer, surprised to learn I was sick, and with a prescription to make it better. I'd reccomend the doctor if anyone has ear, nose or throat issues. He explained everything as it went, made the process of having what seemed like a mile-long probe inserted through my nose as pleasant as such things can be, and left me feeling confident that I was to heal just fine.

Friday, October 27, 2006

More Confirmation of my Prowess

What's today's front page story in the local paper? "Some politicos think fuel prices are going down to help get certain candidates elected."

I can hardly believe this is even a story. But it is the result of a single line of thought I had when I first made my prediction: "Now that gas prices are coming down, how can people possibly think oil companies are setting the price and gouging customers? Are they suddenly less greedy? Well, I suppose one could argue that they started bringing gas prices down to help Republicans in the midterm elections."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

In This Temple


DC1006 (184)
Originally uploaded by renowiggum.


In this temple
As in the hearts of the people
For whom he saved the Union
The spirit of Abraham Lincoln
Is enshrined forever

-Inscription, Lincoln Memorial

People want to worship something bigger than themselves. This is the most popular monument in Washington DC. It is, by its own admission a temple - a place of worship and reverence.

People talk to Honest Abe here. They ask advice. They search for answers and meaning. They also stop just to visit, to see the sights.

I was sad. Here, at the heart of our nation, an idol. Not all idols are sex godesses and sun gods, after all. How many believers put God and Country on the same page? How many put the latter above the former, in custom if not in name?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Equal Justice Under The Law


DC1006 (228)
Originally uploaded by renowiggum.

I stood there, contemplating the promise that in America, any person can have their day in court, can demand to know why they are held, can expect to be tried by a jury of their peers.

It is an ideal, perhaps an unattainable one. All Americans are equal, but some are more equal than others. The system is not perfect, as the rich can afford the fancy teams of lawyers, to file endless appeals, to try and stave off justice.

I thought about recent legislation barring prisoners from using habaeus corpus appeals in the federal appealate courts, and wondered if that was wise.

I thought about the tourists jaywalking across so many streets in DC, and the demands of the Law. Guilty, every one, even if only of a minor offense.

Because Equal Justice Under The Law still puts you under the Law. And the law brings the knowledge of sin, and death. We all respect and cherish the Law, but rely on grace.

I was proud of my country, for the idea that everyone is entitled to their day in court. But I was beyond grateful for a Savior that provided for me what I could never accomplish for myself through the Law. That I was delivered from being under the Law, to being under the boundless grace of God.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Lincoln at Sunset


DC1006 (170)
Originally uploaded by renowiggum.

It had better be a good picture. It was our only sunny evening, and I was determined not to miss the chance, despite a couple small blisters from walking in dress shoes earlier in the day.

Those became large blisters, and the various forms of limping tweaked (in order) my right ankle, my back, and my right hamstring.

But it was worth it. Very pretty. Good setting for contemplation. And a source of more blog posts when my brain is back to working like that.

I just flew in from DC, and boy are my arms tired.

Actually, I flew in last night. But I AM very tired. I woke up at 6:45 feeling as though it had been a full night. I suppose it was, but I need to get back on Reno time now.

I took lots of pictures, and they now completely dominate my Flickr page. I'm going to have to get a pro account to have any old pictures available on there. Decisions, decisions. I'll tease you with one of my favorites.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Life Veers

Not Veers like the General who led the Imperial assaul on Hoth, but with the "suddenly twists and changes" denotation.

It's safe to say that the past year has been different from what I expected it to be. I'm not happy with the way everything's gone, but through it all I see myself growing and maybe even catching a glimpse of what might be called patience.

I left a church I had been at since I was a little, little boy - not because of any disagreements I had with the people or leadership there, but because I had felt for a while like it just wasn't the place for me to be and because upon attaining resolution (though not the sort I had hoped for) of my affections for a girl, that vague sense catalyzed into a certainty that the time had come for me to move on.

I cast my lot with a church that was/is just forming, led by a guy I had no real personal connection to, attended by people that are mostly strangers to me. There isn't a regularly-attending single girl in the group within a decade of my own age, but I am strangely at peace with that.

In fact, while I still have profound regrets about the way things have gone with a couple girls in particular over the last couple years - I don't find myself feeling almost desperate to hook up with someone. I threw all my eggs in a basket with no bottom, and at the very least have accepted a time to settle down, get refocused on what matters, and go from there.

I have gotten some advice from a friend about matters involving the fairer sex, and I appreciate them and hope he doesn't think I disregard it simply because I am slow to respond. I'm just in no great hurry (which is unusual beyond my ability to describe it). I don't know that I'd say I'm content just the way I am, but I am more at peace with being alone than I have been since I can remember. (The agreeable distraction of collegiate athletics may have something to do with this, too...)

I haven't any good idea why I have been on the path I have. The trials I am still coming through served to rip me apart and lay me out before God - naked, alone, without pretense. I was taken to the point of dumping my faith, but did not. Perhaps the rebuilding of me since then will be more firm than I was before. Perhaps one day I will be able to stand behind someone feeling utterly alone, and sympathize with them in the core of my being. Perhaps it was simply the experience of deeply-held falsehoods being torn out.

I know better the things that matter to me. Staying up late on Saturday night to watch SNL with my roommate when he gets off work matters to me. I don't want to let the routine of church push out my real life connection with men who know nothing of God but what they see in me. I don't want to allow speculation and hope for relationships become important enough that the fear of losing it prevents action in life. I don't want to say I'm great when I'm not.

I've got a serious decision to make. I want to be honest with myself in making it. I'd appreciate your prayers as I consider it. Because I also don't want "I'll pray about it" to be a phrase I use to say "I'll tell you later," but rather "I want to consult with Almighty God and see if this jives with his plan for me."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Deal, or no Deal?

Have you seen this show? I never watched it, but it is on before NBC's new show "Heroes," which I like. It's a pretty simple take on expected return - multiplying the probability of a variety of outcomes by the payoff of each outcome. In this case, there's a fixed distribution of numbers, each with an identical probability. There's flashy lights and absurd drama to stretch it out, but it would be boring TV if not for that.

What I find interesting is that they have a commercial for a "play at home" game, with six cases. If you call or text message in, you get to pick a case. There is a random drawing of people who choose the correct case for $10,000 every night. What you would expect in a random world is that each number gets a roughly equal number of votes. But that's not the case. Tonight, two seperate numbers each had almost 40% of the votes.

I can't help but wonder why, and I have no answers.

Spoiled

I'm a spoiled Nevada boy. I imagine it is pretty much always sunny everywhere, all the time. Evidently, it is not. The forecast for my trip to DC next week calls for a 20-40% chance of showers Monday through Wednesday - the other days are currently off the radar.

On top of that, my plans to spend one more night on the Black Rock playa before it becomes a lake again may be foiled by intermittent rain this week. Rain turns the playa into a nasty alkali paste that eats cars. Hopefully, it will still be dry Saturday night into Sunday morning.

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Predictive Powers Confirmed

Oil prices are going down to try and manipulate the results of the November elections. This is the theory I expected somebody to put forward as the elections approached. Granted, most people that espose this theory are marginalized, but a story about it has finally popped up in a mainstream news story.

I'm so good, I scare myself.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Amish School Shoorting

A quote regarding the attitude of the community where this happened:
“The hurt is very great,” Huntington said. “But they don’t balance the hurt with hate.”

Good advice.

Science and The Mummy

You may recall, shortly before Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz release the cursed mummy in Egypt, some workers stumble onto an old Egyptian trap - tryg to pry open a box, they are sprayed with a liquid that causes their faces to melt.

"Salt Acid," the grizzled tomb raider says knowingly.

Sorry, but that's just plain ridiculous. I know the movie invokes the power of Ra and has an undead monster sucking the fluids and plucking organs from some unfortunate Brits, but for some reason, it's the "salt acid" that bugs me. It's inherently contradictory.

An acid is the combination of a Hydrogen ion, H+ with a negative ion, like Cl- or SO4- in water. A base is the combination of a hydroxyl group, OH- with a positive ion, like Na+ or K+ in water.

When you combine an acid and a base, they cancel each other out (as we learn from MacGyver). They do this by combining the H+ and OH- into a good old H2O. What about the other parts? They mix together, too, to form a salt. (such as NaCl - good old table salt - from mixing sodium hydroxide with hydrochloric acid).

Thus, a salt is not, ever, a type of acid. It's just stupid.

For those of you outside the loop

The church I've joined will begin "official" meetings a week from Sunday. There have been difficulties in the path, and interruptions to the schedule. But there are also encouraging signs that it ought to go forward.

If you so desire, pray for us. Pray specifically for Dawson and Miriam (pastor & wife), encouragement for him in the nitty gritty details that go with starting a church, healing for her as she is recovering from an emergency surgery, and strength for both of them for the next 6 weeks or so as she recouperates.

Pray for the group, as there isn't a person among us that's actually gone through this process, described by those who have done so as being full of blood, sweat, and tears. Pray that we would keep focused on Christ, and our desire to serve not just in abstract ways, but with clothes for the naked, food for the hungry, and water for the thirsty.

Pray that we would not get worked up when there are obstacles in the road, especially when they may be there to guide us to the path we ought to be on. Pray for the grace to keep us on our path, and that we would run this race well.

And pray that if and when the church grows, that it is not because people from other churches have decided this is a "cool" place to go to church, but because people who were formerly enemies of Christ are being brought into His family.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Prayer Request From a Stranger

There's a brother I've never met who is ill and in need of prayer. I'll pray for him. Will you?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Lunch

A couple weekends ago, I took a Friday off to enjoy a late Thursday night with my friends, and then sleep in but be able to make it to te Nevada campus early for that afternoon's football game. Relishing the chance to eat in Reno for once, I decided to go to the Nugget in downtown Reno and there to partake in the Awful-Awful, a gloriously indulgent burger at a cheap (but increasing) price. I invited a couple friends, but one had to leave town for a family emergency.

I parked at the north end of downtown in a free parking garage, several levels up because Street Vibrations, a motorcycle love-fest for Harleys with big exhaust pipes, was in town. I walked to the restaurant, and promptly got in line, where I inched forward over the course of ten minutes or so. I kept an alert eye for my other friend, but not seeing him took a seat at the counter near the register once I placed my order.

I sat next to a man, whose name I think was Mike. He seemed like a friendly fellow, and the Nugget attracts all sorts of people with it's beef-and-fried potato siren's song. He showed off a ring he had that he claimed someone had given him the night before just for watching her things while she had to step away for a moment. He was almost fascinated that it rotated around his finger when he twisted it. He let just about everyone at the register know that the Awful-Awful was so large, no one could finish it. And he had the hands and particular sour smell of a man living on the streets.

We talked a bit, as he ate his food and I ate mine. I silently prayed when I got a quiet moment, asking God to let me know how I could "be Christ" to this man. He never said that he lived on the streets, though he alluded it it a couple of times. And when he suddenly shook my hand and said "I need to be serious with you, as a friend," I knew where the conversation was going to head. He said he needed it for his wife, who was diabetic and couldn't eat the same food that we were having in the diner, so she was just waiting outside. He promised he could double whatever I gave him, and be back with it in an hour. I had brought some extra for food inside the stadium once I was at the game, but was quite full from the Awful-Awful and fries (which I never did finish).

So I parted ways with twin images of President Lincoln, assuring him that I did not want him to come back with more - indeed, that I would not be here to accept it even if he came back. He offered me his ring, $75 he said. "No - just take it." He stepped out for a minute, purportedly to give it to his wife. I watched his jacket, which he left on the seat. He returned, and we resumed talking about how twenty or so potatoes must go into the fries for a single burger.

Shortly, he left. I finished as many fries as I could, and so did I.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More Questions than Answers

I haven't blogged much recently. I haven't been feeling well, but mostly I haven't had much to say. But I find myself unable to sleep, unable to purge the thoughts that bombard my waking mind every moment.

I told a guy recently that the advice I'd offer myself if I were ten years younger would be that when you are interested in someone, ask her out. That your biggest regrets lie not in rejected advances, but in chances never taken. This is a hard policy, especially when one is wont to sit and think, trying to outline every possible scenario but it is lived out in my life now.

In the tale of two women, one a friend, one essentially a stranger I pursued the stranger and not the friend. Now the stranger is dating, and the friend is married. And I regret the later so much more than the former. When I was direct, I received the great blow of rejection. But a direct "no" does wonders for eliminating down-the-road "what-ifs."

With the friend, I am not so lucky. Shortly before she was set up with the man she later married, she e-mailed me recalling a tine we had gone to a waterfall (a short walk that turned into a minor hike when I made a wrong turn), and expressing her desire to do more of that in the upcoming summer.

Shortly thereafter, she became much slower to respond to an e-mail. She let me know how happy she was that I got my new job with the state, and that she was really busy. A litle later she let me know she had been seeing someone "for a couple months." She e-mailed me in early January to ask if I could help her move closer to her fiance, so she could save some money for their upcoming wedding, and I got an invitation to her wedding that I couldn't bring myself to attend.

The best laid plans of mice and men can go to pieces in an instant, and this was no exception. What if... I wish I had said something when I had the chance. Maybe she'd have said "no" too - after all, no one's said yes yet. But I'll never know. All I have left are the images of opportunities I had to ask, taunting me when I close my eyes.

Am I to learn from this? Was it simply the way life goes? Will I receive comfort in my affliction so I may comfort others who face it, too? Why when I begged for guidance did I choose the most barren path, imagining it to be lush? Where do I go from here?

I want to believe this. I'm not certain I can.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Apache



Beware... I'm trying to embed silly videos. Beware! BEWARE!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Football!

I was at the season opening game for Nevada football. We came in 0-2, playing a 2-0 team that we haven't beaten in 8 tries. Many of their fans predicted an easy victory. It was not to be.

It was a dominating performance by my team, with only a couple stumbles in the middle that gave the other team the chance to put points on the board. But with the exception of those fretful minutes, the game was not in doubt. We whalloped them. It was a beautiful thing to see.

I like football, because I like the feeling of involvement with the people around me that it provides. I love to hear the fans cheering, I love the response from the team on the field, I love to feel the excitement crackling in the air.

I'd have spent more time socializing with some other fans from WolfPackChat.com, but I got smoke or something in my eye (maybe I scratched it slightly, because it is still bothering me today) and retired to my car to try and make myself cry to irrigate it. I failed, not in small part because I was about to watch football and I was too excited to get worked up about other things.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Advances in Medical Technology

Pretty cool, if you ask me.

---
"Sept. 14, 2006 — Claudia Mitchell is the first "bionic woman."

When Mitchell thinks, "close your hand," her hand closes, even though she lost her hand and entire arm two years ago.

Mitchell, a 26-year-old former Marine, lost her left arm in a motorcycle accident in 2004 and just received a bionic prosthesis from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

She now has partial use of the arm that she lost — and she controls it with her thoughts."

Death

A man at my old church passed away, after complications following a "routine" procedure left him in a coma. Husband, and father to a kid now just out of high school, he was a genuinely warm person. Helping wherever he was needed, he would always say hello and stop by the sound booth to visit with the tech guys - something most musicians and singers did rarely, if ever. He would help clean the sanctuary between services, shovel snow in the winter, make coffee in the mornings, usher, sing, and take you out to lunch.

At a loss for words as rarely happens, and believing that he served in the Air Force, I offer this as a token of tribute:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun! (Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

The Air Force Song

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Grumpy the Cat

One of those random tidbits I've been meaning to share. My cousin Ken has blogged about this cat. You should read the article. I think about Grumpy sometimes now and just smile.

Conspiracy Theory Prediction

I'm predicting now a theory I have not yet heard, but expect to. The theory is that oil (and gas) prices are falling because Big Oil is afraid that the Republicans might lose the elections, and so they are trying to influence that outcome by lowering prices.

If anyone hears this repeated, in the media or in other blogs, I'd love to hear about it, so I can claim to b wonderfully smart.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday's Random News

Python swallows sheep, can't move. Photo included.

Impotent Whining

It's football season, and one of the most ancient and hallowed traditions of the season is complaining about... well, whatever suits you. For me, it's rule changes that were put into place to shorten college football games, ostensibly to reduce the risk of injury but really to be more accomodating to TV schedules (3 hours is better than 3.5 hours). The new rules mean that the team trailing in the 4th quarter has a much more difficult time getting back in the game. The game is shortened by 10-20% - less football for more commercials. The BCS already proves that the NCAA is more interested in advertising $$ than competitive sporting events. This is just another example. I consider signing an online petition to generally be a pointless strategy, but it gives me a feeling of satisfaction to register my frustration somewhere.

This is the site for the petition. I find it interesting that they get e-mail addresses for confirmation and delete duplicates. That's closer to a real petition than I've seen before online. Not that it will do any good.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Life is Hard

I'm getting sent to Washington, D.C. to stay in a hotel 3 blocks from the US Capitol Building and attend a training class during the day for a week. How shall I ever find something to do in the evenings?

Life is so very, very hard.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Crocodile Hunter

The Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, died this past week. Not eaten by an alligator, bitten by a spider, or any other of the dangerous animals he was so familiar with, but a "lucky strike" by a stingray, which pierced his heart.

I was sad to learn this. He seemed so full of energy and life, with a love for the natural world that inspired others.

Evidently, among other honors, he will be afforded a state funeral if the family wants, as he was a face of Australia that the world came to know and love. He leaves behind a wife and two children - 8 and 3, as well as a world that lost a little bit of its light.

To learn more...

Darfur

Things are about to get worse there. Possibly, much, much worse.

"But," you might ask, "didn't they sign a peace deal recently?" Yes, but the UN does not appear willing to hold up its end of the agreement.

This seems to be a pattern in international politics. A cause du jour springs up, like Darfur, or the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, or Iranian uranium enrichment, and all the world rushes to make paper agreements that they have no intention of carrying out. Much noise and attention are directed toward the creation, arguing, and signing of such agreements, and then the issue falls from public view. Without the force of action behind the agreements, and with a long line of preferring to renegotiate breaches in agreements instead of taking punitive action - such agreements are not only not worth the paper they are written on, but are a bad thing - substituting hollow words for real action, blinding a people eager to be blinded to the harsh reality before them.

The UN promising to provide troops to protect the people of Darfur from government-sanctioned murder and rape does not prevent that tragedy from befalling a single person. Words, like faith, are dead without action. That we love the former but are unwilling to pursue the later only allows those cunning enough to see the difference to exploit our cowardice.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Why Meet?

Why do we have "church services," Sunday morning or not, at all? I heard one concept I liked on Sunday, though I'm not sure I took it in the way it was meant. Is it necessary? Why move beyond the level of house church? What happens at large gatherings that is not replicated on a vastly smaller scale? I seek opinions from everyone - long, short, detailed, or general (though I admit to being biased in favor of long, detailed).

Wal-Mart Wages

Have you heard the argument that Wal-Mart should pay higher wages because other "Big Box Retailers," (such as Costco - which I have often heard cited) do so? So have I. I never had a really good answer for it, until now.

I like any article that digs into actual numbers, and so I leave you with only a small teaser. Let's say that Wal-Mart pays $10 an hour to start, while Costco pays $17 (and with better benefits!). Wal-Haters will tell you this proves that Wal-Mart is exploitative. But how many jobs are "sacrificed" to pay the higher wage? Having nearly 4x the annual sales Costco has, Wal-Mart also employs almost 12x as many people (at a wage 58.8% of Costco's).

If Wal-Mart were like Costco in its employment practices (not a perfectly sound analysis, rather, food for thought), 900,000 people would lose their jobs (From 1,300,000 to 440,000 - 4x Costco's employment) - a reduction of 2/3 of their workforce. The lucky 1/3 that stayed would make more, but at what price? Wages paid would decrease from $13M (1.3M employees @ $10/hr) annually to $7.48M (440,000 employees @ $17/hr) - meaning $5.5M doesn't end up in the hands of the working class. Is this good for the poor?

For more, read the whole article.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I wish I were cool like this

Harmonics are cool. Playing notes on a guitar by hammering a string is cool. Strumming on the fretboard sounds cool.

This video is almost surreal.

Friday, August 25, 2006

My pictures in the world


100_3957
Originally uploaded by renowiggum.

Bet you never thought my mug would appear as the cover art on a band's debut album, did you? Granted, it's hardly recognizable as me, but nevertheless, it is so.

A band in Michigan found this picture through Morguefile.com, a free-use site, and was kind enough to let me know they were using it. The band name is "Slightly Innocent," and the album name is "Ascension." You can see the picture in use at the band website, http://slightlyinnocent.cabspace.com

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Why is it...

Why is it that in weddings, I often hear the pastor say something to the effect of "with the authority vested in me by the Lord Jesus Christ as a messenger of his gospel" or other assertion that the power to wed people comes from God? It makes us feel all holy and stuff, but where is that authority vested?

Maybe there's a scripture I don't know. Help?

Just one of those weeks

It's just been one of those weeks. I feel under the weather, which may be allergies, or it may be a physical manifestation of how I feel on the inside. It's a time when I am glad that those who hope in the Lord do more than soar on the wings of eagles, they also walk and do not faint.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Drug Companies and Profit

Is it unethical for a drug company to make over $1B in profit (sale price less manufacturing cost) for an aspirin? For an AIDS vaccine? For a cure to cancer?

Consider that the average costs incurred in bringing a drug to market are $800M. Consider how much money is sunk into research for drugs that go nowhere. Consider the damages they may face if a drug has harmful effects that were not picked up in the trials (c.f. Vioxx). And consider that for all of this risk and sunk costs, these companies exist to make a profit. And even when hey get a good and successful drug, there is a limited window afforded by patents until anybody can make generic versions of your drug, reducing your profit to almost nothing.

Consider the effect on R&D if there is no profit motive (Hint: It's not good). If we insist that drug companies come up with life-saving drugs, and then take their patents in the name of the public good, who will exist to make the life-saving drugs for the next generation?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My photos in the world

Vainly searching for my most common online name (renowiggum), I came across this site, using my picture in a "Beautiful places to have your wedding" ad for Lake Tahoe. Woot!

Ending Poverty

"Give a man a fish..." We usually take this to mean that our charity should be in training people how to get money on their own. But what does that look like? Is it possible that "sweatshop labor" is not a bad thing?

I know we hear that it is. But what if someone volunteers to work under those conditions? Would that not suggest that their alternatives are all worse? The development of the Western economies from agrarian to industrial to service had periods of low wages as workers flocked to the cities. Over time, we decided that was "inhumane" and instituted minimum wages and the like. What if sweatshop / low-wage, high-labor conditions are a necessary step in the development of a modern economy? By demanding that countries skip this step, are we short-circuiting the growth of these countries? To say "you can grow, but it has to be on our terms?"

Consider this article, about everyone's favorite whipping-boy:
Other than economic growth, there is no way to double the salaries of a 100 million people (and growing). After the 2004 Asian Tsunami, more than one-third of Americans gave more than $400 million in charitable aid, an extraordinary outburst of giving by any standard. And yet there are more than 630 million rural Chinese remaining, many of whom are living on less than a dollar per day. While each would welcome a charitable dollar if we could get it to them, that charitable dollar, representing one good day's worth of income, would not do them nearly as much good as would a job in the city paying twice as much day in, day out. Charity cannot take place on an adequate scale to solve global poverty.

Despite Jeff Sachs' enthusiasm for foreign aid, Bill Easterly makes a compelling case that government-to-government aid damages economies as often as it helps them. Does anyone think the World Bank raises more people out of poverty than does Wal-Mart?
Just food for thought. I'm not decided on the matter. But when people start piling on Wal-Mart, it makes me want all the more to come to their defense because I wonder if the source of their fustration is really that Wal-Mart is bad, or if the complainer is simply envious of its success.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Goin' to Fresno

Today I put in for the time off the Friday before Labor Day. Generally, this would be to secure a prime camping site, but this year I am headed out on Friday to watch the first football game of Nevada's 2006 season. There's a bus trip organized - there and back in a day for a nominal fee, and it gives me the chance to meet some new people.

The game'll be on ESPN - the only college football game that day - but I'll get to be there live, hopefully just behind the Nevada bench, proudly sporting the bluest clothing I can find in a stadium full of red. If you happen to catch the game, and see a block of 50 people in blue just behind the Nevada bench, look for me.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Yo Quiero Taco Bell

So I'm going to go have some. Recalling times of no money and no job makes me grateful for the power of disposable income.

Ten Years, Part 2

Continued from a previous entry:

Spring 1998: I previously said it was a blur. Then I thought a bit, and I do remember things that happened. It stunk, and I care not to hash out the details. I did talk to her on occasion, but it turned very not-pretty. I also started looking to see if there were other girls about. There were, and I became friends with some.

Summer 1998: Continued attending college group events. Really liked Intervarsity, and got to know Kenny, Luke, Jon, Michelle, and others much better. Having become interested in the Star Wars Customizable Card Game in the previous year, I spent a lot of time with some friends from high school playing it. I first got to know Chris and Jon, both in my facial-hair picture, this way. This summer was in may ways a time when I started seriously reconnecting with non-church friends. I also took a trip with the college group to Great America. This is only memorable as the first time I recall meeting a girl I'd spend most of the time from 2002-2005 trying to get to know better.

Fall 1998: Kenny and Michelle branch off and have their own Bible Study. It proves to be the one everyone goes to, and we cancel the study I and another girl were leading (which never had more than us and the girl whose room it was in). I started teaching the Jr. High Sunday School class at my church this semester. I did that for several years, and left with a much greater uncertainty that I was "meant to be" a teacher. Focus-wise, I'm often all over the map. I also became interested in UNR football about this time. Finally, I think this is when I changed my major to Economics, because it was a social science that I thought would be a good undergrad degree when I went to seminary - my plan at the time.

Winter 1998: Intervarsity has been steadily shedding people. Campus Crusade is starting, and drawing away people. In addition, other college groups have begun to grow and thrive, meaning that the once-popular college group at First E Free is shrinking. We try various stop-gap solutions, but things seem to keep shrinking. I have by now made peace with the girl who caused such consternation before.

Spring 1999: Peace with girl becomes shaky when she starts dating someone else. Vivid memories include driving to an unpopulated but under-construction housing area to vent some frustration on a dumpster on the day before she and he decided to be "friends with an asterisk". I now know what kicking a large metal dumpster with steel-toed shoes feels and sounds like. I start looking around at other girls again. I manage to ask one to dinner. She originally says yes, calls the day of to say she has too much homework, then proceeds to be at group events hanging out all weekend long. Through my frustration with this, I get to know another girl who was also rustrated by a guy she liked. United by frustration and jealousy, we get to know each other. She later told me that she thought about a relationship with me, but decided it wouldn't work, to my great disappointment. This must be when it happened. Should I have walked her to her car after seeing a movie? Should I have "pressed my advantage" when it was there? [shrugs]

Summer 1999: We learn that "staff" from Intervarsity HQ will be coming to Reno. Having a program of 7 people, this is welcome news. There are fireworks when we learn that the woman (a pair, man and woman on staff, each married) expects to split teaching time with the man. Kenny, Jon, and Michelle disagree enough to leave. I stay, and I become the last of the "old guard" of Intervarsity. A couple newer people who are now student leaders also stay. I wasn't sure I agreed, but didn't feel strongly enough about it to leave.

Fall 1999: I get my first job since 1997 working at the business school computer labs. I also have two female friends that I talk to regularly. Girl #1 and the guy she started seeing broke up - I was fall-back guy, not for a relationship, but the stereotypical listening-ear-great-freind-just-not-like-that. I didn't care as much, because things seemed to be going okay with girl #2, except that she was still obviously fixated on other guy. With Intervarsity, college group, Jr High class, and my newly-started participation with the big-church worship ministry, I often found myself not having time to hang out with my high school friends as much. I start talking to a girl I knew from the early days of InterVarsity and the college group on AOL IM. We get along great, and she starts telling me about a guy she's interested in, but doesn't know what to do because she's never dated anyone. I hope maybe I'm the guy. I'm not. She knows him from the new most-popular-Bible-study. I can't go because of IV or other commitments.

Winter 1999: Mostly uneventful. The college group at church had a New Year's party. I won an award for my costume. Girl #1 was jealous and thought she should have won. I rang in the new year with girl #1 and girl #2, both just friends, close by. Sure, I had no girlfriend, but things didn't seem to be going too bad.

Tagged

Ah, the sweet smell of descent into the blogging version of spam. Except instead of you wasting my time by filling my mailbox with it, I waste your time by making you read it. Bwah-ha-ha, says I.
----
1) One book that changed your life:
In the Likeness of God - There aren't any really good candidates, but the more I think of the gap between what the Body of Christ should be, and what it looks like now, the more sense this makes to me.

2) One book you've read more than once:
What's so Amazing About Grace? - I choose this one because it is a good reminder of what I want to be.

3) One book you'd want on a desert island:
Taking a cue from George MacDonald - Wooden Ship-Building.

4) One book that made you laugh:
Mort. Though I really enjoy just about any Discworld novel.

5) One book that made you cry:
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I remember reading this for the first time, crying almost uncontrolably when Gandalf died.

6) One book that you wish had been written:
Just Friends: How to Tell What She Really Thinks Without Looking Like An Ass

7) One book you wish hadn't been written:
I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I'm against anything that can be used to give a guy hope where none exists. This did that effectively to me.

8) One book you're currently reading:
Moby Dick. I'm revisiting classics I never read before.

9) One book you've been meaning to read:
The Cost of Discipleship. I keep starting, not finishing, and restarting it.

10) Tag five others:
Travis-And/Or-Michelle, Christy, Sole Comfort, RomanĂ³s, Ken Lund

Friday, August 18, 2006

Why?

In this BBC news story, I have one real question. Why is it that the phrase "The accident involved dark chocolate" is (1) the closing line of the story, (2) important enough to deserve it's own paragraph, and (3) even mentioned at all?

More on Global Warming

A common argument I hear is that "all scientists agree..." My roommate used it the other day - all scientists, or all people who have any reason to know, believe in global warming.

Here is the tagline for the man who wrote this article. You tell me if he sounds like a scientist to you. Debate exists. That some try to quash it by claiming consensus makes me suspect their motivations.
Dr. Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist for the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA's Aqua satellite.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Commitment

I finally took the plunge. I bought a beard-trimmer. I came to the point of needing to either shave off my facial hair, or begin trying to keep it orderly. I figure that I can always shave it later, but if it goes now who knows if I'll ever let it grow back?

Surprised to hear that I had a beard to shave? It may not be much to see. You can see a picture of it here.

Mindless Competition

There's nothing like competition where the opponent has no idea there's anything going on.

Stumbling blindly through blogdom, I found this page, which tells you how much your blog is worth, in what I think is a sly take on a business deal I don't claim to know a thing about.

Nevertheless, being a pointlessly competitive sort, I gave it a shot. $3,387.24. Sounds low compared to the $124K+ on the site that led me there. But then I put in someone else's. $2,258.16. I felt better. Really, they're both multiples of $1,129.08 - so I rated a 3 while he rated a 2, but even so... Boo-yah!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Yar! There be buried treasure about, mateys!

AOL is now engaged in hunting for buried treasure. Some things are just too good to make up.

Science, Faith, and the Classroom

This excerpt of an essay in the New York Times makes me nervous:

The chairman of the school board, Dr. Steve Abrams, a veterinarian, is not merely a strict creationist. He has openly stated that he believes that God created the universe 6,500 years ago, although he was quoted in The New York Times this month as saying that his personal faith “doesn’t have anything to do with science.”

“I can separate them,” he continued, adding, “My personal views of Scripture have no room in the science classroom.”

"A key concern should not be whether Dr. Abrams’s religious views have a place in the classroom, but rather how someone whose religious views require a denial of essentially all modern scientific knowledge can be chairman of a state school board."

The argument is that Science tells us the Earth must be very old. Dr. Abrams believes the Earth is only 6,500 years old. Therefore Dr. Abrams doesn't believe in science at all, as is seen in this quote:

It is a matter of overwhelming scientific evidence. To maintain a belief in a 6,000-year-old earth requires a denial of essentially all the results of modern physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology and geology. It is to imply that airplanes and automobiles work by divine magic, rather than by empirically testable laws.


My problem is that "all the results of modern physics, etc." only say how the Earth appeared to come about. They cannot say, nor can anything, whether the Earth could have been created, ex nihlo with laws in place that made it look very old. To say that combining a hydrocarbon with oxygen and heat today proves the Universe must be more than 6,500 years old is false. It does show that current scientific analysis works in a reliable way, but it is not absolute proof.

I lean towards the Old Earth / Science origin story. I still believe that God, as a super-natural being created it all. But I would not be surprised if God said one day "it really was just 6,500 years old. I made it that way." I believe God could do that, but as I look at the Universe, I use the assumption (because, no matter how many formulas, proofs, and tests are applied, I simply was not there) that it is really, really old.

What Dr. Abrams does is seperate science, as a way of investigating the visible world, which appears very, very old; from his faith that says "no matter how old it appears, it is only 6,500 years old." It is not a separation I care to make in this case, but neither do I find it impossible to think.

The Christian Response to Global Warming

Does not exist. All I can have is a Christian's response to global warming, and that's the most anyone else can have. I agree strongly with this article, in that I think (1) global warming - i.e. the significant warming of the earth due entirely to human activity is still a matter of debate, and far from certain; (2) burning organic compounds is a simple and cheap source of energy (ie, wood, coal, oil and their derivatives); (3) improving the quality of life for the poor requires energy (be it in wells, water purification, the manufacture of drugs to treat illness, transportation of goods, trade, etc); and (4) that increasing the cost of energy (through government mandates or bans) will decrease the effectiveness of a given dollar given to help the poor, more than the potential benefits they would see from it.

I don't really believe in global warming, in that I think the data on it is weak, the uses of the data are heavily political, and the politics is strong enough to overcome the weakness in the data. To say "but it's been really, reall hot" is bad because it's antecdotal, and says nothing about why it is hot, which is the crux of the matter. Just because it's hot does not mean that it is hot because of man-made global warming. That is a very important causal effect that needs to be shown.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Notes from the reunion

It was better than I feared it might be. I ended up at one table, so I only really got to catch up with a small handful of people. As it happened, many of them had been "stoners" in high school, who I knew to varying degrees from JROTC. I wondered for a bit why a clean, arrow-straight sort of person felt more comfortable with these people than mingling with others. I never drank, smoked, touched drugs or dated (much less slept with anyone).

It occured to me later in the night. Ideally, to be a Christian is in part to see the broken, fouled, fallen side of yourself, and know that you have no power to change it. Those who have "fallen" in the eyes of the world already know these things about themselves. As a result, I could sit in a group without pretense.

The saddest moment was hearing that one girl, now a single mother living in South Carolina, faced rejection from most of her small community because she's different. She feels cast out from the "good" Christians all around her. Shame on us.

The happiest moment came when I saw the e-mail address of a guy who seemed to have done more drugs than the others. It was a Scripture reference. Romans 10:13. The reference? Paul citing Joel "for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"

The lessons of the reuinon? Religious people condemn a girl in need while a (presumably) former drug user proclaims the salvation of the Lord. I definitely know which crowd I prefer.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ten Years, Part 1

My ten-year high school reunion is today. Doesn't seem to be a fancy affair - it's at Bully's, just down the street from the school. But it provides an occasion to recall how my life has changed since then.

Summer 1996 - Graduated in June, I spend a summer doing nothing. I am accepted at UNR, and just need to register for classes. My major is Chemical Engineering, but I am thinking of being a doctor. I wait until the week before class starts to register. I need 15 credits to keep my scholarship. I get 4 of the 5 classes I am planning on, but the most important is full. I rework my whole schedule in order to fit that class in. I wind up with Music Appreciation on Wednesday nights from 7-10pm, as well as Economics 101 (for a Social Science requirement) on Saturdays from 9-12am. The upside is that Mon, Wed and Fri my first class is at 11. Thursday, it's at 10. Tuesday, it's 1pm. Begin the life of up until 3, sleep to 10. Began attending TGIF, a gathering of college students from my church. Myself, Matt and Alex - three seniors from the same school, now freshmen, stick together like glue.

Fall 1996 - only marginally involved in the college group, but slowly getting to know people. Organic Chemistry is a lot harder than high school AP Chemistry.

Winter 1996 - I meet a girl. She's in the college group, a couple years older than I. One night in December, she asks for a ride home from TGIF, since we live pretty close to each other. I begin playing roller hockey in February with people from TGIF from ~12-3am. I begin slowly - I only got my rollerblades for Christmas.

Spring 1997 - I end up taking Economics 102, because 101 was pretty interesting. Matt and I begin attending InterVarsity (IV), a Christian group on campus made up largely of people from our college group. The girl hangs out a little with Matt. He thinks she's interested, I'm jealous. A week later, it is cleared up that she's just being friendly.

Summer 1997 - I am approached by some people from IV asking if I'd like to lead a Bible Study on campus in the Fall. I agree to it. I hang out more and more regularly with the girl, usually riding to and from Bible Study together. I'm elated to have finally met a girl that I was comfortable around, could talk to, and who seemed to be interested in having me around. A group of us hikes up Mount Rose at sunset to see the full moon from the top. On the way back, she puts her head on my shoulder and falls asleep on the ride back down the mountain.

Fall 1997 - Still a Chemical Engineering major, though I have no desire to pursue it at all. Things seem to be going really well with the girl. I lead the Bible Study, she attends. I meet Kenny and Luke, and start to get involved with things.

Winter 1997 - After attending the December graduation with her, I go to tutor someone from one of my classes. She attends the graduation party for a guy in the group. At the party, someone says she and I are dating, she strongly disagrees. After a conversation with her mom, she talks with me that evening. "You're a great guy and one of my dearest friends, but that's it." She admits that she was probably stringing me along a bit because it made her feel good to be liked. She asks for forgiveness, and I give it. What exactly just happened doesn't settle in for a couple hours. Matt showed up, and we spent some time talking in my car. It's the only time I ever remember crying in front of another person since before high school, or since.

Spring 1998 - I get my only D in college, in Accounting 201. I really couldn't care much less. It's mostly just a blur. She and I talked here and there, but not much for a few months. I'm still teaching a Bible Study.

Friday, August 11, 2006

They Can't Do This To Me!

There's another set of Lord of the Rings DVDs coming out. The "Limited Edition." The theatrical and extended movies on a single disc, with new "making of" footage.

August 18

Next weekend, I want to go up to the Black Rock Desert again. Probably drive up Friday after work, and return home early Saturday morning - though I might choose to actually sleep in instead of trying to stay up all night... though then again, the pre-dawn sunrise was perhaps the best part. Anyone else interested?

For the Record

I love Nevada. The mountains, the lakes, the rivers, the weather, the people, and a great many other things about it. I even like that we have casinos, not that I am a gambler (if I found that the sum total of random coins I've dropped in a slot machine exceeded $10, I'd be very shocked) but because... it feels like home.

It hurts when I read what some people think of my state. From this account, you'd think that Nevada was devoid of life, except for the sex parade of the Las Vegas Strip, a shameful place, with nothing useful to say, deserving only to be shunned and ignored.

For me, Nevada is an Awful Awful at the Little Nugget, swimming in the Truckee river, Shakespeare at Sand Harbor, stargazing on the Black Rock Desert, snow-tubing at the Tahoe Meadows, climbing Mount Rose, sleeping in a hammock, walking the streets of Virginia city, screaming for University of Nevada athletics, sunsets over the Sierras, and cows blocking a dirt road I need to drive down.

Immigration

I'm highly in favorof it. The only argument made concerning a need to restrict immigration is that of security. If we had a system where as many people as want can come, provided they do not pose a threat of physical harm to American workers, I'd love to throw open the gates.

One reason is that population growth leads to economic growth. More people earning wages and buying more things is how the country works. People want to come here for a better life, and their coming here would make a better life for all of us.

This New York Times article gives a couple hard facts along these same lines.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Billy Graham In Twilight

That's the name of a Newsweek cover that I saw. I couldn't help but think that the magazine is horribly backwards. It is not near the sunset of life for this man; on the contrary, it is just before sunrise, on a day which will last forever.

28

As of about 3:15 yesterday, I started working on my 29th revolution around the sun. The last one sucked. This one doesn't look much better, but I'm going to go home and have leftover ice cream cake, leftover chocolate cake, watch an episode or two of Animaniacs and then wipe out an opponent's armies with a swarm of Chinook helicopters. To waste another year wishing I could alter time and space and not waste so many years trying to get to know a girl that wanted nothing to do with me while watching one who actually appreciated my company marry someone else is something I don't plan on doing. What's done is done, and I accept that I'm a damned fool. If I'm going to waste more time, it's going to at least be while doing something enjoyable.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Who Wants to be a Superhero

Do you love over-the-top superheroes? Can you occasionally find a reality show that you like? Then get this.

Stan Lee is the host and judge. People audition in their own costumes, 12 (ish) get picked, they are put through challenges, they get eliminated. Pretty basic reality fare. But it's worth it to watch people prance around in spandex using cheesy superhero one-liners.

If you have iTunes, you can download the pilot for free. There's been two episodes so far, the third is next Thursday. The website is here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Sign of the Times

Does it say something about our society that if I ask you what horrible thing Mel Gibson did this weekend, you will probably say "He said naughty racial things about Jews" before you say "He was drunk and speeding through his neighborhood in his car."

Two actions. One insensitive and possibly an indicator of deeper racial prejudice. One that could result in real death and destruction. The former has society up in arms. The latter is hardly noticed.

Strings and Branes

The current rage in physics is String Theory, where the fundamental particles of matter and energy are all multi-dimensional strings. There was a show about it on PBS last night. It is head-melting stuff, like M Theory which united the 5 versions of string theory into a single explanation. The only difference is that, unlike the 5 versions which allowed strings freedom of movement in 10 dimensions, this used 11. In this extra dimension, strings can stretch and stretch into a sort of 11-dimensional membrane, which is how the seem to view the structure of our universe - a giant 11-dimensional membrane, as thin as 3-dimensional space. We are anchored to this membrane (stuck in only 3 dimensions) because most particles and energy are open-ended strings, whose open ends are tied to the Brane.

Gravity, however, is seen as a closed string, like a rubber band. With no loose ends to anchor it, gravity is free to move in more dimensions than other things. In an attempt to validate this theory, physicists smash atoms, hoping to observe a graviton leaving our known dimensions.

A Democratic congressman, in a recent attempt to liken global warming to gravity (As an obvious and incontrevertible fact) accused a statistician at a recent hearing for having an agenda, because "since Newton published his Principia, we don't go around questioning gravity, do we? (point: gravity is obvious, and we don't waste our time studying it, neither should we with global warming)" As a retort, a Rebublican asked a physicist in attendance whether anyone actually studies gravity anymore. He replied that they, in fact, do - and that it is a thriving area of research where questioning accepted ideas is welcome. This PBS show helped me understand why.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Not Alone In The World

Ideologically, at least.

New York Times Article

Monday, July 31, 2006

Fortress of Solitude Alert #1

Props to our thriving youth group at Coram Deo (3 people, including the pastor, but who's counting?) for going to the river to feed homeless people. Of note: according to those on the street, Sunday is the hardest day to get food (whether this means int he soup kitchens, or just do-gooders on the street I do not know - I wasn't there). Go figure.

Things to do someday

For the low, low price of $600 you too can spend a half-night looking through the 60-inch diameter telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory near L.A. You can even get a group of up to 25 people to share the experience. For $1100, you can have all night, from dusk to dawn.

That could be pretty stinkin' cool.

Link

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Frailty

Having pulled the hard drive from my sister's laptop to try and recover data from a computer that no longer wants to boot, I offer this advice: don't trust your precious documents to a laptop hard drive. Nothing that small can be as reliable as the 3.5" drives in your desktop. And you should back those up, too.

This thing is slow, only functions if it feels like it, and as I said before it fails to boot up the computer it's in.

I also learned that if you change too much hardware in your computer, it decides you need to reactivate Windows. That was 15 minutes I could have spent doing many other things this morning. Okay, not really, but it's still an inconvinience to call in to Microsoft.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sunday Mornings

Why do we go to church on Sunday mornings? Not "what are some reasons that Christians may once have met on Sunday mornings," but why do we, here and now, feel some compulsion to meet on Sunday mornings. I have heard it suggested that for an unchurched person, Sunday morning is a time one associates with church - hence, that's when they are most likely to show up.

The church I'm becoming involved in (PLUG: Coram Deo) is, among other things, committed to being different - not for the sake of being different, but because the status quo just isn't enough. Different is not a matter of the music style, the kinds of dress allowed, or having a coffee bar in the back. If that was all the change I could imagine, I'd be sorely tempted to ditch the church altogether.

The church is also committed to service - being Christ to others, in the flesh (as it were). Not "I'll-mow-your-lawn-if-you-listen-to-my-presentation-of-the-gospel," but motivated simply by the desire to serve. An end, not a means.

So I figure, why not use Sunday morning as a time to get our hands dirty serving the community? The world sees Christians and Sunday mornings like something from the Simpsons - we all get dressed up, huddle together, learn about the evils of the world, sing some songs, and go home eager to catch the afternoon football game. What would the world think if Christians made it a point to have their "Sunday morning service" become a time for Sunday morning service?

What if Sunday morning were spent visiting the sick, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry? What if the focal point of the Christian Week was serving others, not huddling away from them in our fortress of solitude? For the local church to say "This gathering is not to be your focus. Your focus is to be out there, serving as Christ did."

Perhaps it is pointless and unnoticed symbolism. But I think it could be meaningful, especially (and perhaps only) if the heart is moved to match it.