Friday, September 28, 2007

Do you know this girl?

Nye County police need help to identify a little girl that has been abused in absolutely disgusting ways. Take the time to read the story, look at her picture, see if you can ID her, and say a prayer for her.

"Evil men triumph when good men do nothing."

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Edit & Update (10/1/07): I'm taking out the link to her story, because police have found the girl in question. She is now 7, and supposedly doesn't remember the abuse she suffered earlier. Police have stopped releasing information about her identity (including her picture) because she is a sexual assault victim, so I'm doing the same.

The man who abused her on video is still at-large, his (currently, "the suspect's") last known location was in Las Vegas.

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Update, Version 2: Here's a story with the suspect's photo.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The First Amendment

Rant on.

Do people have any idea what the first amendment is anymore? I see so many comments on newspapers and such decrying the lack of "Free Speech" or "Freedom of the Press" when anyone dares criticize something someone else has to say. It's absolutely bonkers.

These freedoms, of speech, press, assembly, petition, or religion are NOT blanket provisions to say or do what you like without fear of public criticism. They are protections from Congress passing laws to restrict these activities. That's why the amendment begins "Congress shall make no law..."

I can believe in Free Speech and still call you a moron for holding the opinions you do. Free Speech is not a passport to speak without opposition - rather, it is meant to encourage free debate. You can say what you like, and so can I. Free speech is not meant to be free from opposition, but from legislation. Speech free from opposition is exactly what the amendment is meant to prevent. Freedom of the press is not a blanket pass to write and say what you will without criticism, if the press goes uncriticized it will fall into the same corruption as anyone else with power.

Rant off.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oversimplification

There is an editorial in today's New York Times concerning General Motors and the UAW Strike. It acknowledges that there are trying financial waters ahead for US unionized auto manufacturers. But it proceeds to lay the blame at the feet of a scapegoat I have heard repeatedly.

"The straits G.M. finds itself in are in part of its own making. Its inability to make cars that American drivers want to buy and its reliance on gas-guzzling S.U.V.’s have made it particularly vulnerable as rising gas prices have driven consumers toward more energy-efficient automobiles."

I don't know why people like to talk about "making cars that American drivers want to buy" so much, but I have heard it independently before. The paper waves its finger at the Big 3 for their reliance on SUVs without asking why there is so much emphasis placed on such vehicles. There are a couple of reasons why this is important.

1) Looking at any road will tell you that, to some extent, Americans want to buy SUVs. Glancing out my window at the street, I watched 10-15 passenger trucks and other SUVs drive by to 2 sedans.

2) Why do auto manufacturers push the SUVs? Because they are more profitable. In passenger cars, there is a lot more competition on price, and with a heavily unionized workforce the Big 3 simply cannot compete there. In the $10,000 economy car market, a $1,000 higher cost is 10% of the retail sales price. In the $50,000 SUV market, it's 2%.

Finally, there's the implied assertion that the Big 3 aren't currently making cars Americans want to buy. Their market share is indeed slipping, but as of January:

GM had 22.4% Market Share
Ford had 15.2%
Chrysler had 15.9%
Toyota (the only foreign manufacturer with more than 10%) had 16.1%
Subaru, for what it's worth, is 1.1%

Judging by this measure, GM is the best at making cars Americans want to buy. The fact of the matter is, there is only one thing that can be said about what Americans "want to buy." They want options, choices, and diversity that no single manufacturer can provide. How do I know? Because I see the diversity in the choices they make. I chose a Subaru because it offered a unique set of features that match my needs (reasonably fuel-efficient, 4WD or AWD, enough cargo space to go camping, low price).

Does the NYT seriously believe that if GM is sitting in the dark, trying hard not to believe what Americans really want? If so, their stockholders should replace the entire board. It is FOOLISHNESS to think that a multi-billion-dollar multinational corporation isn't doing everything it can to make EXACTLY the cars Americans will buy. Trying to tie an environmental agenda (gas-guzzling SUVs = evil) to the struggles of GM is just a jab with no basis in reality.

The truth is that GM's problems are structural, and one of the biggest problems GM faces is a much more expensive labor force than its competitors. If it cannot compete on the superior quality of its unionized workers (and Toyota shows that it cannot), a unionized workforce is nothing but bad news for GM. And platitudes like "make cars Americans want" will not help in the least.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Laughs

A welcome mat that provided a welcome laugh as I flew home from Denver. Why was it so funny? Maybe it was the early hour, the sleep deprivation, or just the somewhat archaic language. Either way, I still was amused Sunday when Beth reminded me of it. For your viewing pleasure:

Going to the UNLV Game?

Get your tickets soon. All but 500 game-day student tickets were given away in a line that snaked through the JTSU this morning at an hour when most respectable college students are sound asleep. There's an additional allowance of 1,000 student tickets for $5 each.

Wear blue. Especially of the shirt variety. Navy blue is the proper color, but any shade is acceptable.

Don't wear red. Please. Just don't.

Meet me in the south endzone (General Admission) seats. If you don't know which way is south, it's the larger set of bleachers on one end of the field. I sit right in the middle, behind the goalposts. Want a map? It's gratuitous, I know.

Bring layers. It can, depending on the weather, get quite hot, or quite chilly.

Bring seating material. A blanket or stadium-seat to sit on makes the day much more pleasant.

Wear sunscreen. I always forget, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't.

One, sealed, unflavored, 20oz water bottle. That's all you get to bring in. Make sure to take advantage of it.

Have fun. It's a game.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Apache, Redux

From a post just over a year ago. Why? Because it made me smile. And I like to smile.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In this world, you will have trouble

[In the story that follows, some events might be misplaced chronologically. It was a tough night. ]

When I first got the news that my dad definitely had a heart attack, I could hardly think. All I thought was "Space!" I needed a second to gather my thoughts, so with my stomach doing flips and tumbles that would make a gymnast envious, I headed to the bathroom. Not the most glorious place, but I just needed a little breathing room.

No one ever expects to hear news like this. Even in circumstances when we should see it barreling down on us (not that this is one of those), I think we try to turn a blind eye to it. I certainly didn't expect to hear it. I was in Colorado both to try and provide support to Dawson as he was performing the funeral for the man in our church who died 2 weeks ago, and to be there for the man's wife and family as best as I could. I was there to be the encourager. I didn't want to add my own troubles to the significant load they already had to bear. I didn't want to cry in front of the wife, who had to go through her husband's funeral and didn't need any more of life's garbage to deal with.

I gave them the news, and spent a little time out on their deck under the stars. I came back in, both to get warm and to find a more comfortable seat to await the results of the dye test that would show just how bad the heart attack had been. I was a little surprised to see her parents were still awake, just sitting in the living room talking. The wife came over to me and told me that just as I had stayed up all night with her when she lost her husband, she was ready to sit up all night with me while I waited for news of my dad. Her parents and brother never said as much, but it was pretty evident that they felt the same way. It may well be the most touching thing anyone's ever done for me.

After getting news that he had been stabilized, I thanked everyone for their concern and headed for bed (as we did have to leave the house at 6am the next morning for a 9:30 flight back). As we headed to bed, I had a little conversation with Dawson. He asked something to the effect of "What do we have to do to get a break from all the crap the church has had to deal with recently?" It was an expression of shock at the timing of this - going from a funeral for one member of the church to thepotential death of another's father, with hardly an hour's reprieve in between. My response was that all we had to do was give in and stop trying to represent Christ in the world. I'm not typically one to read demonic influences on every negative thing in life - but the alternative here was one of remarkable coincidence.

It is one of our primary goals at Coram Deo to get out in the world and represent Christ in the dark places, coming to serve and love the enemies of God. This is something that will stir up opposition in a world owned and run by demonic forces. But our response is never to give in - never to back down, or allow those feelings to bury the light we carry. Our response is to carry the message all the more boldly, knowing that if evil forces want the message stopped, then that is the very message that must be carried.

In the midst of repeated tragedy, sinners are coming to church and hearing the gospel. Prodigals are looking towards home to see a father come running. The message continues to spread, and people come to know God.

So I appreciate the prayers that everyone has offered for my dad, who continues to improve. But also pray that our church would be all the more encouraged to take the light of Christ into the world. Because in this world, we will have troubles. But take heart, because Christ has overcome the world.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Placeholder

On Saturday, my dad had a massive heart attack and was close to death. He is fortunately doing much better now than he was then. His recovery is moving along faster than expected, which is to say he has color in his face, he's able to talk, and his heart is pumping and he is breathing unassisted. They might have him in a sitting position by the end of the day, if he's strong enough. I'll have more to say later, but for now I'm just grateful for the prayers and support everyone has offered.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Halo 3

The video game of he year is coming out in a couple weeks. Here's a trailer that shows you nothing, but puts part of the story arc in context.

Monday, September 10, 2007

100

This Really Is Nevada

And it's also why I'll never want to live in a city bigger than Reno. This is my home. From an AP feed, related to the disappearance of a wealthy aviator:

RENO, Nev. (AP) — From outside Nevada, it's hard to fully appreciate just how expansive, how desolate the truly wide open spaces of the state can be.

Against that vast emptiness, the search for aviator-adventurer Steve Fossett and his single-engine plane is a search for a needle in a whole county full of hay stacks.

Superimposed on a U.S. map, Nevada's 110,000 square miles would stretch from New York City west to Pittsburgh and south to Myrtle Beach, S.C. — but with hardly any of the people.

While Nevada's population has been the fastest growing in the nation for most of the last three decades, it averaged just 18 people per square mile in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That compares to a national average of 80 people per square mile and 1,134 in New Jersey, the nation's most densely populated state.

Even that doesn't tell the whole story. Some 2.3 million of Nevada's nearly 2.6 million residents live in just the two counties that include Las Vegas and Reno. Across the rest of Nevada, the average is fewer than three people per square mile, with many of them concentrated in a few small towns.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Reno Balloon Races

On my roommate's whim, we went to the Balloon Races this morning. I took a couple hundred more pictures, including a series I turned into this time-lapse sunrise (only in retrospect did I think of a close telephoto. D'oh!

video

It was fun, up until some wasps decided to use me as a stinger-cushion. The good news is, it doesn't look like I'm allergic. The bad news is, well, it hurts. Oh well.



Friday, September 07, 2007

The Law of Christ

It's mentioned by Paul as the law he is now under in 1 Corinthians 9. What do y'all think it is, as specifically as you can?

Coram Deo, Linked

Probably because of an upcoming service project, Coram Deo's listed as a partner of "Join Together Northern Nevada." The church of God, serving the world. Here's a shout out to Steve, Jose, and Dawson for the hard work they do in coming up with, putting together, and encouraging the church to support all the things we've done to serve the world.

And here's hoping it's but the beginning.

Would you use it?

If something like this were in place at a store near you, (1) Would you use it? (2) Why or Why not?

I think that it would appeal to a lot of people, and actually increase sales. But if that's true, why don't more people just use the information on the food labels to make the same decision?

The problem is that information is costly. It doesn't take you much time to look at a little guy with 0-3 stars over his head. But it does take time to read a nutritional information label, and try to weigh the goods and the bads in the food you are looking at, as well as the 25 slightly different items right next to it. Multiplied over your whole shopping list, the difference is multiplied.

I will assume that, all other things being equal, people really do want to eat healthier. But their desire to do so is outweighed by the investment of time it takes to know how to do that, so they eat as they otherwise would. By making the information "cheap," the grocery store both promoted healthier eating and did something that could create brand loyalty - cruical to people selling commodities (If I can buy the same can of soup at Albertsons, Safeway, and Wal-Mart and I have no particular loyalty to any of them, I'll buy wherever it's cheapest (considering both price, convinience, and how I feel about Wal-Mart). Brand loyalty gives the store a way to eke out a little more profit.)

Kudos to them. And, incidentally, it's a good example of innovation in the private industry that's both profitable to the company and good for the public. Whouldathunk?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Collision Alert

Was the beautiful crater in this picture of the moon (left of center, near the bottom, look for the white area) related to the extinction of the dinosaurs? Some scientists think just that. They believe that a collision of a monster asteroid 165 million years ago scattered many smaller asteroids about, including the one that hit the moon 100 million years ago, and the one that hit the earth 65 million years ago.

For Mr. Feiler

I thought of you when I read this article. Because of the mountain, not the outhouses.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Welcome, Recent Converts

I had a couple people tell me at the funeral today (a lovely service with a wonderful turnout - thanks to everyone who came!) that they had found my blog. Both made reference to the fact that it's the Ugly Evangelical. I will usually tell you to your face that it's more of a statement on my Evangelicalness. And that's usually true. But there are times I see myself that way physically, so I do appreciate the reassurance y'all have given me there.

But the title really grew out of a thought I had once (at least, I can imagine myself having it, though the original thought is probably long lost to the sands of time). That was "I'm not a very proper Evangelical in a lot of ways." I'm not a "pretty" Evangelical that happily fits most of the stereotypes for that word.

I wasn't always an Ugly Evangelical. I grew up in an Evangelical church from my childhood. I was a Limbaugh-listening, Bible-thumping, World-spurning, Christian-club-attending, Guitar-playing, Young-Earth-Creationizing (it's a reach, I know) Spiritual-Gift-inventorying, I-Kissed-Dating-Goodby-reading guy. Even through most of college, I had a very crisp conforming world view. I remember a friend of mine giving me the sort of shoulder-rub a boxer gets in the corner when at Carrows one night a "different" Christian was talking about Spiritual Gifts in a way that was foreign to me, and she thought I was about to launch into a vital defense on this point of doctrine.

I read the books that were "in" (This Present Darkness, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Personality Plus, and others made the rounds. I was surrounded by people like me, and getting social affirmation that doesn't come too naturally for me. (Incidentally, the other ugly crops up in my mind though the root cause is probably the fact that my social graces with the fairer sex are rudimentary at best, and the limitation isn't just women. There's a reason I score 100% as an introvert.)

As I got on in my college life, life started throwing me some curves I had not expected. I met wonderful Christians who were solidly Democrats. I met a man who was as into strict Bible Study as anyone I ever knew tell me that the Earth was most certainly very old - not the 6,000 years I had always believed. The Christian activities I was involved with went through periods of upheaval and turnover, and the security that was there evaporated as those of us that were left tried to take the reins.

I will always remember when we had new leaders come in to Inter Varsity. They were hosting a booth at a "meet the groups on campus" function. I had just purchased a back-breaking collection of Bible Study reference books, and was eager to show them off. Strangely, they weren't that interested. Weren't interested at all, in fact.

Through a variety of such experiences, a few things started happening in my life.
  • I became more comfortable in the world than sitting in an endless stream of church activities.
  • I moved more and more away from my faith in the Republican Party as the bastion of all that was politically good and noble.
  • I got tired of church as I had always known it - dominated by a Christianity-for-Christians mentality.
  • I lost interest in debating hair-splitting of doctrines, realizing that good and faithful men asking for the guiding of the Spirit interpreting the Scriptures believed utterly different things.
And it dawned on me that I was no longer what I thought was a model Evangelical. On matters of doctrine, church life, and world life I had some noteworthy disagreements on issues that mattered very much to Evangelicals.

But Evangelical still described my worldview on a number of other, important matters. So I was no longer a Pretty Evangelical. I had become an Ugly Evangelical. I thought it a clever name, even. I was shocked to see that nobody had appropriated it yet. I've thought about changing it, but I like the archive of posts I have.

I've blogged for approaching 3 years I believe. Those 3 years span some significant changes in my life, and I don't look back on everything I've said and thought proudly. But I believe it's been honest, and I want to keep it all because I don't think there's anything to gain by whitewashing the fact that I am far from perfect. I struggle, I fall, and I'm in every way very human and I think the past on my blog reflects that. In those 3 years, I've gone through leaving a church I loved (and still love), through heartbreak, through a dark time of seriously doubting God, and on into getting reattached to a church and becoming one of the leaders.

I'm just a 29-year old single guy trying to feel his way through life. I'm fortunate to have a loving family, an inspiring church, persistent friends, and many more blessings I couldn't begin to enumerate in snappy two-worders.

And sometimes, I ramble.

Welcome Aboard!

Monday, September 03, 2007

What Have I Learned?

Looking back on a Labor Day Weekend that was in no way what I thought it would be, there have been ample hours for contemplation (getting at best 3 hours of sleep from 6am Friday to 1am Sunday will do that). Not all are borne directly out of the tragedy, but others are. No answers to The Question in trying times, but a few random thoughts to share.
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1) Hospital staff have an amazingly tough job. They are often the thankless bearers of bad news, yet are expected to be loving, compassionate, strong people. In the time I was waiting with friends in the ICU, the staff was courteous and kind around very fragile people.

2) Life is precious. As in, of unimaginable, indescribable value. We all say this in times when we see it gone, but then the lesson sinks in as the days once more blur into a watercolor of everyday activities. Tomorrow, I go back to work and the routine that can sap years from people who never look up to experience the life that is slowly ticking away.

3) Smiles do not a happy person make. Sometimes a smiling person is hiding deeper, darker pains than you'd ever guess. Sometimes, that smiling guy is going through a private hell you'd never guess.

4) There isn't time in life to hold petty grudges. Using the aforementioned precious life to hold something against someone else is foolish. You never know when the option to make up with someone will be gone, and if they go the thing that seemed so important to you suddenly is nothing, but a huge nothing you'll wish you had resolved.

5) Words fail. Don't put too much faith in them.

6) Be real. There will come times when you are revealed for who you are, and no facade will withstand reality. So don't talk about loving others. Do it, and you'll be ready when your talk is put to the test.

7) There is suffering in the world you probably can't imagine. You'd probably be ashamed to mention your difficulties in the presence of those who are living through hells your nightmares scarcely touch. But no one can tell you to get over yourself. It's something you have to realize and choose, and no admonitions otherwise will ever penetrate it.

8) That doesn't mean that your own struggles aren't real. But perspective helps.

9) I serve a God who brings tremendous blessing through unimaginable tragedy. From the death of the Son of God, God brought salvation to mankind. There is NO tragedy so deep that God is unable to bring about overflowing good. The bad is not good, but God can use the bad to bring about the good.

10) At the end of the day, I don't think I was weeping for the pain and the sadness anymore, but for the joy of knowing that even in the pain and sadness, God overcomes.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tragedy

Before Friday, I thought I had at least a handle on what grief was. But there are things far worse than being rejected by a cute girl. Things so bad that having to watch a friend go through it makes what I had tabbed as my worst days ever pale by comparison. The story is not mine to tell here, but pray for a family that has been devastated this weekend. Pray for the friends that are providing support to the family. And pray for the pastors and leaders at Coram Deo, that we might know and do everything we can to help them. And pray that God would have mercy on us all through this.

Lunar Eclipse Video #1

A set of cropped photos pieced together to make a video of part of the eclipse. I plan to do more, to get a better movie, but this is every picture taken at 1/1000th of a second, to maintain a constant brightness (without me having to edit anything to get that brightness). When the rotation of the moon appears to jump, it's a gap where I didn't take any pictures at that exposure. It's rough, but the making of this video was mostly an after-thought. Next time, I'll plan better :)

video