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


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.’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


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


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.


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


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