Monday, December 31, 2007


From the minds at Computerworld, I submit the following link as an excellent coda to the year.

Giant 50-foot bird terrorizes Hungarian street

See you in 2008!

Which Candidates?

Two questions for anybody willing to answer them:

1) Who should I vote for in the Republican caucus (and why)?
2) Who would be your second choice (and why)?

For example, I know that cousin Ken will say Gov. Romney, because that's his favorite candidate. But I'm also curious who, other than Romney, he would support.

A Cosmic Show

It's rare that people get really excited about something with a 4% probability. But when that's a 3-fold jump from a 1.33% probability, it gets a little more ecxiting.

That's the odds that a 165-foot asteroid will smash into Mars at 8.5 miles per second on January 30, at a hair before 3am Pacific Time. The asteroid was first spotted in November, as a part of an ongoing effort to keep an eye out for things that could hit Earth. When the odds of hitting Mars were set at only 1-in-75 just before Christmas, scientists started getting excited. They've now refined their estimate on the same observation, and the odds improved to 1-in-25. Usually, the odds of such things are in the 1-in-500,000 range. But the asteroid is behind our moon, and so the game now is wait-and-see. Shortly, there will hopefully be good news about an interesting show.

For comparison, a 165-foot asteroid would be similar to the one that put Meteor Crater in Arizona.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

From Greenspan's Book

"The existence of a democratic society governed by the rule of law implies a lack of unanimity on almost every aspect of the public agenda. Compromise on public issues is the price of civilization, not an abrogation of principle."

The Age of Turbulence, page 52

Friday, December 28, 2007


I asked for two t hings for Christmas. A food dehydrator, and a coat rack. I received both, and nicer ones than I expected. The coat rack had been used to rack coats, and the food dehydrator has been used to, well, dehydrate food.

The problem is this... the dehydrated fruit is GOOD! I go through it as fast as I can make it. That means that I've eaten a lot of fruit the last couple days. This morning's "breakfast" was: 1 large can of peach slices, 1 can of pineapple slices, and 2 small cans of fruit coctail (rinsed of the syrup they come in). It was eaten as I grazed on it... and then, it was gone.

That was a lot of fruit. And now, I feel rather full. I reckon it's all absorbing some mosture in my stomach, and taking up considerably more space. But oh, was it ever tasty. I have some meat sitting in my fridge, waiting for me to get the chance to try my hand at jerky over the weekend.

Romney on McCain

I admit - the only two Republicans I'm looking closely at are Governors Romney and Huckabee. Both have prior experience as a governor, and in senior leadership positions outside of politics (Huckabee as a pastor, Romney as a leader (I forget the official term - I think it was "stake leader") in his church and as a private sector executive). Senator McCain is probably my third choice, in large part because of Lieberman's endorsement. I think a McCain/Lieberman (or vice versa) ticket would be interesting. But I think legislating and executing are two different animals, and as chief executive, I'd like someone with more applicable experience.

All that said, I'm disappointed that Romney is doing the thing I like least in politics - lying about opponents with the thinnest veneer of truth to cover it. I really want to know why I should vote for him, not why I shouldn't vote for the other guy.

It's doubly worse because I think the "base position" of Republicans on immigration (amnesty is bad! walls are good! keep them OUT!) is a downright poor idea (I'm a huge fan of very open immigration, with only security considerations preventing anyone and anyone that wants to immigrate from coming in - especially in light of the growing Medicare / Social Security crunch), and I wish someone had the guts to say it and the chops to prove it. I admit, however reluctantly, that saying dumb things to get elected is probably part of the beast.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Misleading Headlines

The headline: Climate Change's $75 Billion Bill

The relevant part of the story: "Total economic losses from natural catastrophes in 2007 rose to $75 billion from $50 billion the year before as extreme weather conditions driven by climate change wreaked havoc across the world..."

The problem: The headline leads you to believe that $75 billion was lost because of climate change. The problem is that, as likely as not, some - maybe little, maybe much - of this would have happened anyway. To accurately measure the "bill" for climate change would require an estimate of the "unchanged" losses, so that the additional impact of climate change could be assessed. My guess? Most, if not all, of this weather and these disasters would have happened anyway. If that's true, then the headline goes from misleading to utterly false.

"It really means..."

It happened again. I was reading a blog post, where some commentary was given that says, in essence "this word really means..." and then proceeded to build on that statement to the conclusion. I offer to you the blog post, and a lexical reference for the word in question. As I don't know Hebrew, I am ill-equipped to weigh the technical arguments for or against this reading. My general test, when a word is in common usage, is to try substituting the proposed reading into other instances where the word is used to see if it makes sense. Fortunately, the lexical tool allows us to do that here.

The question I'm looking to answer in such an exercise is "Is there a reason for me to prefer the suggested reading of the word to the translated reading?" For me, the burden of proof is on the alternate reading, because it claims to be a better or more proper understanding of the word.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Will Smith, Smarter than the Jewish Defense League

From a blurb in a Dallas paper:

"The Jewish Defense League pounced on Will Smith on Monday after he was quoted in the Scottish newspaper the Daily Record as opining that the Nazi dictator wasn't all bad. "Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'Let me do the most evil thing I can do today,' " Mr. Smith said. "I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good.' " The JDL condemned the remarks as "ignorant, detestable and offensive" and urged theaters to pull Mr. Smith's new movie, I Am Legend."

So.... it's "ignorant" to say that Hitler wasn't trying to be evil, per se? I think that's entirely rational. I'd be surprised if even Hitler was deliberately trying to be evil - but he was so utterly wrong about what was good and what was evil, that in his pursuit of what he considered "right," he did what was clearly evil.

I find it offensive that the Jewish Defense League would find this position offensive. And I think the ignorant position is likely the one that says "Hitler wanted to be as evil as he could be," not the one that suggests that even he was human. Wrong, twisted, and blind... but in his wretchedness trying to do what he saw as "right." That's an important distinction, because it admits that any of us, despite trying to do what we see as "right," may in fact be guilty of terrible evil.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Great Condescension

To the extent that we really celebrate Christmas as being about the birth of Jesus (as opposed to a generally cheerful holiday time for friends and family -- not that there's anything wrong with those things), then we are celebrating the Great Condescension. The stepping down from heaven by God Himself to become man, beginning in most ignoble fashion the march to death in Jerusalem.

Generally, if you are condescending, it carries an air of talking or acting down to someone in a negative way. You, the high and lofty are stepping down from on high to speak to the lowly scum you'd otherwise ignore. The very word speaks of descending to be "with" (con - think "chili con queso" - chili with cheese). Among people who consider themselves peers, this then says that you consider yourself too highly.

I have before heard that condescending is, in its way, a beautiful model for Christians. Just as God condescended to serve us, so we should condescend to serve others. But that, in a way, misses the point. God may justly condescend because He is, well, God. But I cannot condescend to serve another in need. Not because I can't serve, but because doing so requires no step down.

Too often, we serve from a position of "out of my great and glorious bounty, I give to you - the weak and lowly." Too often, I serve from that position. But in reality, we ought to "in humility, consider others better than ourselves." We serve, not as the benificent distributors of grace, but as wretched sinnes, bought with a price, and serving our Master.

I cannot condescend to help the starving, the homeless, the lonely, or the hurting. To serve them requires a conascension - in giving but a drink of water, a bite of food to "the least of these," I am stepping up to serve no less than Christ Himself!

So, as we celebrate the Great Condescension, honor the stepping down of God by stepping up in grateful service.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nice Things You Can Do

Here's a simple idea to participate in an act of random kindness:

Pay for the coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks (or your provider of choice for such beverages). It's happened at various places throughout the country, it makes people's day, and it often ispires them to do the same.

The Story

A regular customer with a well-established penchant for "paying ahead" for the vehicle behind her in the drive-through line had set off a chain reaction, fueled first by a cheerfully zealous barista and then reinforced by ever-expanding media coverage. By Thursday afternoon, more than 800 customers had joined the store's "chain of cheer..."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lessons I've Learned

Once upon a time, a Bible Study leader gave me some great advice. "No, English translations aren't the original Greek and Hebrew. But the people that translated them probably know a lot more about those languages than you do." It's a rough paraphrase, but it's the lesson that matters.

Sometimes, we get bogged down in looking at the little details in Scripture, and miss the forest for the trees. Often times, we'll take our own biases and try to read them into the Bible, using the dreaded phrase "well, that word really means..."

Usually, the word means what it says in English. Sometimes, you can add to the flavor of it. But one element of humility is knowing when to accept the word of people who are wiser and more educated than you.

As a dictonary-carrying, concordance wielding, Greek-studying (well, a year of it anyways), trivia loving nerd, this was a lesson that was shocking at first. But I think it's served me well in the years since.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

True Story

Me talking to a little girl. She was talking about the dolls she owns, when the conversation turned another direction.

LG: Where you babies?
Me: I don't have any babies.
LG: No wife?
Me: No wife.
LG: Just you?
Me: Just me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Welcome Cinematic News

In the wake of the Lord of the Rings movies, there was talk about a Hobbit movie to come later. Contract disputes between Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema meant that the mind that made the Lord of the Rings movies so successful wouldn't be on board.

Evidently, their dispute is settled, and plans are moving forward for two movies - one based on the Hobbit, one in the time between the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.

This is quite interesting news.

Efficient Solar Power

In the news today:

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Nanosolar, a heavily financed Silicon Valley start-up whose backers include Google’s co-founders, plans to announce Tuesday that it has begun selling its innovative solar panels, which are made using a technique that is being held out as the future of solar power manufacturing.

Why is this big news?

Nanosolar’s founder and chief executive, Martin Roscheisen, claims to be the first solar panel manufacturer to be able to profitably sell solar panels for less than $1 a watt. That is the price at which solar energy becomes less expensive than coal.

“With a $1-per-watt panel,” he said, “it is possible to build $2-per-watt systems.”

According to the Energy Department, building a new coal plant costs about $2.1 a watt, plus the cost of fuel and emissions, he said.

In order for most people to independently pursue alternative energy, it needs to be more profitable than the status quo (or they have to think it will be). That's the point at which government intervention no longer tries to micro-manage through mandates, and people simply choose the alternative because it's cheaper.

Senator Barack Obama

(In trying to keep with Kenny's desire to use the proper honorifics for the people running for president, I added it here.)

Ken? Kenny? What do you think of Senator Obama as a presidential candidate?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Want a plane that loops the loop...

I'm not ashamed to say it. I really enjoy Alvin and the Chipmunks. It is a simple pleasure, and I evidently have more tolerance for altered voices than most film reviewers. So when I went to go see the new Chipmunks movie, I didn't know what to expect. Maybe the high pitch would grate on me after a while.

Truth be told, I left wanting more of it. My favorite points of the movie were the the Chipmunks' more classic renditions of "Bad Day," "Only You," and "Funkytown," as well as "Christmas Don't Be Late." Those, and any time the almost unbearably adorable Theodore was onscreen. Just seeing him regularly elicited an audible "Awwwww" from the crowd at the theater.

And what's more, the closest thing to a moral in the movie was "parents sometimes make you follow rules for your own good." In a world where the parent is usually the bumbling fool, in this case there was a fun mix of bumbling and protective caring that made for one of the better family flicks (I would imagine) of the year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Am I really only 8 months from being 30?

Leaping lima beans! That sounds close. And (with profoundest apologies to my parents, aunts, uncles, and any other older relatives or friends who read this) old.

In 8 months, I'm no longer twenty-something. I'm 30. And I'm 20 months from being 30-something.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How to Run a Country Into the Ground

Follow the lead of Zimbabwe.

100,000% inflation. 100% inflation would be prices doubling in a year. This is prices increasing a thousand times over the year. That $2.89 gallon of milk you get at the store? Next year it costs you $2,890 - the price of a fancy plasma TV today. In the US, we are uncomfortable with 3% inflation. 20% inflation happened in the late 1970's. The last official inflation rate published by Zimbabwe was roughly 7,800%... and that's considered a rather slanted number.

The Energy Policy Act

I won't pretend I've read all 464 pages of the Senate Bill. But I was struck immediately by two things:

First - I wonder when every talking point for a bill will make its way into the title. It's obviously getting close. Check this out:

...the bill from the House of Representatives (H.R. 6) entitled ‘‘An Act to reduce our Nation’s dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes.’’

Also, though I'm sure it's part of the legislateive process, I thought that once upon a time and amendment meant an addition, or a change, but not a wholesale revision, as this:

Resolved, That the bill from the House of Representatives (H.R. 6) entitled ‘‘...’’, do pass with the following AMENDMENTS: Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert: (remainder of the bill goes here).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Laffer Curve

Illustration for a debate elsewhere. Note that this graphic is drawn to arbitrary scale, and the only point of this is to demonstrate where I think the concept of productivity loss fits in a discussion of tax rates vs. tax revenue.

I also think the graph would be superior if it were elongated horizontally, as that would make it clearer. But I drew it in Paint as a back-of-the-napkin type sketch. No more.

Mike Huckabee

If they're both up to it, I'd love to hear what my cousin Ken and friend Kenny think of Mike Huckabee. They had an interesting discussion about Mitt Romney earlier, and I'm going to milk these guys for opinions on as many candidates as they'll give me.

Remember, Nevada voters - the presidential caucus process happens in mid-January this year. That's just a month away.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Life takes work. If we want to sit back and go with the flow, chaos will follow as night follows day. If we are not striving to go forward, we will go backward. This lesson was driven home to me in the past month as I grew sick of the state of the apartment I share with a friend of mine.

We've lived together amicably for years, in part because we're both generally carefree people. But two carefree bachelors is not a recipe for an apartment you'd care to show your mother... or anyone else, for that matter. It took rather a lot to get us to clean, and even that was usually to address a given problem, like your shoes coming off your feet when they stick to the kitchen floor.

I was talking about the layout of my apartment with a friend about a month ago, who said something to the effect of "I'd like to see it sometime." I demurred, speaking of what happens when two bachelors are living together but the frank truth is that the thought horrified me. I've had people see the apartment in an un-dressed-up state, and it actually shocked them. And I was ashamed of it.

With that thought in my head for some time, I decided I no longer wanted to be ashamed of the place I lived. I started with the living room - using a carpet cleaner we've had lying dormant in our laundry room to suck some of the dirt out of the carpet, picking up the various knick-knacks that had accumulated in the corners, and tidying up. I took out several loads of trash, over a hundred pounds of years-old newspapers, piled my roommate's stuff in the hall, and banished mine to my room. I cleared off a table in our entryway, originally meant as a place for keys and such, but which followed the rule of every flat surface in the house (it accumulates junk). When the guys came over that Friday, that alone made a significant impact.

Following that, I hit my bathroom and the laundry room. Though my bathroom is attached to my room and my roommate's is probably "meant" to serve as the guest bathroom, I had decided to only deal with the things I either exclusively used, or which I shared with him. And I wanted a clean bathroom for any guests to use. This meant cleaning beard trimmings from the counter, banishing unopened mail to my bedroom, emptying still more trash, putting away various chargers scattered on the sink, cleaning the mirrors, and scraping some old candle wax off the counter. The laundry room involved... still more trash, namely old boxes of detergent, lint, bottles, and more. I organized the shelf above the washer and dryer, took everything littering the top of the dryer to a better home, and scrubbed what I think was an old soap spill that had gotten wet and re-dried off the floor.

The next weekend I moved on to my room. I got started on my laundry, which had served as an improvised carpet in my room so long the color of the carpet was noticeably different from other parts of the apartment. I took out several more loads of trash, and picked up everything off the floor. This is still a work in progress, as it's the repository for anything that I have to clean up from the other rooms. But the floor is clean, my laundry is all (1) on my body, (2) in my hamper, (3) folded in my dresser, or (4) hanging in the closet.

The kitchen got done this last weekend. The sink and counters were scrubbed, and I followed up on some work my roommate had done on the microwave and stove. It isn't perfect, but it's vastly improved.

For perhaps the first time in years, I could vacuum the whole living room, my side of the hallway, and my room with less than 5 minutes tidying up (as I did on Sunday). I can walk around without stepping on anything. And I could have people over without apologizing for the state of the apartment (well, except for the pile of my roommate's stuff in the hall... but there are extenuating circumstances in his life right now).

But it takes work. Every day when I come home, instead of collapsing, I have to tidy up. re-folding blankets that have been used. Putting away food that was taken out. Putting the TV remote back on the coffee table. But I know that if I don't spend those 10 minutes tidying up, they will build into a month-long all-encompassing monster that devours a month's worth of days off.

Maintaining the place is a daily task, and one that must be addressed or it will only get worse. When I got home tonight, the dishwasher was still full of clean dishes from the day before. because it was full, the dirty dishes were piling up on the counter and in the sink. If I don't take the trash out when it fills up, trash will just get left on the counters. It's the little things that start to pile up, until you find yourself hurling a discarded pizza box into the "trash pile" in the corner of the kitchen that is composed of half-filled bags of trash, empty soda boxes, and things you were too lazy to dispose of properly the days and weeks before (true story).

But because of that little daily effort, I'm no longer ashamed to have people see the apartment. And that is a good feeling.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Someday, we'll have honesty in political speech. Maybe. But it is not this day. In a glourious demonstration of "you can have your cake and eat it, too" speech, check the first two paragraphs in this article:

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- House Democrats on Thursday won passage of a wide-ranging energy bill that would require the first increase in automobile fuel-economy standards in decades. But the package faces a likely presidential veto due to provisions that repeal tax breaks for oil companies and require utilities to produce a large chunk of electric power from renewable sources.

"This legislation is not perfect ... However, when we pass this bill, we will be voting to strengthen our national security, lower energy costs, grow our economy and create new jobs, and begin to reduce global warming," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., ahead of the vote.

-Changing Fuel Economy standards (by 2020, no less) won't reduce energy prices, or reduce Global Warming in any meaningful way (the UN says we need to make drastic changes by 2015 to prevent serious climate changes, and a standard in place by 2020 won't become mainsteam until 2030 because of the market in used cars... a market likely to grow once more expensive, efficient autos are the only new versions available).
- Raising taxes on oil companies will make gas more expensive, not "reduce energy prices."
- Requiring utilities to produce a large ammount of power (15%, I think) from renewable sources will make energy much more costly. The reason we don't use much renewable energy now is that... it's expensive. It's significantly more expensive than traditional fuels - especially without tax incentives - because it's less efficient.
-Strengthen National Security?! That statement should be laughed out of the room. When we reduce oil consumption, the losses will occur where drilling oil is expensive - like the U.S. - not where it is cheap, like the Middle East. This means lost jobs, and a larger % of our oil being foreign-based.

I don't have anything against renewable energy - I think it's a good idea. But this is a great example of costly bluster from Congress which will have negative, predictable consequences that no one in favor of the bill would dare to mention: in this case, substantively higher energy prices.

The easiest, clearest, most honest way to reduce global warming and oil consumption, while encouraging reasearch into alternative fuels is to make it (oil and/or energy) expensive. If these bills work at all, it's because they will cause that to happen.

Congress likes limits and mandates, because it requires no owning up to the damage they cause. That is cowardly, and shameful behavior.

A Tale of Two Kenneths

One is a cousin, and strongly conservative. One is a friend from school, and probably would call himself moderate or liberal. Both are lawyers. Both are bright guys. Both have now blogged about Mitt Romney. One loves him. One doesn't. Me? I think I'm somewhere in the middle.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Decade Later

I made a choice at one point to not blog about "Dave, the Heartbroke Guy" some time ago, as I was tired of sounding like a broken record. There comes a time when you have to let go of the past, or you get stuck in it forever... and the more I wrote about such things, the more I thought about them. Rather than serving as a release, it rather focused my thinking on such matters.

That said, it was 10 years ago tomorrow that I first was utterly heartbroken over a girl.

Why mention it? Mostly because, though I can vividly recall the pang of loss I felt on December 6, 1997... it doesn't really hurt anymore. I feel the echo of that hurt when I think about it, but I accepted - with time - that things were not as I had wished them.

Doubtless life would have been different without that heartbreak. For the last 10 years I've been on a path I neither imagined nor desired. It hasn't always (or even often) been easy, but it has given me experiences, opportunities, and even joys I would have missed had I been on the path I lost that day.

I admit, I sometimes wish things had been different. But what happened 10 years ago has, in its way, helped make me who I am today. And I think that on the whole, that change has been for the best. You can't be heartbroken without being broken. But out of being broken, though you can't see it at the time, comes the opportunity to be rebuilt better than before.

Sort of like the Bionic Man.


At Coram Deo, we do Communion in a free-form way, leaving it available to those who want to participate toward the end of the worship service. I prefer this, because when Communion is handed out and someone is talking right up until you are supposed to eat and drink, it makes it hard to reflect. I prefer to reflect, and I use the time as an occasion to remember. This is how I do it:

1) The Bread. We generally have either broken wafer crackers or pre-bought "communion bread." I prefer the wafers, because they bear more resemblance to the matza bread it represents. Specifically, it is not a uniform color, and it has small holes in it. As the bread is a representation of Jesus' body, this is an occasion to remember who was "pierced for our transgressions." I use this opportunity to confess as needed, break the piece of craker that I hold, as a reminder that Jesus' body was broken for me, and give thanks that my sins are, in fact, forgiven.

2) The Cup. Grape juice instead of wine. That's us. Jesus said that the cup represents the New Covenant in his blood. The applicable reference here is to Jeremiah 31:31, a promise of a new covenant with Israel, where God "will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it;" along with promises of a new intimacy with God. The cup, for me, is an occasion to remember this, to ask that God would continue to write his law on my heart - namely, to make me like Him from the inside out. The cup represents Jesus' blood - the offering which sealed this contract, and which makes it effective. That is quite an occasion for giving thanks, as well.

Both are an occasion to remember Jesus. I have found this the most effective way for me to do so.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Golden Compass

Surely you've heard of this upcoming movie. It's a fantasy epic, in the fashion of the Chrinicles of Narnia, but based on books that have a drumbeat of agnosticism and atheism, instead of C.S. Lewis's Christianity. Like with Narnia, the first book was made into a movie, coming out soon.

Here's what I think:

A lot of Christian groups are up in arms about "a deliberate attempt to push atheism and agnosticism on an unsuspecting crowd." The religious beliefs of the author are a primary concern for these groups. But if the "subversive" nature of this is your primary concern, then I can't agree with you.

Not because those motives aren't there on the part of the author (though watered down, he was disgusted by Lewis's overtly Christian Narnia stories). But because the same thing happened in reverse with the Chronicles of Narnia, movie-wise.

I don't believe the studios are pushing a message. I think they're scouring for any epics they can after the success of "The Lord of the Rings" and churning them into movies simply, purely, to make a profit. In recent years, we've had Troy, Narnia, Beowulf, and many others.

If you want to make the argument that there is an agenda, you have to consider the whole body of work. Given Narnia, et al, I don't think you can do that. If your argument is about the means (how dare they try to trick the young), then you can't change your mind just because you agree with the content. You can't call Narnia just a "good story" and then call this movie an insidious plot. Either both were a plot (Disney vs. New Line -- Good vs. Evil... but New Line also made LOTR, so this gets real confusing), or neither was. Personally, I'm inclined to go with #2.

Monday, December 03, 2007


With all due respect to my relatives who support the school, BYU is saying some downright false and hypocritical things about Nevada when it comes to football scheduling. Read how the story is spun from the Cougar Perspective, then consider the following:

1) BYU and Nevada played in 2001 and 2002, as a part of a 3-game series (2-for-1, with 2 games in Provo and 1 in Reno).

2) In 2003 AND 2004, BYU asked Nevada to push back the date for the third game to accomodate their scheduling needs.

3) Beginning in 2005, continuing in 2006, and ending in 2007, Nevada asked to move the 2008 game to accomodate its own schedule. (Nevada was able to secure a 1-for-1 arrangement with Missouri and Texas Tech, but the 2008 Schedule was left with @ UNLV, @ Missouri, and home vs. Texas Tech... so another road game @ BYU was not a good idea in 2008).

4) BYU is now claiming that this was a surprise move, foisted on them at the last minute by the nefarious folks in Reno. That it's a breach of contract, and that they will seek to recover damages. Never mind that earlier postponements by BYU were done with shorter notice with similar effects to Nevada's schedule.

Is this not dishonest and hypocritical behavior?

Admit it

You waste time online, playing games, or doing... well, anything but working.

There's a website that tests your vocabulary. For every 3 words you get right, you move up a level and get harder words. For EVERY word you get right, the site uses the advertising revenue to buy 20 grains of rice.

A nifty concept. Check out

Oh, and my high vocal score is 44. Evidently, it's very tough, and almost impossible, to move above 48. There's 50 levels total.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

If anyone takes from you...

The good news at the final football game of the season was that we won, and became bowl eligible. The bad news was that a Wolf Pack flag my sister had given me as a birthday present last year was stolen by (presumably) the people sitting behind us. It's a bummer because any time people feel compelled to steal from someone else it's disappointing, and because as a gift from my sister (one she was exceptionally proud of, too) it has sentimental value.

But in the end, it's a thing, and the people that took it are beings made in God's image. What's done is done, and getting upset about it won't get it back. But what's more, I don't want to be angry with those who took it, because it only serves to harm me. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" I can choose to regard those who took my possession in love. It won't get it back. It won't be a witness to them, as they were gone by the time we realized the disappearance. But I choose it, because it's better than the alternative. In this case, the practical application is that I forgive them.

My reward? I don't get all bent out of shape inside. I don't get left with nothing but my own bitterness to chew on. And I feel good about it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Local Businesses Doing Good

Harrah's Reno is hosting a free dinner for the homeless tonight.

I like pointing out the good things that are done in the community by others, too.

"Harrah’s Reno works in cooperation with several churches around the Reno-Sparks area to make sure no one goes hungry during the cold, winter months. Please attend if you can!"

The Colorado Rockies

In a great and barely-mentioned story, the Colorado Rockies players voted to give a full share of their bonus for making it to the World Series to the widow (pregnant, with 2 sons already) of a minor league coach who was struck in the head by a foul ball and killed in July. It's only (?) $200,000, but for one of the lowest-payroll teams in baseball to be generous with the money anyway is a great example.


Who are you? How do you want to be remembered? I would imagine we all want to be known as good people, but if people could remember just a couple things about you, what would you want them to be?

What one thing would you want people to remember you saying?
What one thing would you want them to remember you doing?
If your children could think just one thing about you, what would you want it to be?

It's questions like this that can give us a vision, a mission statement in life. But to be useful, it also needs to be practical. I'd love to be remembered as a perfect, selfless, holy ambassador of love to all the world. But to the extent that I can't achieve that, I'll put it off as something I will do when I have more money, time, power, etc.

So we need, perhaps, some more focused questions.

What's one thing you've done today that you want to be remembered for?
What's something you could do (but haven't) today that you want to be remembered for?

These aren't as broad, but they're two excellent quetions because they both encourage us in the thigns we are doing right, and challenge us to act in a way today that is in line with how we aspire to be.

Today my answers would be:

1) I prayed for a friend in need.
2) I want to spend less on myself in order to give generously to others.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hollow Political Statements

"Deeply Troubled"

It just needs to be retired. It's a way of expressing concern without necessarily being for or against anything. It's a way of soundnig on top of a situation, without really saying anything about it.

If we want to truly be deeply troubled, the modern issues of slavery, poverty, starvation and genocide should be more than enough. Child abuse, murder, war, hatred, violence, and thousands of other things are of more note than something like this.

Taking down a Christmas Tree? Honestly, it hardly troubles me at all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NFL Network

Evidently the NFL is whining because they are demanding (1) that cable companies put the NFL Network on basic cable, and (2) that the NFL can charge a high permium to the cable companies to do it - comparable to a channel like CNN.

Why is this even an issue? The NFL decided to try and create more demand for their 5-year-old network by scheduling late-season games with the potential to be high-demand games on their own channel, to get consumers complaining about it.

This is one consumer who DOES NOT WANT the NFL Network on basic cable. It's a niche channel. Sure, it has 8 football games a year... but there are 32 teams playing 16 games - 256 matchups each year in the regular season. And the NFL itself makes it hard for many people to watch the games they want - substantially more than 8 - with their broadcast restrictions and exclusive agreement with DirecTV for NFL Sunday Ticket. To watch any game you want, you ahve to have the Sunday Ticket package... and you have to have DirecTV... which means you have to live in a place where you can GET DirecTV.

That the NFL would say one word about restricting access to 8 games (by not placing the NFL Network on BASIC Cable, as it is accessible through a seperate sports tier with most providers), while continuing the Sunday Ticket monopoly is hypocritical beyond belief. Through Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and an average of 3 games per day on CBS and FOX, I have access to 85 games total during the regular season. That means that there are som 170 games I cannot watch without DirecTV. Over 20 times as many games as the non-basic-cable dsitribution of the NFL Network "blocks."

The NFL Network is a seasonal thing, not suited to basic cable. I don't care to watch it in February-August, and I CERTAINLY don't want to pay for it. NFL, feel free to get bent. Your argument should be laughed from the room whenever, and wherever you make it.


As it's that time of year, I've started listening to some Christmas music. My current favorite is Mercy Me's Christmas album, with their rendition of "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" leading my list. You can get a listen at but my favorite part of the song are the lyrics. I just love the conclusion, and find it rather encouraging.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Thier old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought as now this day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rung so long unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shameful Behavior

Have you heard of this? I can't think of what to call it except legalized theft. It's absolutely jaw-dropping.

The Lesson of Thanksgiving... that communal living leads to starvation, while private ownership leads to bounty. That's the premise of this article. The moral of an interesting look (and a story worth reading) at the Plymouth Pilgrims:

"When action is divorced from consequences, no one is happy with the ultimate outcome. If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty and will not be refilled -- a bad situation even for the earlier takers."

Friday, November 23, 2007

'Tis the Season

Thanksgiving has gone. The Christmas season is, in my book, officially here. The other day, I was reading commentary on why the Christmas season seems to begin earlier each year. Obviously, it's a heavy shopping season, and stores want to open up consumers' wallets as soon as possible. But why do we buy into it? The author's conclusion was that Christmas, obviously enough, makes us happy. It reminds us of happy memories from our childhoods, and awakes in us a sense of happiness about the state of the world. We really do want peace on earth and good will towards men, carriage rides to grandmother's house in the snow, joy, happiness, and an attitude of giving and sharing. So when the season comes, we're excited by the ideals it encompasses.

And I suspect we want to agree with the song in the Muppet Christmas Carol, that:

It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
In all the places you find love, it feels like Christmas...

It is a season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is a season of the spirit
The message if we hear it
Is "Make it last all year."

And yet, we don't. As a rule, we don't make it last all year. Come December 26, we are settling back into our routines, by January 2 we're out of the holiday mindset, and by January 26 all we can think about is the debt we accrued over the holidays. It's as though we binge on giving during Christmas, and starve ourself of that attitude the rest of the year. If we did that with food, it would be called an eating disorder. Is it any less true to say that we have a giving disorder?

This disorder is serious, because it reflects the fact that, without a special occasion to remind us otherwise, we live for ourselves. For our own benefit, our own sustenance, our own ends. To assuage our guilt, we overcompensate at Christmas and go on a spree that leaves us hungover come December 26.

If we want to be giving people, servants of all, who regard others as better than ourselves, there's a couple of tests we have to pass:
1) It has to be true of our whole lives, not one month out of the year.
2) It has to extend beyond our friends and acquaintances.

Jesus told us "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men."

This season, do you have enemies, or people that hate you? People that are just plain disagreeable? Do good to them. Love them. Give to them. Even if they are ungrateful. Because that's what God's like - so doing this is one way to be like God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

From watching The Simpsons at Lunch:

I love musical parody. And having seen it at l unch, this is now stuck in my head. At least it's funny. Sung to the tune of "In the Jungle" as Principal Seymour Skinner is trying to win back the affections of Edna Krabappel with the help of three students, who sing the chorus:


Oh Edna K, oh Edna K
Oh Edna K, oh Edna K
Oh Edna K, oh Edna K
Oh Edna K, oh Edna K


Mrs. Krabappel, a sad principal
Is desperate and needy
If you come home, I won't die alone
And that's what I'd prefer


Oh pleeeeeeeease settle for Seymour
Oh pleeeeeeeease come back to this dor-k ("k" tacked on at end so as not to disrupt the rhyme)

Leaf Raking Service Project

I hauled my camera along (with surprising difficulty) as we went out to rake leaves for houses in South Reno for our first second-annual service project (the first "official" servant evangelism project we had was the leaf raking in 2006). My favorite pictures are online at Flickr. But for those who don't want to look that far:

Celebrating a Job Well Done


Monday, November 19, 2007

Energy Policy Fallacies

Reducing gas/oil consumption domestically won't "reduce our dependance on foriegn oil." Because Middle East oil is easier to extract for geological reasons, and because if the oil price falls because of decreased demand it will be the expensive (North American) sources of oil that go offline before teh cheap (OPEC) sources.

There's talk of trying to get oil out of the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada. But such a process is only economical when the price of oil is high, because it is a difficult and expensive proposition. If the price of oil falls, it is these sources of oil that will shut down, not the inexpensive oil fields of the Middle East.

So, curiously, dropping the price of oil increases our dependence on foriegn oil (if dependence = % of oil imported from country/region X). Even if we mandate that we can only use American sources of oil, we don't reduce the $ flowing to the "bad" countries, because it just means that people that would have bought from us will buy from them instead.

The Joy of Political Competition

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, made "pay as you go" budgeting a first order of business upon assuming the helm of the House, in part to protect 30 newly elected House Democrats who captured seats previously held by Republicans.

Those budget limits are now starting to bite. Democrats are scouring the tax code to find loopholes to close and revenue to raise for everything from expanding access to health care to shielding upper-middle-income families from the alternative minimum tax."

Competition forced the Democrats to toe the line of fiscal responsibility, and now they are looking for ways to close loopholes and cut spending in order to pay for their desired projects.

Responsible budgeting. Whouldathunkit? The shame is that the Republicans are the ones fighting spending cuts.

Correlation and Causation

I've said it here before. I'm sure I'll say it again. But for the edification of those who read this, repeat after me:

"Correlation is not Causation"

I first heard about this report on the radio this morning. As I read through the news, I ran across it again in print:

"American Youth TV Habits Lower Job Prospects, Community Service"

"Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Americans aged 15 to 24 on average spend two hours a day watching TV and only seven minutes on leisure reading, reducing their chances for high-paying jobs and community service, according to a report by the National Endowment for the Arts."

"Sixty-one percent of those holding managerial or professional jobs were proficient readers, said the report, citing a 2003 U.S. Education Department survey. Some 70 percent of the people rated as poor readers felt their lack of skills had limited their job opportunities."

"The report concluded that 57 percent of those who had proficient reading skills had performed volunteer work, compared with 18 percent of the people with poor skills."

Reading less does not CAUSE people to volunteer less, or CAUSE them to not get high-paying jobs. Reading little does not, by itself, CAUSE someone to be a "poor reader." But we tend to mix up correlation (two things tending to move in the same direction, like volunteering and reading) and causation (one thing causing another thing to happen, like the gas tank going empty because you are driving). But by mixing up the two, a more interesting - though not actually valid - premise can be implied (or even stated outright), like "Not reading leads to bad citizens!"

The truth is that it's much more likely that something else causes both. The TV habits are a symptom not the problem. And as long as we only treat the symptoms, the problem only festers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Surfing, Snowboarding, and the Fabric of the Universe

Evidently, a guy that likes to spend his summers surfing in Hawaii and his winters snowboarding around Lake Tahoe has a proposal that cuts to teh very core of theoretical physics on the nature of the universe.

The most popular theory - string theory - says that the Universe has 8 or 9 dimensions, most of which are too small to see. That the smallest bits of matter are strings that vibrate in these 8 or 9 dimensions, and everything from gravity to atoms to apple pie follows from there.

The proposed theory relates particles in a different way, describing them through a geometric shape that computers had been chugging away for YEARS to calculate all the parts of.

Any time you're mentioned in the same breath as Einstein when talking theoretical physics, you're in elite company. The fact that he spends some of his time in my neck of the woods - that just seems cool.

Read More About It.

Equal Time

I spend a lot of time in here harping on the problems I see with the Republican leadership. This is because I am a Republican, so I'm a little harder on those who claim to represent me than on those I don't expect to. But this was too good to pass up.

Hillary Clinton was to be in Fernley today giving a talk on renewable energy at an elementary school. She had to alter her plans, though, to fly back to Washington D.C. to vote on a farm bill. She will be back to give her renewable energy talk later in the day, though, at 6:30.

I don't have a problem with elected officials changing their schedules to do their job (vote on legislation). I think that there's far too much time spent away from Washington campaigning as it is. But what I find delicious is the fact that she's flying across the country - twice - and then giving a talk (presumably) about the dangers of oil consumption, global warming, and the benefits of finding renewable energy.

Do you have any idea how much jet fuel is consumed - and how much carbon dioxide is released - to fly some 5,000 miles? Jet Fuel is, after all, a very NON-renewable energy source. That she is flying back across the country to give her speech just a little later than originally planned... that's just beautiful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Have you Seen The New "The Pink Panther"?

If not, this may not be as funny. But the site is, well, unabashedly cute.

moar funny pictures

Is it strange?

I support the Writers' Guild of America strike. In our system of faceless wage negotiation, a strike is the way an otherwise faceless crowd of employees can ask for what they think they deserve. It might seem strange to favor a union activity, given my conservative leanings. But in some circumstances, I believe unions serve a productive purpose, and this is one of those circumstances.

It's the writing that makes my favorite TV shows - 30 Rock, The Simpsons, The Office, Chuck, Heroes, and My Name is Earl - what they are. Given that their up-front wage does not take into account the value of the product when it is released on DVD or the Internet, I think their demand for compensation when the product is distributed through these means is fair.

I like the market, in part, because I can vote with my pocketbook. In this case, I vote to not buy TV DVDs, and I vote with my TV-(and advertising)-watching-eyes by not watching the reruns or stop-gap shows that will run in place of the shows I will miss.

The Office airs its final new episode this season tonight because of the strike. Doubtless, reruns or reality shows will take its place. I like neither. But it's for the best - I've been needing to hit the gym more anyway.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hypocrisy in Action

According to President Bush, Congress is spending "like a teenager with a credit card." He'd have more credibility with me if not for the fact that during his first 6 years in office, a Republican Congress behaved the same way without a single veto for budgetary reasons. One only need look at the multi-trillion Medicare drug expansion for proof of that hypocrisy.

America is, for better or worse, better at fiscal restraint with a divided leadership between the President and Congress. It keeps them fighting each other to winnow down the budget, instead of engaging in attempts to buy votes with the taxpayer's money.


In the past week, I had two people say the same thing - roughly - for unrelated reasons. One said "you're one of those guys whose intelligence intimidates me." Another commented on my blog that "I try not to let it (my intelligence) intimidate me..."

I've accepted that I might be smarter than the average bear, though I don't really think of myself that way (usually). I've had people point it out to me, and I just sort of shrug it off. But twice in the past week, the specter of INTIMIDATION has come into play.

It's only rarely that I hope to intimidate someone with the awesome power of my mind. And usually, it's while I'm discussing some element of statistical analysis as it relates to sports, and I'm tired of dealing with someone who's obstinate and refuses to consider the carefully compiled facts. It's a demonstration of boredom, but not much more than that.

I try not to be that way in general - and in the first instance in particular what brought the comment about was the wholly innocuous demonstration of the sort of things I write about for work (Just about all of the "Publications" here are mine

My roommate assured me that he doesn't find me intimidating. I hope you don't either. When I'm looking at a difficult subject like whether war is justifiable, I'm generally asking honestly. I rarely claim to have the answers, and should you comment and I come back with more questions it's only because I like to keep probing until I think the issue has been well-explored. Or because I'm bored. Or because I forget about it. But it's not meant to be intimidating, and I don't mean to say that I'm right and you're wrong. I ask to probe deeper, not to dismiss your thoughts.

Because behind the intimidating intellect is a normal guy with a tendency to be distracted by shiny things.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy Memories

At least, they are if/when the video plays...

Love and Hate

I spent a good hour reading my Martin Luther King, Jr. book last night. One of the most inspirational passages was something like this:

"I have seen hate on many faces. I have seen it on the sheriffs, on the Klansmen, on the white southerners, and on the faces of church leaders. I have seen too much hate in my life. And I have seen that hate is a burden I don't want to bear. I love my brother, because the burden of hate is too great."

Talk Radio - Why I can't listen

It's been a while since I've left the dominant talk radio station on in the car while I'm driving - at least, during the "talk" shows instead of the "news" shows. I occasionally turn it on, trying to time it so I can catch the traffic updates, without hearing too much of the "talk."

There was a time when I enjoyed it. But then I started looking more closely at the arguments being made. And I would get frustrated. I decided that life is too short to waste time being angry at the radio, so I turned it off.

The last couple of days have reminded me why I leave it off. In the short snippets I hear before they do the traffic update, I have been flabbergasted by what I hear.

Statements like "the government doesn't do ANYTHING to get those gas taxes - all they see is a big pot of gold." Really? Because I was under the impression that several hundred million dollars collected thusly were going into a freeway bypass to make traffic between Reno and Carson City safer and faster.

99% of everything said about illegal immigrants astounds me. So much is made of the "illegal" part, neglecting that it is, I believe, a civil offense. So until I hear him complaining about people that are let out of traffic tickets without full punishment, the "you can't make a wrong right just by passing a law" argument holds zero water for me. The immigration issue is maybe 10% worth discussing and 90% xenophobia and preying on people's fears. It's nearly racist, and it makes me sick to me stomach that we toletate such blowhards.

That's all. I just had to vent. And I need to remember - talk show hosts are people too, worthy of God's love and my own.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lost in Translation?

Someone help me. Why does "word of God" = "Bible" or "Scriptures"?

I've always heard it that way, and taken it as assumed. But I'm taking another look at that assumption. I'm not saying the Bible is not the words of God. But I'm wondering if "the word of God" - that which is living, active, and residing inside us, and presumably is (ho logos theou) - can be substituted for "Scriptures" as we do today.

Are they interchangable? Why or why not? Fire away.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

True in the Christian Life, Too

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."

-Theodore Roosevelt

Just War

As you may recall, I've been reading through some old speeches, interviews, and books by Martin Luther King, Jr. You may also know that he was opposed to the Vietnam War. The other day, I had time to just pick up a speech he gave outlining his opposition to that war.

I haven't finished it, so I'm not commenting on that directly.

What I'm more curious about is where you stand on war. This has at least two significant dimensions.

1) How would you, personally, feel about going to war?
2) How do you, as an American, feel about the country going to war?

And if you support war, how do you jive it with the Sermon on the Mount - specifically, "do not resist an evil person," "whoever strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other, also," "whoever takes your cloak, give him your tunic also," etc?

This is not meant rhetorically - I'd really love to hear some opinions. So please, tell me what yout think.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Retaking Christmas

Why? Because I want the message to be heard.

1) I don't need stuff this Christmas. Feel free not to spend your money on me, but give it to someone who needs it more instead. Consider, for example, Lifewater International - a Christian organization, with the seemingly simple goal of providing clean water wells to the poor in developing countries.

2) You probably don't need stuff this Christmas. There are exceptions, but lots of people have lots of stuff and the gifts we get at Christmas are appreciated for a moment, then banished to a shelf. Consider asking your friends and family who may plan on giving you gifts to donate to a charity instead.

3) We still like getting things. If people ask what you want, give them an option - like a picture they took, or a stuffed animal representing a donation made to a group like Heifer International.

Here's a Journal Article about people's happiness at Christmas. Happiness research tries to quantify what makes people more or less satisfied. There are some interesting conclusions, but probably stuff you already guessed were true: Shopping is stressful, Time with family is much better, and those that focused the most on material goods at Christmas felt less satisfied overall. An excerpt, for everyone who isn't big on the idea of correlations and statistics:

(All emphasis and parenthetical notes mine)

If, however, following the dictates of society is the primary way by which people obtain happiness at Christmas, the season’s materialistic aspects should also be positively associated with well-being, given the number of cultural messages trumpeting the path of spending and receiving. Such a prediction was clearly not supported in the current study. Instead, individuals reported significantly lower well-being when spending and receiving were especially salient experiences. Despite the fact that people spend relatively large portions of their income on gifts, as well as time shopping for and wrapping them, such behavior apparently contributes little to holiday joy. Further, the amount individuals spent and went into debt was unrelated to their CWB (Christmas Well-Being), suggesting that excessive economic activity does little to enhance satisfaction. Additionally, when people received gifts that totaled a substantial percentage of their income, they reported more NA (Negative Affect).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Coram Deo Service Map

I've updated the map of places Coram Deo has served. Now included, pictures and snippets of the write-ups that Steve and/or Teri have done for us. Kudos to them for their hard work!

All the "Camera" Icons can be clicked for a more detailed explanation and picture of that particular service event. Fun!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Evolution of Dance

Thank, or blame, Beth for showing this to me, because now I'm sharing it with all of you.

Man of the Year

Life imitates art. Sweet! Check out that Colbert is polling ahead of Republicans among under-30 voters, as an independent.

Hat tip to Jeff of Opinions NobodyAsked For.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Christmas Was Meant to Change the World

Hat tip to Mary Jo Lange for mentioning this at our Cor Group last night. It's something Imago Dei, a church in Portland, is a part of (sponsoring?). The name is Advent Conspiracy and the self-description is "Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption."

You can read more about it HERE.

Kenny C. earlier noted that the disregard of the global poor may be one of the great evils of America today which the church dismisses. Here's a way to try thinking outside of the plastic retail packaging this Christmas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Imgaine if everyone in Reno and Sparks - including the north valleys, the south meadows, everyone - was ordered to leave their homes because of wildfires.

That's about 500,000 people, and that's how many people have had to evacuate in San Diego.

Imagine every car you pass on the road, all heading out of town at once with their dearest posessions, not knowing if they'd see their home again. Everyone in the store, everyone at your school, until the valley was deserted.

They're the worst fires in San Diego History. And the evacuation has doubled from yesterday, when it was "only" 250,000.

Monday, October 22, 2007


KJKF AM Radio in Reno is 1230 AM on the radio dial. It's the local Air America affiliate - the liberal/progressive "alternative" to the predominant conservative talk radio selection. Typically, the only reason I listen in is because they have the re-broadcast of the 49ers radio announcers for every game. I had been listening in the car yesterday to the game when I went to get my finger examined.

When I got in the car to go to church, the radio was still on, and there was a show about faith. They had a couple guests, including the author of a New York Times editorial I referenced here before, about America not being a "Christian Nation." His discussion of it did the best job of explaining why that strikes a chord with me.

The first idea is that by claiming the "Christian Nation" title, the actions of the nation are often, in the minds of those outside the church, given implicit sanction by the church - if X is the action of a Christian Nation, it must be the proper Christian action. The other is that the church is far above and beyond the scope of any nation's interests. It is a gathering from all nations, tribes, tongues, ages, races, and genders. That in the church, since there is neither slave nor free, man or woman, Jew or Greek, there is no distinction for American or not-American either - all are one in Christ Jesus.

I listened to the show intently. That's the first time I've done that with talk radio in a while. It was a genuinely interesting, engaging discussion. It began with the thoughts of a couple believers on the position of some prominent atheists, and which of their arguments carried the most weight, and how the believers respond to them. It was a reasonable discussion, that did not dismiss the atheists out of hand, but said "Here's the argument that makes me think the most, and here's how I answer it."

Pretty nifty.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I promise, I'm not trying to make it happen...

August 31 - The suicide.
September 16 - Dad's heart attack
October 2 - Girl from old church is missing for a night
October 19 - I semi-deeply cut my left pinky while fixing a flat tire on my car. 3 stitches, a prescription for antibiotics, and a follow-up appointment in 2 days to make sure the joint is
not getting infected.

Every two weeks, something's happened. The trend continues, though much, much less severe.

The clock is resetting. Watch out in early November.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The World of Retail.

From an article I heard about on Living Refuge:

On the box for Jesus, these words are printed: "God's Son" and "Fully Poseable."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Social Security

Evidently, more than twice as many Generation X people (of which I am very, very tail-end) believe in UFO's than that they will receive Social Security Benefits.

I find that both interesting and altogether reasonable.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Heaven and Hell

"I talked with many groups, including one group of two hundred ministers, my theme to them being that a minister cannot preach the glories of heaven while ignoring social conditions in his own community that cause men an earthly hell."

Agree or disagree? Why?

Form Without Substance, Salt Without Savor

Another line that struck me, though more than this sole line is needed for context: "Unless the early sacrificial spirit is recaptured, I am very much afraid that today's Christian church will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and we will see the Christian church dismissed as a social club with no meaning or effectiveness for our time, as a form without substance, as salt without savor. "

Is this an accurate description of what has happened to the church over the past 40 years? If so, is this a coincidence, or a result?

Pious Irrelevancies and Sanctimonious Trivialities

One line that struck me (and not just because I love the way the words flow) from the interview excerpt below was this: "As the Negro struggles against grave injustice, most white churchmen offer pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities."

On what issues today might the church (or some subset of it) be doing the same? It is my fear that the church could suffer from similar blind spots today... which we cannot see since we're in the midst of it.

What grave injustices do we ignore, or dismiss with hollow holy-speak?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Read It For The Articles

It's a pop culture joke when it comes to Playboy. But I was flipping through an anthology of Martin Luther King Jr's speeches, interviews, and books when I came across a lengthy interview (a series of interviews, covering some 6 hours) he did for that magazine. I didn't even make it all the way through, because I wanted to make sure to post the following pages. The book is A Testament of Hope. The following are on pages 344-348. My thoughts later, but for now I'll let his words do the speaking.


King: Well, the most pervasive mistake I have made was in believing that because our cause was just, we could be sure that the white ministers of the South, once their Christian consciences were challenged, would rise to our aid. I felt that white ministers would take our cause to the white power structures. I ended up, of course, chastened and disillusioned. As our movement unfolded, and direct appeals were made to white ministers, most folded their hands -- and some even took stands against us.

Playboy: Their stated reason for refusing to help was that it was not the proper role of the church to "intervene in secular affairs." Do you disagree with this view?

K: Most emphatically. The essence of the Epistles of Paul is that Christians should rejoice at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believe. The projection of a social gospel, in my opinion, is the true witness of a Christian life. This is the meaning of the true ekklesia -- the inner, spiritual church. The church once changed society. But today, I feel that too much of the church is merely a thermometer, which measures rather than molds popular opinion.

P: Are you speaking of the church in general -- or the white church in particular?

K: The white church. I'm sorry to say. Its leadership has greatly disappointed me. Let me hasten to say there are some outstanding exceptions. As one whose Christian roots go back through three generations of ministers -- my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather -- I will remain true to the church as long as I live. But the laxity of the white church collectively has caused me to weep tears of love. There cannot be deep disappointment without deep love. Time and again in my travels, as I have seen the outward beauty of white churches, I have had to ask myself, "What kind of people worship there? Who is their God? Is their God the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and is their Savior the Savior who hung on the cross at Golgotha? There were their voices then a black race took upon itself the cross of protest against man's injustice to man? Where were their voices when defiance and hatred were called for by white men who sat in these very churches?

As the Negro struggles against grave injustice, most white churchmen offer pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. As you say, they claim that the gospel of Christ should have no concern with social issues. Yet white churchgoers, who insist that they are Christians, practice segregation as rigidly in the house of God as they do in movie houses. Too much of the white church is timid and ineffectual, and some of it is shrill in its defense of bigotry and prejudice. In most communities, the spirit of status quo is endorsed by the churches.

My personal disillusionment with the church began when I was thrust into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery. I was confident that the white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would prove strong allies in our just cause. But some became open adversaries, some cautiously shrank from the issue, and others hid behind silence. My optimism about the white church was shattered; and on too many occasions since, my hopes for the white church have been dashed. There are many signs that the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. Unless the early sacrificial spirit is recaptured, I am very much afraid that today's Christian church will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and we will see the Christian church dismissed as a social club with no meaning or effectiveness for our time, as a form without substance, as salt without savor. The real tragedy, though, is not Martin Luther King's disillusionment; the tragedy is that in my travels, I meet young people of all races whose disillusionment with the church has soured into outright disgust.

P: Do you feel that the Negro church has come any closer to "the projection of the social gospel" in its commitment to the cause?

K: I must say that when my Southern Christian Leadership Conference began its work in Birmingham, we encountered numerous Negro church reactions that had to be overcome. Negro ministers were among other Negro leaders who felt they were being pulled into something that they had not helped to organize. This is almost always a problem. Negro community unity was the first requisite if our goals were to be realized. I talked with many groups, including one group of two hundred ministers, my theme to them being that a minister cannot preach the glories of heaven while ignoring social conditions in his own community that cause men an earthly hell. I stressed that the Negro minister had particular freedom and independence to provide strong, firm leadership, and I asked how the Negro would ever gain freedom without his minister's guidance, support, and inspiration. These ministers finally decided to entrust our movement with their support, and as a result, the role of the Negro church today, by and large, is a glorious example in the history of Christendom. For never in Christian history, within a Christian country, have Christian churches been on the receiving end of such naked brutality and violence as we are witnessing here in America today. Not since the days of the Christians in the catacombs has God's house, as a symbol, weathered such attack as the Negro churches.

I shall never forget the grief and bitterness I felt on that terrible September morning when a bomb blew out the lives of those four little, innocent girls sitting in their Sunday-school class in the 16th Street Baptist church in Birmingham. I think of how a woman cried out, crunching through the broken glass, "My God, we're not even safe in church!" I think of how that explosion blew out the face of Jesus Christ from a stained-glass window. It was symbolic of how sin and evil had blotted out the life of Christ. I can remember thinking that if men were this bestial, was it all worth it? Was there any hope? Was there any way out?

P: Do you still feel this way?

K: No, time has healed the wounds -- and buoyed me with the inspiration of another moment which I shall never forget: when I saw with my own eyes over three thousand young Negro boys and girls, totally unarmed, leave Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church to march to a prayer meeting -- ready to pit nothing but the power of their bodies and souls against Bull Connor's police dogs, clubs, and fire hoses. When the refused Connor's bellowed order to turn back, he whirled and shouted to his men to turn on the hoses. It was one of the most fantastic events of the Birmingham story that these Negroes, many of them on their knees, stared, unafraid and unmoving, at Connor's men with the hose nozzles in their hands. Then, slowly, the Negros stood up and advanced, and Connor's men fell back as though hypnotized, as the Negroes marched on past to hold their prayer meeting. I saw there, I felt there, for the first time, the pride and the power of nonviolence.

Another time I will never forget was one Saturday night, late, when my brother telephoned me in Atlanta from Birmingham -- the city that some call "Bombingham" -- which I had just left. He told me that a bomb had wrecked his home, and that another bomb, positioned to exert its maximum force upon the motel room in which I had been staying, had injured several people. My brother described the terror in the streets as Negroes, furious at the bombings, fought whites. Then, behind his voice, I heard a rising chorus of beautiful singing: "We shall overcome." Tears came into my eyes that at such a tragic moment, my race still could sing its hope and faith.

Friday, October 12, 2007


The next two months are prime-time for the Christmas Shopping Season.

Please note: I have all the stuff I need. Feel very free not to give me anything. I list a number of charities on the left side of this blog - donate something to them.

A shout out to a local guy trying to make a difference - $30 will do a lot more good for Transformed International than it would to buy me a DVD.

I'm also going to encourage others: try going without gifts, especially if you don't have need of something. But you have to let people know that you'd prefer their money go to someone who's really in need. It might not be easy, or it might be very easy. But it requires you to step up to the plate and say something.

Because it's not that I don't like or want stuff. But there are people whose lives can be changed for the price of a trifle I'll enjoy for a handful of moments.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

For my Reference

Though you may get to it before I. It's the "last lecture" of a professor who has a couple months to live. Evidently, the "last lecture" is generally given as if the professor were dying. In this case, there is no if.

I've heard it's good. There's a transcript and a link to the video HERE.

I read in a Dilbert book, of all places, yesterday that we tend to sensationalize some deaths, like those caused by a serial killer, while ignoring others. That really, aren't 10 unrelated deaths more tragic than 9 caused by a single person?

Googleing the Church

Check out what you get if you search Google Maps for "Coram Deo, Reno." Yeah... I'm proud. Less because I made the map getting linked, but because there's so many we-served-here points popping up.

If you do the same search in standard Google, you get our website, a blurb about the AIDS Walk, a reference to us on the Join Together Northern Nevada website, and a blog note about a couple that volunteered with Camp Solace.

My World

I've been pretty scatterbrained the last couple months. There are things I have talked about, things I may not have talked about, things I thought I talked about and didn't, and so forth. So, for those that are interested, here's been the happenings in my world over that time. But, knowing me, I'll probably leave something out.

August 11-12: Spent the night on the Black Rock Desert playa with some friends. Wanted to stargaze and take cool pictures, but howling winds, dust, and a bright light at the Burning Man construction site spoiled our plans. I awoke in the morning with a very irritated uvula, probably from inhaling the alkali dust. It hurt to swallow for a day or so.

August 21: I got my chance to try some astrophotography with my new camera when I went to Boca to watch a total lunar eclipse. It was cool. I watched the moon go into the eclipse so carefully, that I fell fast asleep during the eclipse.

August 31: I went to my typical Friday-night gathering with my roommate and that circle of friends. We went to a intalian place in the Summit Sierra Shopping Center. I got home, and there was a message from Dawson on the phone. "Call me as soon as you get this." It was getting late, but I decided to call, just in case. Good thing I did. A young guy in our church had committed suicide. A sleepless night sitting with his wife, Beth, and various family and friends in a conference room in the ICU followed.

September 1: From ICU to my parents' home (once some other guys arrived to stay with the family) to watch the opening Nevada football game of the season (after a "nap" on the couch). We played with Nebraska for about 20 minutes. In the other 40 minutes of the game, we got pummelled. I went home sometime in the third quarter. I slept for a couple hours. Then, back to the ICU until the family said "We're going home. You go home, too."

September 2: The guy who shot himself was declared brain dead the previous day, but was still on a ventilator, as the family wanted him to donate as many organs and tissues as possible. This meant that they didn't really say goodbye until around 2am Sunday night / Monday morning. Church that Sunday was quite somber. Dawson was asked to do the funeral in Colorado, for family there. I told him I'd go if he needed company. When I get home, I talk with my roommate for a while. Then he gets a call - his mom was taken to the hospital with blood-sugar issues. I drive him there, he sits with her for an hour or so while I wait in the waiting room.

September 5: The Reno funeral. A couple in the church with a big yard opened it up for use. He was given military honors, and people stayed until well after dark. It was standing-room only.

September 8: Nevada plays football at Northwestern. Dominant first half, weak second half. Gives up a go-ahead score late in the game, only to come right back and reclaim the lead. This appears solid until the other team leads a 1-minute touchdown drive with no timeouts. We lose.

September 9: Church starts getting back to normal, as much as normal can be. Dawson and I coordinate to go to Colorado, since his wife is not feeling able to go.

September 14: We fly to Denver. Jokes come from both Dawson and Miriam (on the phone) about how they "thought the Rocky Mountains would be a whole lot rockier." Dumb and Dumber referenced are a dime a dozen. We make a wrong turn, and decide to visit Buffalo Bill's grave. I call my sister that night, wanting to get an update on the game. Silly me, the game's tomorrow.

September 15: The Colorado funeral. The good news is, this is the last "event" focused on the death two weeks ago. We get home, and I call my sister for an update on the game. What?! We're down 10-3. But wait... the crowd cheers... TOUCHDOWN! The game is now tied. I consider myself good luck. I hang up - unbeknownst to anyone, my dad's heart attack is happening right now. 30 minutes alter, the phone rings. I guess that it's my sister, calling with a game update. It is my sister, but she says an ambulance has taken dad to the hospital. It might be a heart attack. A little later, another phone call: it was a heart attack and they're doing a dye test to see how severe. An hour later, it was a Massive heart attack. "If he makes it" through the next 3-5 days, we'll go from there. I thank Beth's family for staying up with me, but I'm going to try and get some sleep - though I have a phone right beside me. A little later, "the next couple hours are very critical." A little later, he seems to be stabilized. I get a couple hours sleep.

September 16: We fly back from Denver to Reno. Dawson and I happen to be on the same flight as Beth. We ask the ticket guy to put us together, and for no charge he does so... and puts the three 6-foot people in the emergency exit row, too. Props to United's TED airline. Beth entertains all of us for most of the flight by reading random advertisements in the Sky Mall catalog. I head right to the hospital, visit with dad and family, head home for some sleep, eat dinner, go back to the hospital.

September 17: Hospital, home, hospital, repeat.

September 18-21: I go back to work, visiting the hospital on the way home. Unfortunately, that's right before shift change, so I don't stay for more than an hour. On Friday, my dad is moved out of ICU to a regular room, where he has a view of the Street Vibrations fireworks.

September 22: I go on a long drive with Rob and Heather to take pictures of fall colors. We get some, but not a whole lot.

September 23: My dad's released from the hospital to go home.

September 28: The Friday night crew gathers to play Halo 3 until the wee hours of the morning.

September 29: The UNLV football game. Coram Deo is hoping to have a tailgate in which we offer food to others, give them water for the game, and pick up their trash. #2 and #3 meet with marginal success. The best conversation of the day happens when we give away a parking space to a random guy. We then hang out, talk sports, share burgers, and act hospitable. My sister ends up putting the rest of us to shame, giving away most of the water herself by actually offering it to passers-by. Beth comes to the football game, where I run into a couple of old friends in the stands. We all watch a back-and-forth game that is tense until the final seconds have expired. I then head to the Sparks Marina for a birthday bash for a guy at church. I forget to tell Beth to take any street but Virginia to the freeway - she is stuck in an hour of traffic as a result. We all play volleyball at the Marina until it starts to get dark, and a collision between two players gives a pregnant girl a cut below her eye (that later requires stitches). We head to the Great Basin Brewery for dinner. I try a specialty beer with dinner. My non-love for beer in all forms is reinforced... but hey, I tried. Over the day, I get rather sun-burned.

October 2: A woman goes missing in Reno. So happens she's an old friend from church, and a former roommate of the wife of an elder in the church. Can we get two weeks without crisis? Doesn't seem like it.

October 3: She's found, without harm. On an unrelated note, Dawson calls a church in Montana looking to give away a $10,000 sound system. The pastor likes our story/vision/heart the most, and decides to give it to us. He doesn't want the hassle of shipping it. A U-Haul is $1,800 to go there and back. What will we do? Turns out Dawson's father was planning a trip to Montana anyway, a short distance from where this church is. He'll pick it up and bring it abck for free. Essentially, we got a $12,000 gift from God. Quite nice, quite unexpected.

October 6: Nevada plays Fresno State for homecoming. We get slaughtered. We lose our starting quarterback to a freak injury. We make the game look respectable at the end, losing only 49-41.

October 7: Amid the terrible football news, it's announced that Nevada basketball has gotten a commitment from it's second Top-100 high school player for the 2008 class. Yay! The future is looking bright.

October 11: It's today, and nothing fascinating has happened, except I have typed this blog. Snazzy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Hopefully, I'm never stranded on a desert island with nothing but coconuts.

I went to the store yesterday to get some fresh fruits for grazing at the apartment. I got half a dozen apples, some dried raspberries, and on a lark a pineapple and a coconut. I was eager to try the coconut, as I LOVE just about anything made with shredded coconut. Assuming it tasted good, I pondered making a sort of pina-colada fresh fruit smoothie.

After a lot of effort (including 15 minutes in the oven after draining the milk), I finally got to the meat of the coconut. It didn't even make it to chew-and-swallow. I bit into it, and it just didn't taste good. And it smelled funny. I was most disappointed.

It wasn't at all what I expected, more's the pity. I did, however, have the pinapple handy, so I sliced that up, and enjoyed a mid-afternoon treat. If only the pineapple were as cheap as its canned chunks...

Monday, October 08, 2007

America is NOT a "Christian Nation"

In this great editorial, the title says it all: A nation of Christians is not a Christian Nation.

It's a distinction that the Republicans - especially those pandering to the religious segment of "the right" - regularly obscure, and it damages the cause of Christ when Christians try to hold on to it. I have no romantic notion that the United States of America is anything other than a political entity of this world. And this world is run by powers which are most hostile to God.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I suspect whole churches...

I suspect whole churches could learn from the words of an NFL Quarterback.

In the God Squad sect, players often use moral conviction as an excuse for closed-mindedness.

But that's not Kitna's style. His responses to questions about his faith and leadership are mostly tinged with humility, perspective and openness. Asked to consider whether a Muslim, Jewish or agnostic teammate might feel excluded by group exaltations, Kitna pauses, rubbing his head.

"I know there are people in the locker room who don't like where I stand, don't like me as a leader or wish I'd shut up," he says. "My first responsibility to this team is to be a quarterback. But my priority in life is to be a man of God. I don't use my faith maliciously, to damn or to judge -- people who do are not Christians. And when I've had Mormon teammates, I've tried to understand where they come from. Because we have different beliefs doesn't mean we can't coexist."


"What guys really have a problem with is inconsistency -- people who say one thing and do another. Hypocrites. Chameleons. My teammates learn pretty quick that this is who I am, every day and in every situation."

And the tests come constantly. Walking into the Lions' locker room a few days before the Vikings game, Kitna was greeted by silence. The Lions have three iPod docks that plug into their speaker system. But when someone began blasting Christian music, a tense standoff ensued. It was noted, loudly, that a majority of people in the room didn't want to listen to God rock. And so the speakers remained mute until Kitna arrived. "Everyone's music should be heard," he said, "or no one's." The Christian rock was resurrected, followed by a heavy dose of hip-hop.


Like many athletes who are outspoken about something as personal as faith, Kitna -- with his ubiquitous cross hats and constant biblical references -- is often dismissed as a loon. But his impact in Detroit is undeniable. He is part of a team prayer group on Friday afternoons and hosts a Bible study for teammates and their wives at his home on Monday nights.

Since he signed a four-year, $11.5 million deal in March 2006, about 20 Lions have given their lives to Christ. Teammates, converted or not, credit Kitna -- and, in part, this religious awakening -- with helping change the previously poisonous attitude in the Lions' locker room. Says Orlovsky, "He is the pulse and the heart and the soul of this team."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

With Enough Money

It would be hard not to do something like this.

My Work, In the News

Commentary on our department's reccomendation that the average UI tax be reduced from 1.38% to 1.33% for 2008:

Thankfully, at least one government body isn't embracing the taxing philosophy outlined above.

On Tuesday, the state Employment Security Council voted to reduce Nevada's unemployment tax in 2008 as a way to inject more cash into the economy.

Allowing employers to keep more of their earnings will "provide an economic stimulus, albeit a small one," said Cindy Jones, the commission's administrator who is expected to implement the recommendation next month.

What a refreshing concept.

Scott Adams on Economists' Brains

The creator of Dilbert studied economics in college. He muses on the effects of this on his thinking in a blog:

The primary skill of an economist is identifying all of the explanations for various phenomena. Cognitive dissonance is, at its core, the inability to recognize and accept other explanations. I’m oversimplifying, but you get the point. The more your brain is trained for economics, the less it is susceptible to cognitive dissonance, or so it seems.

The joke about economists is that they are always using the phrase “On the other hand.” Economists are trained to recognize all sides of an argument. That seems like an easy and obvious skill, but in my experience, the general population lacks that skill. Once people take a side, they interpret any argument on the other side as absurd. In other words, they are relatively susceptible to cognitive dissonance.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

So Dawson doesn't feel Picked On

I have plenty of incriminating photos of myself, too. From a bus trip to Fresno for the 2006 football season opener:


Colorado Photos

The few photos I took (with my OLD camera) on my short trip to Colorado are up on Flickr. Here's a taste:

Dawson, or Noah?  You decide.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What We Don't Need

Reno does not need more luxury condos (1800 of them, in three 20-to-30 story towers, in the $380,000-3,000,000 price range).

When I first heard of this project, I thought it would be condos of the someone-can-actually-affor-to-buy-them variety. I was in support of that, because there is a need for affordable housing. $380,000 for a loft? Not "affordable."

Instead, this is another attempt to cash in on once-soaring real estate prices. The base prices for these condos are unreasonable, especially when trying to appeal to "young" workers with an urban feel.

The housing market is facing severe strain - too many people trying to sell too many homes for too high a price. This will only reinforce that trend. I'm hereby against this project. It's within their rights to build it, if they can get everything approved - and I don' t object to that. I just think it's a terrible idea.

Woman missing in South Reno

Here's the story in the RGJ. And it rather looks like a Megan I knew from the old college group at First E Free, though it's been a while and I can't tell. But she's about the right age.

For the record...

I am in favor of both a proposed (but won't go anywhere) 50-cent increase in the Federal gas tax, and a surtax to fund the Iraq war.

I'm not a fan of higher taxes, but I'm less a fan of defecit spending (Iraq War, and in particular Bush's use of supplemental budget requests to hide the true hit on the Federal Defecit), and I think a gas tax is a reasonable proposal to address the "gasoline over-consumption is harming the environment" furor. A much more reasonable proposal than raising CAFE standards, or other policies designed to make gas cheaper. Simple Economics says people consume relatively more when things are cheap, and relatively less when things are expensive (depending on the elasticity of the good).

The Federal government continuing the myth that present defecit spending does not matter is not good for anyone. That the Republicans would push it is something I'm ashamed of. If something is important enough to do (as every hawk will tell you Iraq is crucial), it's important enough to pay for. Money has to come from somewhere.