Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Word of Mouth

On Sunday, some of our friends came over to play Halo. I was at church, and then at Robby & Heather's, until it was late enough that on coming home I needed to get to sleep.

Through some vein of conversation, my roommate started telling one friend about Coram Deo - specifically, the way we are trying to get out and serve in the community. The friend, who is normally opposed to all forms of organized religion thought it was pretty cool. In his words, "So, it's like a bunch of Daves?"

When my unhurched roommate and a friend who's actively against organized religion are having a conversation about Coram Deo in my absence, and both have a sense that there's something right and proper about a church that wants to actively serve others (and recognize a church doing that for what it is)... that rather made my day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Lyrical Happiness

Man of No Reputation - Rich Mullins
It was said this man was of no reputation
Yet He could stop the rising storm
With a gesture of His hand
But He chose to use His hands to heal
Hearts of darkness, hearts of stone
Just like mine would be revealed

He was a man of no reputation
And by the wise, considered a fool
When He spoke about faith and forgiveness
In a time when the strongest arms ruled
But this man of no reputation
Loved the weak with relentless affection
And He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were
He was a man of no reputation

It was said this man brought only confusion
That He'd achieve his ends by any means
And the truth would bring revolution
And for once they were right
The truth set us free
The hearts of the captive were his only concern
And the powerful knew their days were ending

He was a man of no reputation
And by the wise, considered a fool
When He spoke about faith and forgiveness
In a time when the strongest arms ruled
But this man of no reputation
Loved the weak with relentless affection
And He loved all those poor in spirit just as they were
He was a man of no reputation

One day soon the gates of heaven will open wide
And the Prince of Peace will come back for His bride
But for now we live on these streets
Forbidding and tough
Where push always comes to shove
And it's said love's never enough
Where a prophet in rags gives hope to a fearful world
No injustice, no heart of darkness
Will keep this voice from being heard

He was a man of no reputation
And by the wise, considered a fool
When He spoke about faith and forgiveness
In a time when the strongest arms ruled
But this man of no reputation
Loves us all with relentless affection
And He loves all those poor in spirit, come as you are
To the man of no reputation

It's a Well-Known Fact

That I am overcome with a desire to buy flashy electronics when I'm feeling down. Whether it serves as a distraction or just an occasion for my endorphins to get busy, it's a readily identifiable habit.

I suppose that's why I'm so tempted by this really sweet camera. What's so sweet? It's 10 Megapixels (which means it has a large sensor - better for low-light conditions). It's a digital SLR (meaning the photographer has oodles more control over the photo than traditional point-and-shoot). It has a Bulb setting, which means you can hold the shotter open indefinitely (until it runs out of power) to get good photos of the stars. It's a fair price (right now) for such a camera. And it would go oh-so-nicely with my new star-picture-taking mount and drive. And I'm heading up to the Black Rock in a couple weeks - what better time to use such a thing???

The truth is, I think I'm just down about a wedding tomorrow. Weddings in general are excellent focal points for any and all feelings of lonliness, and those involving a girl you unsuccessfully tried asking out are that much worse - even if you've accepted that things not working out with her are probably for the best. It still ain't fun, but life isn't always fun.

I think I'll make use of my recently-repaired car and go exploring somewhere tomorrow. Better to get out and find something interesting than to sit around moping. Because as Pumba said in The Lion King, "You gotta put your behind in your past."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What you don't hear

There's a hostage situation in Afghanistan right now, with 23 South Koreans having been kidnapped, in hopes of freeing some Taliban militants.

The fate of one can be read here in the San Francisco Chronicle.

What it doesn't say is that the Koreans were Christians serving as missionaries, and could face death for their beliefs, as much as for their hostage value. Is there a reason the primary motive of the Koreans for being in such a dangerous country is completely omitted?

Believing Opposites

I never cease to be amazed that people can clearly believe utterly contradictory things. This editorial was written to support new taxes on multinational corporations. It lays out the following:

1) American multinational corporations are burying profits outside the U.S. to avoid taxes
2) Given the option to pay fewer taxes on the earnings, they have "repatriated" them during occasional "tax holidays" in which they could avoid up to 85% of the taxes they'd otherwise pay on it.
3) Therefore, we need to avoid tax holidays and place new taxes on these corporations.

If the goal is to increase tax revenues, or to "make them pay wha they owe," #3 seems rather backward to me. It might sound nice on paper... but we have evidence of corporate behavior that should prove it won't achieve the intended result.

If corporations are moving profits offshore to avoid the present level of taxes, our tax revenue on those is 0%. If we have lower taxes, they choose to pay some of the tax - evidently, they get some benefit from having the profits in the US. The tax revenue we collect is now >0%.

If higher taxes cause more profit-hiding, and thus prevent us from collecting revenue we'd otherwise collect... what will happen with even-higher taxes? 50% of $0 is exactly the same as 35% of $0... except that higher taxes will likely lead them to hide away even more profit, potentially lowering tax revenue (the result is uncertain - will the higher rate or the lower profits left exposed to the tax be dominant?)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Underdog: The True Story

Well, sort of. Not every day a yap-dog does something productive, other than continuing its Napoleonic life.

I'm drooling over a camera...

8.1 MegaPixels

18x Optical Zoom

Up to ISO 1600

And the ability to save images as RAW (instead of a compressed format).

And only $400.

Not too shabby at all.

At the Car Wash

Our most recent bi-weekly service project was a free car wash at 7-11 in South Reno. I admit, I wasn't very jazzed about this idea - despite the enthusiastic sales efforts Dawson put in - because "Free" car washes are a dime a dozen. Without fail they are always fund-raisers, and I was convinced no one would stop. We weren't doing a fundraiser - we made a point of refusing to take money even if it was offered. The point was to show practical love for others with no strings attached.

Evidently, the successful way to get people's attention is to have your pastor on the median hollering at people through their closed windows. "Free Car Wash!" "No Donations Accepted!" "Totally Free!" I could hear him from 50-100 yards away. And amazingly enough, people responded.

One person asked him what the deal was, and he let him know that we were Christians who wanted to show God's love in a practical way. He let him know we were a church and, still skeptical, the man wanted to meet our pastor. Dawson promptly stuck out his hand to introduce himself. There's something useful in having a church whose dedication to service runs right to the top.

It was amazing how well it went. After a slow start, we had a steady stream of cars and there were some good conversations struck up with people while they waited (over ice-cold free bottled water, of course). One guy threw a crumpled up $20 bill out his window as he drove away, so that we couldn't possibly refuse it. The wife of one of the pastors picked it up, and gave it to a grungy-looking guy with a backpack who said he was on a Walkabout.

We even had two people visit the website and shoot us an e-mail to say thanks - the first post-service contact we've had.

I maintain a map of places we have served, lest I forget (which would not be at all unusual). It's encouraging to look at it, and see that it continues to expand. How many more marks will appear on it before this October - our 1 year mark?

Monday, July 23, 2007


I believe that somebody else getting richer does not make me worse off, all other things being equal. That is, if prices don't change and my position remains exactly where it is, someone else having a lot of money does not affect me at all.

The author of this book has a different opinion. Im curious what others think - especially if you agree with him, that "...directing surplus consumer dollars to the wealthy harms the middle-class by forcing people to try to rise up the ladder with their own spending."

There's one word in there that turns the entire phrase. Time to play Name That Word. Go!

For extra credit, tell me what happens if this thought is carried to its natural conclusion.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Resurgent Photography

After a long hibernation, I've broken out my camera again. The first set of pictures below is of the Hawken Fire, visible from my apartment. The first is aiming the camera through my binoculars. I got a lot of unfocused shots to get a couple focused ones. The second is the maximum zoom on my camera, for comparison.

The second photos are to show off a new setup I got - a small equatorial mount for my camera, and a drive motor to keep pace with the rotation of the Earth. Picture #1 is without the motor. Picture #2 is with the motor. The bright spot is Jupiter.

All Night Long...

I left Wal-Mart with my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at 12:30. I arrived home able to read between 12:45 and 12:50. And I finished at just before 7:30 this morning. Now, I just have to hold my tongue until I know someone else that's finished it to discuss.

And I have to decide - do I wait for tonight to sleep, or try to do so in the middle of the day? I'm leaning toward the former, but may easily fall to the latter.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Inquiring minds want to know

Ever want to know what the mileage on your running/walking path is? The elevation gain/loss? The calories burned? Check this out. Even if you don't want to know all that, this is a pretty cool tool. Click "Start Recording" and double click points on the path.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Improper Response

Zimbabwe is up to 20,000% annual inflation. Because inflation is caused in part by businesses who increase prices as currency is devalued, one might think that a possible solution is to make it illegal for companies to raise their prices, and to lower prices by decree, right?

Not really.

The best line in this article is a quote that "[Mugabe's government] was committing regime change on itself with its disastrous economic policies..."

Seeing is Believing?

This illusion was really interesting. Even knowing the answer, I have trouble making myself see it.

An Answer?

For those who have prayed for peace in Darfur - could this be an answer?

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Return


I'm going back to the desert on August 11. With a greater knowledge of the area, and a little tripod with a motor to track the night sky, I hope to get more interesting pictures. I haven't taken many pictures recently, but this may get my mojo going again, as it were.

August 11 is the day I plan to do it with the guys I went with last year. I may even go up (or somewhere else) before that, for kicks. There's a full moon coming soon (well, 2 weeks), and while that's death to any stargazing, it could make for some interesting landscape photographs.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

We Have Cable

The apartment complex recently got Charter Cable instead of some other company that no one else had ever heard of. Our apartment was upgraded to Expanded Basic for $30 a month (payable with rent).

I have been watching a little more TV as a result (up from practically nothing).

But it's not the Discovery Channel. It's not SciFi, ESPN, Animal Planet, the Cartoon Network, movies, or anything else like that.

It's soccer, broadcast in Spanish.

I once watched part of a game, flipping between the same game on ESPN2 and Galavision. On ESPN, it was boring. Really, really boring. But in Spanish - whether because of a love for the game or because of the way the language slides off your ear - it was almost captivating.

I don't watch whole matches, but as I'm doing other things, I'll put it on for 20 minutes or so.

Friday, July 13, 2007

After Two Days

After 2 days and $1,200, my car is fixed, smogged, and registered for another year. It was a pile of money, but better than it could have been, because I didn't have to fix something that was about $800 (which I feared), so I was able to fix something else for about the same amount (well, it was $880).

Last year, I took my car to Reno Mazda-Kia, where I had purchased it used, intending to make good on my extended warranty that I purchased as well. I told them when I made the appointment a week in advance that I had a smog report saying the catalytic converter wasn't working right. When I showed up, they suggested that I take it to Reno Subaru instead (because the catalytic converter is under manufacturer's warranty for 80,000 miles). They had no openings, so I took it back to Kia for a diagnostic. They called me a couple hours later to say that besides the cat, the oxygen sensors were both shot - $800. I declined the repair, intending to take the car to Reno Subaru and have them do it all.

Problem - Kia had already cleared the error code from the computer. Now, I can't get the warranty repair I need. Fortunately, I was able to get my car smogged, and to put off the whole thing for a year.

That year came due this week. I made an appointment, and dropped my car off on Wednesday. I got a call a few hours later saying that the cat was bad, was under warranty, and the oxygen sensors were fine. There was a $75 lean-up of the throttle plate, but then it'd be fine. Great! Another hour, and I got another call. The car's done, but during the test drive, the technician noticed some noise from the rear of the car. They checked it, and saw that both rear bearings were bad. That would be $880 to fix.

I knew about the noise, and since I just dodged an $800 repair, I was more than happy to let them fix this mechanical issue.

My car is now much quieter at freeway speeds, and I don't have the harsh orange glow of the check engine light in my face all the time. Now, I just have to pay it off....

Friday, July 06, 2007


(I know. It's been a lot of posts today.)

After the hideous heat of yesterday (moreso, because the AC is out at our apartment), it's WONDERFUL to see clouds outside today. In tribute:


Servant Evangelism

That's what we call it. I rambled about it earlier, but here's the condensed version.

Do we serve others to get a foot in the door to tell them about Jesus?


Do we serve others to demonstrate who Jesus is?

Both are "servant evangelism" but through different means. In the former, the type of service ought to be personal - raking leaves, handing things out (you need to be able to interact). The latter, it can also be impersonal (bagging food, random acts of anonymous kindness).

Where on the spectrum do you fall?


I was trying to remember what Coram Deo has done over the past 9 months to serve the community. I'm gratified that I might not be remembering everything. Here's what I've come up with thus far:

Volunteered with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful (Park cleanup, Fall 2006; Christmas Tree Recycling, Winter 2007; Alexander Lake, Spring 2007)

Helped bag food for Evelyn Mount (December 2006)

Donated Blood as a group (June 2007, April 2007)

Helped Abby with Alex's Lemonade Stand (June 2007)

Handed out smoke-detector batteries & Spring home maintenance guides (March 2007)

Gave away candles at Christmas (December 2006)

Gave away hot drinks @ sled hill (January 2007)

Babysat for Mother's Day Date Night (May 2007)

Raked Leaves (October 2006)

Anything I'm missing?

Flying Fish

BRANFORD, Fla. — “Lots of artillery out there,” an old man hollered from the safety of the Suwannee River’s edge, and he was right. The sturgeon were jumping high and fast, twisting their armored girth in midair and returning to the depths with a stunning splash.

On the water, there was reason to be anxious. Florida’s season of “sturgeon strikes” — law enforcement’s term for collisions between the state’s largest freshwater fish and hapless boaters — was already well under way.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hot Dogs

Some observations:

1) It's a hot dog eating contest.

2) It's on ESPN.

3) The announcers actually sound serious when they call Joey Chestnut an "American Hero."

4) Crazy, crazy, crazy.

5) Stunned disbelief is all I have left.

A famous aphorism

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

The saying proves true, yet again. A number I have seen tossed about for weeks now in the hoopla about a documentary by a guy with an obvious agenda is that the US ranks 37th in "Quality of Health Care." What I assumed was that this was a measure of the quality of healthcare services provided. What I didn't know is that significant weight is placed on whether the payment system is "fair."

This is important, because it carries the implication that the best health-care provision MUST be done by the government. It specifically decries those that would charge those more at risk a higher rate for "insurance" (which removed from a risk context ceases to become insurance at all), and insists that the rich pay more than the poor.

I do not deny that these are worthwhile considerations - but I resent the WHO declaring what is fair and proper, and skewing their numbers to that effect.

Because the US is #1 in a category besides per-capita spending. It's also the most responsive health care system in the world - by the same report that names it the 37th best overall. It gets heavily dinged in the financial categories.

The actual report: (1.6 MB PDF). Check page 155. Compare the USA with the UAE. Compare where the US has better numbers, where the UAE has better numbers, and how they compare in the "overall" score.
It can be easy to forget how much hate there is in the world.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

From the local paper

From a snippet about a Chicken Wing Cook-Off

"The People’s Choice Award was given the booth called “Havin’ An Affair,” determined by the number of wings purchased. The owner named his booth after his wife..."


At 9:00 on Saturday morning, we put our dog to sleep. The vet was kind enough to make a house call to do it, and I headed over to my parents' house at about 7:30 to spend a last few moments with Holly. As with every time I have seen her over the last year, it was hard. Just seeing how hard it was for her to move gave me sympathetic shudders.

There were plenty of tears all around. The hardest part was that she was on her feet at the end, examining what other people (the vet and nurse) were doing at the house. It was a two-step process, the first being a full-body anesthetic, the second was the shot to stop her heart. She was standing when she got the anesthetic, and she slowly sank to lie down as it took over - occasionally almost-vomiting.

When she couldn't feel anything, she got the second shot. We did our best to stay close and comforting to the end, and then she died about as peacefully as such a thing can be imagined.

It provided a good opportunity for reflection. I think a pet provides the best approximation for the love a parent has for a child (note: I'm NOT saying it's the same, just a reflection). But where a parent is likely to die before their child, pets live much shorter lives, so you get to watch them go from infant, to child, to adult, to senior, to dead.

Everything we did for our dog, we did for the best. Any shots, pills, training - we all did it because we cared for her. But how could we explain our plan to her? How could we explain that the foul-tasting pills we were shoving down her throat were to keep her liver from failing?

And I thought of this:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

It is easy to think that if life sucks, it means God is not good. If we remember that our understanding is limited, we can accept that our Father loves us, and does in fact give us good gifts - even if some times those good gifts hurt. Because if what I know from the weekend holds true, He knows the pain it causes, and feels it too.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Artsy Photo Stuff

I was looking at my pictures on Flickr, and I ran across this old picture of mine (I took it, like, a whole YEAR ago!). I liked it, so I'm re-posting it. That is all.